Friday, January 20, 2017

Top Chef - Restaurant Wars Again

I hadn't really noticed until last night, when one Restaurant Wars team was all "Top Chef" veterans and one was half and half that the veterans had clearly done better.  But let's talk about that.  It isn't that the veterans are older or have more food experience.  It's just that, as I think we all know, "Top Chef" is only partly about the food.  Okay, it's totally about the food, but it's also about making food in ridiculous circumstances, and experience dealing with ridiculous circumstances is helpful.  And when I realized that meant Emily and Sylva were the last two "Top Chef" newbies standing, well, that surprised me.  
So, it's easy to say that Restaurant Wars is always about which team worked better together, but that's not true.  Teams that were a dumpster fire behind the scenes have managed to save themselves with a combination of good food and charming service.  And teams that were all harmony have suffered from boring food.  Unlike a lot of things that happen on "Top Chef" it is the most true thing about dining.  Do I remember crappy service or that I had to wait forever for my food?  Sure.  Will I forgive a lot if the food was great?  Yes.  Will I have very little to say about swiftly delivered boring food?  Also yes.  
I confess I have never worked farther into the kitchen than the soup station, so I have no idea what a good expediting system should look like, or how hard it should be to convey that to fellow chefs and the server staff when you have a single night to work with.  But, it seems like someone who said they've been thinking about this all these years (John) would have come up with a system that worked better.  Look, I get that once service has started it's really hard to regroup and there's barely enough time to admit you're delightful system has failed. But you're system's effectiveness is not based on how wonderful it is to you, if it fails when everyone else uses it.  
I also think Casey's insistence that she be the only hostess is one of those ideas that only works if everything else works perfectly.  If you decide you have to help in the kitchen you can't let people sit out there just waiting because you wouldn't let anyone else do this.  Which was really the theme of the night.  Katsuiji didn't want the executive chef job, so he figured he'd be the star by making the most things.  John was sure there was nothing wrong with his system that couldn't be fixed by everyone just doing it better.  And Sheldon and Casey both went into patch it and fix it mode. Honestly the fact that their team contained a chef that won Restaurant Wars as an executive chef (Sheldon) and they would not let him be executive chef was the clearest example that this team was caught between two power mongers who think leadership is about being the boldest jerk and not about handling problems. 
But enough about them.  The winning team did great and Sylva's story about his restaurant burning down was touching and I'm glad he at least has a successful pop-up to look back on. I'm glad Emily got to be on a successful team. And happy for Brooke and Shirley.  It's possible all my remaining faves have S names. But I swear that's coincidence.