Top Chef Chicago Watch: Episode 11

IT’S RESTAURANT WARS! I sort of thought that the Wedding Wars episode was in place of Restaurant Wars but apparently I thought wrong. But I’m glad they brought Restaurant Wars back in its own episode because this challenge is a great one. A true test of a chef’s ability to both conceptualize and execute a menu, this one always seems to make or break the cheftestants.

Warning: Spoilers after the jump!

The episode began with some fantastic scenic shots of Wrigleyville (one of my favorite places to hang out in the city!) and eventually the chefs were brought to a famous breakfast spot called Lou Mitchell’s. I’ve never had the pleasure of going to Lou Mitchell’s but I can tell you that now I intend to.

Especially now that I see how much talent goes into working the egg station! I’ve always had trouble flipping eggs to my own order at home, let alone cooking them for others under all that pressure. Luckily for me, the top chef contestants seemed to have difficulty so I know I’m not alone. The restaurant owner was however impressed with Antonia’s ability to keep calm in the high stress environment. And so Antonia won the quickfire.

Now, let’s just cut to the real reason why we’re here: the elimination challenge. Both Lisa and Dale have attitude problems. There’s no denying that in multiple episodes the two of them have had their beef with not only each other but others in the competition. And being forced to work with each other yet again did not fare well for either party.

BUT I have to say I am so annoyed that Lisa was the one they kept. Lisa should have gone home about…8 episodes ago. Not only is she hard to work with, but her food is never good! The only thing that has ever come through for her is her bacon glazing technique. Albeit impressive, it’s not enough to call you a Top Chef or bring you nearly to the finals.

Let’s take a look at Lisa’s mishaps this episode, shall we?

First, there was the ultra smoky laksa. I have never had laksa before personally but Anthony Bourdain seems to be quite seasoned in the way of laksa and he couldn’t stand it. Irregardless of the end product, she had warning of its extra smoky flavor and errors beforehand. Both Spike and Dale tasted it and knew it was not up to par.

Secondly, she botched the mango with sticky rice like none other.

I’m not sure who it was that put it best when they said the mango sticky rice looked more like “baby vomit with wood chips.” It did look rather unappetizing, and seeing as how I adore mango with sticky rice, I would have been quite disappointed too.

And the thing is, I know Dale should have been on her ass more about it but you could tell he was trying. Lisa just doesn’t accept criticism very well, and in the end, her dishes reflect that.

The judges sent Dale home for his failure as an executive chef. I do recognize he failed to lead but his dishes were for the most part, much better than Lisa’s. I would have been happier if they were both sent home than just Dale himself. But, the one thing I do agree with is that Dale’s dish of butterscotch scallops was rather….uh….interesting:

On one hand it sounds disgusting. But on the other….it could be good and it’s worth trying but you have to execute it properly. It sounds, from the judge’s tastes, like he didn’t. So for that in addition to the poor supervision…fine. He should go home. But Lisa should have gone home too.

Spike was the only one on this team that carried himself. Running a smooth head of the house, and supplying an adored recipe for the short ribs, he didn’t do too poorly this episode.

Now, on to the successes. Antonia really divided the strong from the weak when she got to pick her team members as her privilege from winning the quickfire. As soon as the two teams were standing by side, you almost knew who was going to the finals and who wasn’t.

Stephanie and Richard have always been strong contenders (ok, maybe not at the egg station that morning!) and it’s clear they’re going to the finals (I’m praying I’m not jinxing anything by saying that). But I think out of anyone the two of them have the most wins and its clear that they both work well with other people. Antonia was executive chef of “Warehouse Kitchen” but the episode didn’t really show her having a prominent role in the restaurant’s success.

I may have missed something but Stephanie and Richard seemed most responsible for all the dish concepts, and Stephanie was in charge of running the front of the house too. An all around great job (as usual) she won the challenge. Go Stephanie! I hope she wins the whole thing because she really has the complete package, and she’s from Chicago! :)

Not to mention, the diners loved her two dishes:

Linguine with Clams, and Gorgonzola Cheesecake.

The gorgonzola cheesecake sound pretty unique to me! Nice job Stephanie.


Title: Restaurant Wars

Challenges: Quickfire - Work the egg station at Lou Mitchell’s, Elimination – Restaurant Wars – Create a concept and menu for a restaurant.

Winner: Stephanie Eliminated: Dale

Chefs Remaining: Richard, Stephanie, Antonia, Spike, and Lisa.

Tune in for Episode 12 next week!

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  • Flaime

    There’s a restaurant down here in Bloomington that occasionally servers a gorgonzola cheesecake (but it’s savory, not sweet, and it’s an appetizer, not dessert). It’s really really good, served warm, with toasted baguette.

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