Top Chef Masters Episode 5: Restaurant WarsBy Graham Kates
August 22, 2013
Pop quiz: What do you get when you divide eight chefs into two teams and tell them to create a menu and dining concept around something inane like, “everything that’s great about Los Angeles?”
Answer: Oh yeah, it’s RESTAURANT WARS people. Basically the Super Bowl of food television.
There are eight cheftestants left on Top Chef Masters and up until this point they’ve all been pretty lovey-dovey with each other, but Restaurant Wars has a way of bringing the edge out. For the first time this season, we start to see the cheftestants sharpen the knives a bit.
There’s no Quickfire challenge this week; instead, the whole episode is devoted to Restaurant Wars. The chefs are divided into teams based on how their sous chefs performed in the Battle of the Sous Chefs.
The Red Team is composed of chefs whose sous chefs did the best: Neal Fraser, Bryan Voltaggio, Lynn Crawford and Jennifer Jasinski. Fraser’s sous chef bagged him immunity and the whole team gets sous assistance for the challenge.
The Blue Team is: Sang Yoon, Douglas Keane, David Burke and Sue Zemanick. They get no help from their sous chefs this episode. Bummer.
Yoon has managed to dominate Top Chef Masters so far, winning challenge after challenge, even though his sous chef, Ted Hopson, has put him at a disadvantage three times already.
The other cheftestants have started to notice.
“You should fire that guy, Sang,” Keane says, with a face that looks totally serious.
Before they can begin planning their menus, the chefs are introduced to the guest “celebrity restaurateur,” actress Busy Philipps (Cougar Town).
Philipps tells the cheftestants their challenge is to create a restaurant that highlights the L.A. food scene.
“Take this segregated food town and put it all in one place,” Philipps says. “But elevated and sophisticated.”
Blue Team’s restaurant, which emphasizes the diversity of LA food, is called 72 and Sunny.
Red Team’s restaurant focuses on remaking classic LA dishes. It’s called Artisan. The friction between chefs begins during menu planning, but won’t end until the last diner leaves. Voltaggio’s teammates seem openly dismissive of his ideas (spoiler alert: the judges consider his dish the best of the Red Team’s offerings).
Later, during prep, the three men on Blue Team are seen ordering Zemanick around as if she works for them. Let’s just say she doesn’t love the treatment.
“I think men are just like that in general. They always think they’re better than us, but they’re not,” Zemanick says privately to the camera.
Throughout much of the season, Yoon and Keane have been practically BFFs, but Keane realizes he doesn’t dig Yoon’s management style when he sees Yoon badgering their brand new waitstaff.
“Sang kind of unloads on the waiters and I’m kinda shocked,” Keane says. “Sang and I gel well as friends, but I don’t think we gel well as a team.”
Later, during service, Burke is also not feeling the love for Yoon.
“Sue, Doug and I, we’re really a team and Sang sits in his zone and says, ‘I’m going to do beef.’ Beef. Wow. That’s great. That’s selfish,” Burke said.
Selfish or not, the judges go bonkers for Yoon’s “elevated broccoli and beef,” which Philipps says is one of her favorite pregnancy foods (by the way, Philipps has a baby on the way). Blue Team/72 and Sunny wins, and Yoon is chosen as the favorite. No sous chef help needed. Unlike past Restaurant Wars, neither team seemed completely overwhelmed by the challenge of setting up restaurants in 24 hours, but Red Team, Artisan, is by far the judges' least favorite.
And when it’s time for them to face the music, Crawford gets a bit too combative. The judges don’t like her brownie dessert. When judge Francis Lam pronounces it too sweet, Crawford interrupts and replies sarcastically:
“Oh, too, too decadent for you. That’s alright.”
If there’s one thing that’s a guaranteed Top Chef death knell, it’s sassing the judges.
“I really wanted to win and make Canada proud,” she says as she exits. But the show isn’t quite done yet. Just before the credits roll, Keane gets a call from his sous chef who says he has to leave the show immediately. No reason given.
Mysterious. To be continued ….