''Top Chef'': Restaurant Wars redux | EW.com

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''Top Chef'': Restaurant Wars redux

On ''Top Chef,'' when the teams get a second chance to perfect their restaurants, the front-runners get dangerously cocky


”Top Chef”: Restaurant Wars redux

Cooking is like baseball. I’ve said that here before, and I’ll say it again right now, mainly because I just spent the last two and a half wee hours of the morning watching the Yankees play the Angels in Anaheim, in lieu of starting this TV Watch, and so the baseball metaphor’s sticking in my head. Two nights ago, the Yankees (whom I love — screw the underdog!) lost to the Angels 18-9; it was pathetic. Then last night they beat ‘em 8-2. That discrepancy would normally make no sense, except it’s baseball. One night you’re up; the next night you’re down. Kind of — ta-dahh! — like cooking. Or at least like Top Chef.

In my darkest hours, like now, I think to myself that this TV show is essentially retarded. Tre? The strong man from Dallas wasn’t my favorite (that’d be CJ or Casey), but still, Tre gets to go home before Howie? Before Sara? Before Brian? Even (dare I say it) before CJ or Casey? That’s a little screwed up! Come to think of it — duh — maybe cooking is actually nothing like baseball, because even though they’re both up and down, at least in baseball if you have a bad night you get 161 other chances to redeem yourself. Not so if you’re a chef, as we saw in this episode. Cook it right tonight, or else you’re going home before the consistently unappealing bull-moose who couldn’t even plate his (probably nasty-ass, sweat-stained) frog legs in time in the very first episode! The universe is cold and unforgiving, and nothing can save you. In fact, maybe forget baseball rules; judging from this show, cooking operates more according to the principles of frontier justice…

Maybe I’m just frustrated because I like all of these remaining contestants, and the only one I wanted to see go (Sara) ended up winning the elimination challenge instead. But it’s not like I didn’t have time to get used to the idea of Tre, Casey, CJ, or Brian (a.k.a. Team Restaurant April; a.k.a. ”the Dream Team”) getting axed, because the show baldly forecast their defeat, starting with last week’s ”Next Week on Top Chef” sneaks and continuing with this week’s opening moments, which so prominently featured the four of them that you knew (as per custom) that one of them would be walking. In the first two minutes, (1) Casey, caught sunbathing, gave us the glimpse of a tattoo on her lower right-hand ab of what looked like a tiger’s pawprint (rawr!); (2) Brian sunned and read his book, which appeared to be the paperback version of The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time (excellent book, ruff ruff!); (3) CJ explained how he might only have one testicle, ”but it’s more balls than all these guys got combined”; and (4) Tre vowed to stay focused. Up against editing like this, Team Restaurant April didn’t stand a chance.

In the Quickfire, the two teams competed in a mise en place race; first group to shuck 15 oysters, dice five onions, dismember four dead chickens, and beat a few egg whites senseless would earn the services of a sommelier (Stephen, from season 1) during that evening’s part-two of the Restaurant Wars. At the end of the challenge, Team Restaurant Garage (a.k.a. ”The Bad News Bears”) won, because Hung, if you’ll recall from two weeks ago, can chop apart a whole cauliflower in 1.5 seconds, which is apparently a skill transferable to poultry, and also because Casey, on the other team, cut onions like a homeless grandma.

But wait: Before we get to the Elimination Challenge and take 2 of last week’s non-elimination ”soft open” Restaurant Wars, there’s more buildup. In the hopes that they’d goose up their restaurant decor, both teams were treated to the services of a restaurant/interior designer named Christopher Ciccone, who turned out to be that insufferable meathead griping about the vegetable medley et al last week. God, this man sucks. If Tom Sizemore was an 88-pound weenie who didn’t know he was an 88-pound weenie, he’d be this guy. Or, as Dale hilariously put it, ”He’s one of the most annoying people I’ve met in my life…and him being Madonna’s brother doesn’t really save him.” (Bitchy Dale is great. Given the way he griped about Ciccone, and also repeatedly rolled his eyes at the mention of superblogger Andrea Strong at the top of the hour, I’m inclined to think Dale wouldn’t like me either, but that’s okay; I love him anyway.) Very quickly, methodical slow-talker Ciccone came out swinging against both teams, moaning/griping/complaining, until Sara at Restaurant Garage beautifully cut him off with a ”So what do you suggest we do?” I love how the surprised pause in Ciccone’s voice suggested he was shocked at the question, as if his snarky robot-brain was thinking, ”Whaaat? Must stop bitching now? But it’s all I know how to do! ABORT ABORT!” To me, Ciccone’s one grand idea — suggesting to Team Restaurant April that they paint a giant random quote across their dining-room wall — would’ve sounded great, if only they were opening a restaurant themed to Lord of the Rings, or the memory of Martin Luther King Jr.

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