Saran After last week’s non-elimination, the remaining eight Top Chef: Miami contestants had to once again engage in Restaurant Wars. Frankly, I went into this episode fully expecting a double elimination just to be fair … and a little mean. But would Sara be able to keep from biting Howie’s head off? Would Brian control his sweating problem? And would Dale and Hung learn from their decorating faux pas?

Spoilers ahead. Have a snack and watch the episode before proceeding.

For me, this was probably the best Quickfire Challenge in a while since it was literally quick and tested their knife skills, something that’s essential on this show. And since I often side with the underdog, I was rooting for Team Garage — or as Dale termed his team consisting of Howie, Sara and Hung, The Bad News Bears — versus the Dream Team of Tre, CJ, Brian and Casey from Restaurant April.

It was a mise en place challenge, basically prepping food in this order: shucking a bowl of oysters, finely chopping five large onions, cutting up chickens and cracking eggs to beat the whites into stiff peaks that won’t drip from an inverted bowl. Each team member had to follow the other, and despite an early lead from oyster-shucking champion Brian, Restaurant April got a huge setback with Casey’s plodding knife skills, to the point that two cheftestants from Garage passed her. Sara was an onion-chopping machine, and Hung just cracked me up how quickly he decimated the chickens. About time he redeemed himself.

The prize? The services of a sommelier, who turned out to be Stephen from Season One. Both teams also got the services of interior designer Christopher Ciccone, the previous night’s hard-to-please customer and Madonna’s brother. Frankly, I wasn’t crazy about his ideas for Garage. Modern yes, but I agree with Dale: The red and white theme made it look like "Valentine’s Day threw up all over it." Yuck.

But enough about the decor. The competitors had to revamp their menu based on the judges’ feedback from the day before as well as comments from blog lady Andrea Strong, while doubling their offering choices. At first it seemed that Howie’s defensiveness would get in the way, but eventually Team Garage decided to take all input seriously and practically revamp their entire menu, in addition to renaming their eatery Quatre. Team April decided to make tweaks here and there, such as taking a chance on the tenderloin and smoked potatoes, provided Tre could control the smoke. They also opted for a simple bread pudding for dessert.

When all was said and done, Sara’s dictatorship in the kitchen — insisting everyone served was a VIP and not standing for Howie’s rare lamb chops — brought herself and her team a win with an almost flawless meal despite Dale’s rather casual attire.

Team April was less fortunate on all counts. Brian didn’t even break a sweat this time, not bothering to double-check dishes or lend a hand in the kitchen. Casey’s monkfish was way overcooked, while CJ’s lobster salad was too salty. Tre, however, bombed with his strange salmon with beet puree starter and undercooked bread pudding dessert.

Tre In the end, it was determined that as executive chef, Tre not only put out two underwhelming dishes, but also lacked the leadership to make his team focus and perform. His elimination came as a particular blow to the other contestants, who all acknowledged that with Tre’s skills, they expected him to be there at the finals.

What do you think about the teams’ performances? Did anyone (CJ?) deserve more censure? Did Tre go too soon?

Posted by:Hanh Nguyen