It’s restaurant wars! While it usually takes months, years, decades to open a restaurant, Top Chef expects its contestants to do it in three hours, give or take.
This isn’t a big deal for Dallas chef John Tesar. In his career, he has opened 21 restaurants, 11 of which were his own. If there’s one thing he’s good at, it’s being an eagle soaring over everyone else, and opening restaurants.
The contestants are divided into teams like kids picking dodgeball players on the playground. Tesar is second to last to be chosen by the blue team with Sheldon Simeon, Katsuji Tanabe and Casey Thompson. When it comes time to decide what team members will do what, Tesar steps up to be executive chef. Tanabe decides he wants to cook three dishes, and Thompson works the floor because, as Tesar puts it, he loves a woman in the front.
During the three hours of prepping the food, Team Blue is a disaster. Things are spilling. Tanabe is yelling at Tesar. Tesar is trying to help him despite being yelled at. “I don’t want to be that guy who’s always fighting with people,” Tesar tells the camera. Five years ago, he says he would have knocked Tanabe on his ass. Today, he’s playing it cool.
There’s still some of the Tesar we know and love in there, but for the most part, while Tanabe gripes at him for anything and everything, Tesar doesn’t fight back.
Simeon is acting as Hawaiian Mother Teresa, trying to stop the fighting. “You cannot cook with hate in your heart. Your food is gonna suffer from it,” he says. It’s moving. It’s touching. It does not stop the fighting.
The guests begin to arrive to the restaurant Team Blue has named Southern Belle, which despite its logo and name, is not a fashion blog. The guests look like they are dressed for a royal wedding, not a makeshift restaurant on a reality TV show. Thompson does her best to greet and seat the guests, including Model Host Woman and her gaggle of other judges.
The restaurant is Southern cooking, family style, like Babe’s Chicken Dinner House, but with acorn soup and crab pimento cheese dip.
The judges are iffy about Tesar’s crab pimento cheese dip. OK, they actually don’t like it. One judge even says he likes crab! And he likes pimento cheese! But he doesn’t like the crab pimento cheese. The judges are also confused as to why they are serving dishes that shouldn’t be family style as family style. Mashed potatoes? Sure. Acorn soup? What?
Back in the kitchen, Tesar is trying to figure out the orders. He shouts things like “L1” and “L2” and “It’s a four-top, but there’s only two people there.” He’s frustrated with the servers who are probably actors from L.A. It’s their first and only day on the job and Tesar isn’t having it. Because of the insanity in the kitchen, Thompson is forced to go back there and help. She also has to prep her strawberry sorbet. Model Host Woman notices there are people waiting for a table and no hostess. She takes a mental note of it.
The day is finally done and Team Blue now must face judgment. It’s obvious they are the losers. Winners do things like work together. Losers serve acorn soup family style. The other team smiles and cries tears of joy. Thompson, however, is about to cry tears of fear.
Model Host Woman is not impressed by Team Blue. She says there was no leadership in the process or service. She questions why Tanabe would take on three dishes. Judge Tom Colicchio says Tesar’s crab pimento cheese was like a recipe from the ’70s. I assume that’s supposed to be an insult. Tanabe says everything is Tesar’s fault — the restaurant, the messed-up orders, Donald Trump’s presidency. Blame everything on Tesar. Tesar is appalled. He thought he and Tanabe were friends. Not only that, but I don’t know if you’ve noticed, but Tesar wants you to know he’s changed. He’s no longer a dick, so if Tanabe could not be such a dick, then Tesar would appreciate it.
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While the judges deliberate, the chefs head back to the waiting room. Tesar believes Tanabe set Tesar up to be executive chef just to screw him over. So he calls him a “condescending motherfucker.” It’s amazing. That should be Tesar’s next Dallas restaurant name. But Thompson continues to look frightened. I think she thinks anyone who goes home is immediately murdered by Model Host Woman.
But even though Tesar was executive chef and couldn’t figure out orders, Tanabe is the one to go home. Taking on three dishes was too ambitious.
Tesar hugs him on his way out. “It didn’t have to be this way.” Just as Disney music is about to start playing, Tanabe shrugs it off. He’s a condescending motherfucker and he doesn’t care.
Tesar gets in the elevator and tears up. He might also think Tanabe gets murdered.