Top Chef Charleston Recap: Episode 8
By Jason Lee
January 24, 2017
You know it. They know it. With eight chefs remaining, it’s time for the most anticipated challenge of each Top Chef season - Restaurant Wars. Where the most shocking eliminations happen - sometimes a front runner (the infamous Kristen Kish elimination), and sometimes elimination is a lovely bit of karma (manbunned, pompous little Philip two season ago). What will happen this year?
That’s up to our usual judging panel and our two guest judges, Daniel Humm and Will Guidara, who are partners in one of the country’s most celebrated restaurants, 11 Madison Avenue in the Flatiron District in New York City. It took them ten years to get that restaurant up and running. Our cheftestants, per usual Top Chef practice, will have a day to get theirs operational.
The chefs draw knives for the luxury of deciding which two chefs will get to pick their teams. Katsuji and Shirley get the honors, leading to groans by Emily - our resident rookie overachiever (can you believe that of the eight rookie cheftestants, she’s one of only two still standing? It’s absolutely flummoxing). Emily knows, based on schoolyard practice, that she’s going to be the last person selected.
And she’s right. Joining Shirley’s team by default (i.e. the last chef picked) along with Brooke and Sylva, they’ll have to do their best to top the team of Katsuji, Sheldon, Casey, and John. In a development that will surprise no one, Shirley is not only quick to establish her leadership (she’ll be serving as Executive Chef, thank you very much) and the tone of her team (she firmly puts her foot down in rejecting a beef-based pasta dish proposed by Emily, but is quite supportive of a version re-worked by Emily to fit the team’s theme). They’ll be doing a seafood-focused restaurant named Latitude.
Katsuji’s mess of a team is awash in egos and passive-aggressiveness. Katsuji doesn’t want to be executive chef, prompting John to volunteer (despite the fact that he didn’t actually participate in Restaurant Wars his season). Instead, Katsuji wants to cook three of the team’s six dishes. Oh yeah, and he wants to make some roasted nuts as an appetizer. Then, in a minute of picturesque pique, John suggests that Casey should work as front of the house because, you know, that’s a woman’s place in a restaurant (welcome to 2017!). Instantly recognizing the misogyny underlying that suggestion, Casey sucks it up and accepts the appointment cause, hey, ya know, (a) it’s a damn important position for Restaurant Wars and (b) she’d be damn good at it. You go girl.
In terms of order, Katsuji wins the coin toss and opts to go second. Thus, team Latitude spends four of their hours in the Top Chef kitchen prepping for their service the next day. Shirley is, quite appropriately, in everyone’s business - tasting their food and sauces and reigning them in where she feels appropriate. Whaddya know, women can make great leaders! By the end of their prep, Brooke deems Shirley “bossy, but in a good way.” I think that’s chef-talk for “job well done.”