After the weekly reminiscing on their lost companion (Sara N. was last week’s elimination), everyone remaining on Top Chef: Miami is quick to get over their distress and move on to the Quickfire Challenge. This week’s special judge is Daniel Boulud and the chefs are quite excited to see him. Padma informs everyone that starting with this week there will be no immunity in the Elimination Challenge just because a chef wins the Quickfire. Their task is entitled the "Red Robin Adventuresome Burger Challenge" in which, amazingly, our chefs are going to have to come up with some special burger.
Quicker than you can say "I’ll have a double-double, animal style, whole grilled onions, extra toast" the chefs are off and running. Most opt for a seafood burger — Hung going with shrimp; Sara, crab; CJ, scallop mousse and shrimp; Dale, tuna with egg and asparagus; Brian with scallop, sea bass, and shrimp; and Tre with a surf and turf. Casey opts for a patty melt, and Howie goes with a truffle burger.
Daniel Boulud must not have had a lot of terribly interesting things to say about the burgers, because the most descriptive he gets during tasting is that Brian’s has too much bread. Two people get no responses whatsoever from Boulud, and everyone else little more than that. It is clear that he had some thoughts though, because he is able to pick Sara and Tre as having the worst burgers, with Sara apparently edging Tre out for the absolute worst due to her lack of a bun. Tre’s however was "too sandwichy." At the top of the leader board — Hung, Dale, Howie, and CJ, with CJ being declared the victor, and we are told he will be rewarded during the Elimination Challenge.
Said challenge this week is the ever-popular "Restaurant Wars," wherein the chefs split into two teams and design and open a restaurant. CJ, despite not getting immunity as the winner of the Quickfire Challenge, gets to choose his team. He opts for Tre, Brian, and Casey, which makes the other team Hung, Sara, Howie, and Dale. Hung is displeased with having to deal with Sara and Howie, but does not actually get a say in anything.
The teams will be given $700 for food, $2500 for décor, and have to serve 30 guests. They will also have to each take on a different role as each team needs a head chef, sous chef, designer, and someone to manage the front of the house. CJ’s team will be calling their restaurant "April," while the other one will go by "The Garage." April will be a "new American" bistro while The Garage will be a "contemporary American" one (I love Top Chef).
April’s positions are assigned by CJ, who makes himself sous chef, Tre the head chef, puts Brian at the front of the house, and makes Casey the designer. The Garage, on the other hand, has a free-for-all, with Sara jumping all over head chef, Howie getting sous chef, with Dale at the front of the house, and Hung as the designer.
The food shopping is completely uneventful, but the design shopping has a few interesting points to note. Casey and Brian debate whether or not go to with scented candles, opting against it, Brian thinks that it will destroy the taste of the food. Dale and Hung get on the scented candle bandwagon, grabbing a bunch of vanilla ones. Brian and Casey are very deliberate in their design scheme (though Brian does have a tendency to get frantic), whereas Dale and Hung are all over the place, selecting a hodgepodge of items.
All the chefs return to the restaurant site (just below the Top Chef Kitchen) with four hours to go. Everyone works frantically on their assigned tasks, CJ is a little slow with his artichokes for April, and Howie touts his risotto ability at The Garage. Tom Colicchio, after his run through, points out that The Garage has far more actual restaurant experience and that April has made their lives a lot harder by pre-cutting their tenderloin. Tom explains that they will now have to cook each tenderloin individually, whereas if they had left it whole they would have had a lot fewer to cook and could have cut them tableside for a beautiful effect. Too late to worry about that now however, as Tre has left his potatoes smoking for four minutes too long and dinner service begins!
The judges dine at April first and are less than impressed with the service. It is not that the food takes too long to get out, but the silverware is removed between the first and second courses and not replaced. Brian is flustered and heads back into the kitchen to ask for help, prompting Casey to come out and serve the next course. Just when things start to look up, Tre’s smoked potatoes come out and destroy the dish and the meal for the judges, particularly Ted Allen.
Things do not improve much when the judges head over to The Garage and have to seat themselves. Ted, his mouth still overwhelmed from the smoky potatoes apparently, is disgusted by the notion of a scented candle and all the judges agree. It simply must be put out (and is). The food starts off well, but by the time they get to the risotto, which takes way too long to come out, the judges are disappointed. Howie, it seems, does not actually make a good risotto, no matter how much he touts it. Also, risotto is a tad rich for a hot Miami night. Then out comes a braised lamb shank that is too rich and a too rich crepe with dark chocolate for dessert.
It would not be unfair to suggest that the judges were not impressed with either restaurant. Nor was a special undercover blogger, Andrea Strong, who ate at both. At the Judges’ Table that night April is called in first and told that they did not win. Brian takes the blame for all the front of house problems, and the potatoes are called "too smoky" again. It is a sad day for April. It is also a sad day for The Garage, because they are called in next and taken to task for everything from the vanilla scented candles to food that was more appropriate for Siberia in winter than Miami in summer (except for the risotto, which never could have been good). The Garage is sent away from judges unclear of their fate.
Actually, even the judges do not know what to do. They talk, they discuss, them hem and they haw, and then they call back in Brian and Dale. The judges explain to them the restaurants’ mistakes and express their disappointment. They also announce that no one will be going home tonight. Instead, the restaurants will open again tomorrow night and someone will, after that service, be going home. Relieved, distressed, and ultimately tired, the chefs are done for tonight.
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