Top Chef Season 11, Episode 9: Restaurant Wars

Top Chef Season 11 Episode 9 Padma

Oh, Restaurant Wars. How much do I love thee? Eh, not so much, actually. It’s become a tad predictable—never do front of the house, and always have a complete dish to stand behind but not salad, because nobody ever wins Top Chef with a salad.

The guest judge is none other than David Chang, my most favorite chef ever (sorry Bourdain, my love for Chang runs deep). Danny Meyer will also be checking in on the chefs, so I guess that makes him a guest judge, too? The teams are:

Team One: Shirley, Nina, Carlos, Justin, Sara
Team Two: Everybody Else (or, Stephanie, Nicholas, Travis, Carrie, Brian)

Team Two decides on seafood, and Team One is still smashing egos so they go with “upscale casual.” But surprise! There are no kitchens in the restaurants. It looks like Team One totally forgot to discuss their dishes and instead jump straight into plate and chair selection. So…they’re planning dishes while food shopping? Priorities etc., good plan, guys!

Team One calls their restaurant “Found.” Justin is cooking rabbit, Carlos is making red snapper, Nina has pork tenderloin, Shirley is cooking ingredients I don’t recognize, and Sara is relying on a brown butter cake. Team Two’s restaurant is named “Fin.” Brian is making a scallop dish, Stephanie has oysters with pasta, Nicholas is roasting oxtail, and Travis is baking an olive oil cake.

Top Chef Season 11 Episode 9 Snapper Crudo

The judges arrive at Fin and the dishes start flying. Brian’s scallop crudo and purple corn gel is called “snotty.” Over at Found, the wine takes a long time to get out and the menus are taken away before the diners even have a chance to see what they will be eating. Fin serves up Carrie’s sautéed shrimp with chickpea puree and Stephanie’s linguini with caviar and oyster cream. Carrie’s shrimp is called an “oil slick” but Stephanie’s pasta is a win.

Found is a mess. Like, a total mess. The wrong dishes are going out, Sara is blaming the kitchen and the kitchen is blaming Sara. Meanwhile, Fin serves Nick’s roasted drum and oxtail ragu. It is the judge’s favorite dish, and it is followed by Travis’s olive oil cake that they also love.

The judges immediately notice the fall-off in service at Found and have to ask Sara to check on the dishes. When Sara finally brings out the dishes, she leaves before explaining them so the judges have to guess what dish is from which chef. They hate everything, so I guess maybe it doesn’t really matter. Shirley’s fish dish with shrimp paste is served and Padma asks Sara for an explanation. They like the dish and call the shrimp paste the star of the show. Then, Sara brings out Nina’s pork and again leaves it without explaining the dish. It’s clear (to everyone except for Sara) that if this team does not have the winning dishes, Sara is going home.

Top Chef Season 11 Episode 9 Pork Tenderloin

Funny, but when Sara brings out her own nectarine brown butter cake, she explains the dish to the judges. Unfortunately, she has to explain that the promised mascarpone isn’t on the plate because the emulsion broke from the heat.

It’s now up to the judges to decide which restaurant did the better job. Unsurprisingly, Fin is the winning restaurant. Also unsurpringly, Nicholas wins restaurant wars for stepping up as the executive chef and also making a great dish.

Now, it’s time for Found. Padma calls it a disaster, and notes that she only volunteered information about her own dish. Sara insists there was disorganization in the kitchen, and Justin claims that the tickets were coming in slow and unclear. The judges are going to have to sort out if it’s Sara (front of the house) or Justin (executive chef) going home. They both screwed up their tasks, and they both had lousy dishes. I say send them both home (or maybe a good old fashioned knife fight), but the judges do something even better and send Sara home. She’s so smug.

Next week, squirrel!

Reprinted from

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