Top Chef California: Episode 10

By Jason Lee

February 8, 2016


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You know it. I know it. The cheftestants know it. With only eight chefs remaining in the competition, it’s time. Restaurant Wars is upon us!

We join the chefs in the car as they head over to what they’re sure will turn out to be Restaurant Wars. There are a variety of different ways the chefs are coping with the stress - Marjorie keeps hitting her seat mate in the leg, Kwame and Phillip bounce in their seats like antsy three-year-olds, Amar talks nervously to us about what’s about to happen. The anticipation is almost better than the competition.

Almost. The cheftestants arrive in a big, empty warehouse and are met by Bill Chait, a Los Angeles bigwig in the restaurant world. Padma teases them about knowing what’s to come. There are only eight chefs left, after all…

The cheftestants take this as their cue to break into an impromptu rap about Restaurant Wars. I check quickly to see if #nerdchefs is already trending on Twitter (it’s not). “Unfortunately,” Padma tells them, “it’s not Restaurant Wars.”

In response to their shocked reactions, Padma lets loose with a big, “just kidding!” Whew. That’d be the biggest case of Top Chef blue balls if she’d been telling the truth. As expected, the chefs draw knives to be split into two teams . . . except that only two chefs have anything written on their knives. Amar has “first choice,” and Karen has “second choice.” Ah, it’s the ole “pick’em like elementary school dodgeball,” once more.


Amar does the smart thing and picks Kwame, despite his recent stumbles. Karen, also smartly, goes with Marjorie, who she notes would be able to do bread, cakes, desserts, etc. Amar picks Kwame’s co-favorite for the title of Top Chef, Jeremy. Karen goes with solid, dependable, easy-to-get-along-with Carl. Two chefs are left: Isaac and hipster Phillip. While Amar notes that Isaac is probably a better chef, he goes with Phillip, who has already expressed an interest in doing front of house.

Ah, but this isn’t going to be like all the other Restaurant Wars. As the show’s promos and commercials have made clear, this version is going to be (as Padma puts it) “bigger and better than ever.” Each team will have to do a lunch course AND a dinner course, and each chef will either have to do front of the house OR executive chef for one of the courses. No one will be able to hide.

The teams immediately get to work figuring out their name and style of cuisine. Interestingly enough, both teams intentionally pick out restaurant names that don’t connote any style of food - Amar’s team goes with “District LA”, and Karen’s team picks out “Palate.”

With that done, the shopping starts. First off are décor, serving ware, and flatware. Wandering around the shop, Phillip - in total hipster fashion - keeps picking out mason jars and showing them to Kwame. “Mason jars are so ‘10 years ago in Brooklyn,’” Kwame scoffs to us. There will be no mason jars at his lunch!

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