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Episode in two paragraphs: In the finale of a two-part Restaurant Wars, let’s just say that the Top Chef editors did not have a light touch. Isaac Toups, a funny guy who has languished in the mid-to-bottom tier lately, was picked last when teams were formed. So, like every underdog athlete trope you’ve ever witnessed, you KNEW he was going to heroically lead his team to victory and win the challenge. After adding lunch service to the challenge (hence the need for two parts), Isaac ran a tight lunch shift as executive chef of Team Palate and then at dinner produced a really good looking braised lamb shoulder with couscous, pickled fennel, and orange. Cue the music from Rocky or Rudy, and the cajun got his first win.
Meanwhile, Team District was a shitshow. After not even finishing lunch service in the allotted time, dinner was a string of bad dishes and even worse service. Head Judge Tom Colicchio was overserved on wine and underserved on flavor. And, in a bit of foreshadowing (did we mention that the editors are not exactly subtle?) Phillip Frankland Lee was seen pimping his L.A. restaurants to diners while restauranteur Bill Chait actually wonders aloud if he’s doing just that instead of riding herd over the sloppy service. Lee’s cause was not helped by a truly horrible-looking strawberry salad that ate more like a heavy dessert. In the end, DING! DONG! THE MAN BUN IS GONE! The fact that Lee bitched about other chefs in his post-elimination interview and skulked away from judges table without saying goodbye to his competitors shows how little love was lost with his booting.
D.C. performances: If you thought Ripple and Roofers Union’s Marjorie Meek-Bradley’s baking prowess was going to get old, surprise, it’s not. When her team sent out fresh bread at the start of service—something I can’t remember another team doing in 12 previous seasons—there was visible happiness on Colicchio and Gail Simmons’ faces. Meanwhile, Kwame Onwuachi had yet another indifferent performance, producing a foam—NEVER DO FOAMS!—and some chicken thighs that didn’t exactly bowl judges over.
D.C. wins: Quickfires, zero. Elimination challenges, four (Meek-Bradley, 2; Onwuachi, 2). Last Chance Kitchens, two (Garret Fleming).
Confidence rating (out of 10): 6 Meek-Bradley is rolling along. Onwuachi is simply in a funk that he needs to snap out of before he gets eliminated. At this rate, he might be off of the show before Shaw Bijou opens later this winter.