Photo: Bravo

Because The A.V. Club knows that TV shows keep going even if we’re not writing at length about them, we’re experimenting with discussion posts. For certain shows, one of our TV writers will publish some brief thoughts about the latest episode, and open the comments for readers to share theirs. 

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  • Let’s begin by addressing a huge development that I overlooked last week: #BeshGate. Southern celebrity chef (and noted culinary hunk) John Besh, a fixture of the Top Chef universe, was outed last year as a total scumbag (Tom wrote a response to both it and the other chef-related scandals that you should read). By that point, however, the show had already filmed his cameo for this current season, which was as a judge at last week’s Olympics challenge. Guys, he was there the whole time, which makes rewatching kind of uncanny. Someone on Reddit even captured all the teensy moments when he (or his hand/shoulder) could be seen, and it’s kinda look spotting a ghost. I remember Tom discussing Besh’s appearance on Twitter after the allegations surfaced, saying that it wouldn’t be a bad idea to add some kind of statement before the episode addressing the situation. Bravo, though, chose to ignore it and excise him completely, as if he no longer exists. Whether or not that’s the right route is certainly not for me, a Top Chef critic, to say, but it certainly taps into a larger question pervading culture right now: What, exactly, is the best way to respond for those who vaunted these people?
  • My rating on their editing around John Besh?
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • Anyways:

  • No Quickfire! Why? It’s Restaurant Wars!
  • Me when they announce it’s Restaurant Wars:
Screenshot: Bravo

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  • Padma, however, didn’t sound as excited when declaring it, probably because by this point the chefs know it comes when only eight of them are left and arrive expecting it. The twist this season is that they’ll have to create a total of nine dishes (three courses with three options). That is a huge curveball considering the downfall of teams during Restaurant Wars is an inability to handle the demands of service.
  • Quick sidenote: Since at least season four, the chefs have acknowledged the mistakes of previous contestants, using them as cautionary tales. But this episode felt particularly informed by old episodes. Not only do the chefs know when Restaurant Wars is coming, but they routinely acknowledge Restaurant Wars trends, like when Joestachio comments on how there’s usually one team who flames out or when another contestant observes that “generally, the team that gets along the best is the team that wins.” (That last one is absolutely true.)
  • Also, Joestachio must’ve been living on another planet because, in terms of the judge’s response, this might’ve been the most clear-cut Restaurant Wars ever. Team Conifer (Carrie, Chicago Joe, Adrienne, and Bruce) excelled in name (Denver/trees), concept (Italian-Mediterranean), service (Chicago Joe killed it), and food (the judges disliked only two of the nine dishes). Team Common Place, on the other hand, lacked a coherent concept, a seasoned front-of-house ambassador (sorry, Fatima), and a menu full of ambitious, yet disastrous, dishes.
  • Seriously, though, Gail was on the money when she called out how the Common Place’s concept—unique, disparate ideas and techniques coming together—was pretty much just a fancy way of saying they don’t have a concept.
  • Their problem, I’d say, was a lack of confident leadership. Chris, who was appointed team captain via knife pull, was almost comically quick in passing the reigns to Claudette, who assumed the role of executive chef. (Tom, I’ve noticed, always gets annoyed when the person who gets the opportunity to choose the teams skirts the EC role, as to him it’s an opportunity rather than a burden.) Anyways, nobody aside from Claudette seemed all that keen on leading, and Claudette, at least in this instance, just doesn’t play well with others. In lieu of unifying everyone in pursuit of a single vision, she says her approach is to allow each chef to “stand on both two feet with their dishes” and to “be creative.” Yeah, that’s not how team challenges work.
  • Conifer, however, had a solid plan going on, which was to focus on prep-intensive dishes that wouldn’t require a ton of work during service. Seemed to work, too; the show tried to make it seem like Bruce was in the weeds, but everything looked smooth in the end.
  • As tends to happen to executive chefs in Restaurant Wars, Claudette ended up biting the bullet, too. It was a foregone conclusion, despite the fact that Joestachio biffed all three of his dishes and probably deserved it in terms of pure cookery.
  • And, hoo boy, she was not happy, was she? “The judges were wrong. I hope they’re kicking themselves in the ass,” she says. “If Top Chef wants a vanilla Top Chef then they’re doing a good job.” Remember when Nick won New Orleans instead of Nina? Yeah, they probably want a vanilla Top Chef.
  • Chicago Joe wins! I thought for sure Bruce would take it, as he led a nearly flawless dinner service. But, it should be noted, the judges are particularly partial to solid front-of-house work, as that tends to be something of a rarity. Tom was kinda full of shit, though, when he described both of Chicago Joe’s dishes as “spectacular.” Like, they loved the duck, but everyone was ragging on the “flavorless” neonata oil on his crudo. Regardless, I’m happy for him, even if dude seems to be abandoning the bears for bison.

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“Buddy the Bison” (Screenshot: Bravo)
  • What do you guys think of this Restaurant Wars concept? Too difficult? A good change of pace?
  • Did Common Place get screwed on servers? They seemed inept, where Conifer’s seemed on point. Might’ve just been editing.
  • Laura Lavender is not a real name. She was, however, a very good interior decorator for the chefs. Once upon a time they had to do that shit themselves.
  • “It’s like a fern bar, man.” - Tom, upon entering Common Place.
  • “How ya doin’! I’m Joe!” says Bruce, imitating Chicago Joe with his best Bill Swerski.
  • “Even the fat didn’t taste bone marrow-ey” is a sentence that sounds wrong somehow.
  • Thanks for sharing all of the Top Chef restaurants y’all have been to last week! Some great recommendations there.
  • Last Chance Kitchen: Since their on their “last legs” (?), Brother and Claudette have to cook with vegetables that are right on the verge of spoiling. Claudette reiterates that she ran a flawless dinner service as executive chef and shouldn’t have gone home, and Bravo edits in a clip of all the things she did wrong—inconsistent temperatures, not tasting her food—in a hilariously bitchy show passive-aggressiveness. She uses the ingredients to make plantain molotes, while Brother scoops up pretty much the whole table to make a melange of grilled artichokes, purple cauliflower, morel mushrooms, and a tomato confit with goat cheese. He takes it home.
  • Also, in a subtle move of smartassery, Tyler calls out how much time they have left five seconds into the round. I dig.
  • This season on Top Chef: Wylie Dufresne! Sports! Slop! Voltaggio Brothers!

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