It happens every season. It brings out the worst in most chefs and the best in few. The winner is never predictable. The loser is often a heartbreaking surprise. The Top Chef Restaurant Wars legacy held true last night -- with a "battle of the sexes" twist. The claws were out.
The episode opened with Ed shit-talking in what's become a slightly varied weekly kick-off clip that's settling in as Season 9 standard procedure.
"It's going to be boys and girls fighting it out on the playground," Ed says, "I definitely think that male chefs have more talent." He goes on to point out Sarah's weakness last week, when barbecuing in the sun wiped her out.
This week's Restaurant Wars challenge: make a three-course menu with two choices per course for 100 guests.
The boys practically skipped arm-and-arm into the kitchen, loving on each other's ideas so hard that they forgot to assign someone to expedite the food. A revolving door of team members stood outside the kitchen in their chefs wear trying to make sense of it all. It worked, to a degree. The judges weren't asking where the food was, as they were in the girls' round.
While they didn't outperform the girls overall, they did so in service. The female kitchen endured repeated tear-downs from Lindsay, who tried to keep shit from falling through the cracks when the cracks felt more like gaping potholes.
In the end, it was not only girls versus boys, but service versus food. And food, the girls' strong suit, won.
Now the highlight reel:
Most Hideous Dish We'd Enjoy the Hell Out of Anyway: Chris Jones' Cracker Jack Ice Cream, Cherries and Frozen Peanut Butter It might be a "jumble in a bowl," as Hugh Acheson called it, but it's a jumble we'd like to curl up with in front of the television and spoon into our face. Cracker Jack anything is fabulous, but with the added texture of cherries, frozen peanut butter and walnuts, this thing don't need to be pretty 'cause we're going to mix it around with a spoon till we can eat it like chilly saccharin soup anyway.
Most Foreboding Conversation: The girls during the boys' service Sarah: "Guys, I'm putting my blood sweat and tears in tomorrow." Grayson: "Yeah, we got to fight for this one I think." Sarah: "We have to fight, and we have to stay calm." Lindsay: "We have to trust each other." ... all before their zen spirit unraveled into a tangled mess of emotion, f-bombs, and mostly blaming Bev for everything that went wrong.
Most Unexpected Potty Mouths: Lindsay, the Southern belle-ish sweetie, and Ty-Lor, the good-natured glass-half-full hipster Lindsay: "Guys, the judges are fucking pissed that it's taking this fucking long. And all these short ribs that are in the window are now dead." Ty-Lor: "We definitely shouldn't have played fucking circle jerk expediter. We should have just stuck with one person and gone with it."
Episode (Season?) Scapegoat: Beverly Sarah shoots down every dish idea she has during menu-planning. Lindsay endlessly chides on her for overcooking the halibut. Sarah addresses her as though talking with a 3-year-old: "You're here to help the team. This is not gonna be how we start service." Beverly whines about being treated like a child, then fades to the background until she's treated like a child again. It's a vicious cycle in mean-girl pathology.
Dish We'd eat All Day, Every Day: Grayson's peach salad Salty, sweet, fruity, tangy. This salad's got it going on. Grilled peaches with pickled shallots and candied pistachios are good, but coated in bacon vinaigrette -- a brazen choice -- it's over-the-top goodness might possibly cure both the common cold and PMS.
Surprise Ending: Ty-lor packed his knives, and, you know, went. Diagnosis: "Ty's not-so-Thai dish," as Tom bottom-lined it. Or, as Hugh further explained, "Ty's dishes were both supremely under-seasoned."
The Moment that "Surprise Ending" Doesn't Begin to Describe: Bev won. Emeril called her short ribs the "most flavorful thing of two days of eating." The verbally battered chef, who's been holding strong despite being the object of everyone else's bitchy days, actually did it. Lindsay looked like she just saw a ghost. It was like when the popular boy decides to date the nerdy girl instead of the cheerleader. It never happens, till it does. Hell yeah, Bev. Now hopefully she'll step it up and stop wallowing in the misery others shower on her.