Top Chef 5: "Restaurant Wars" Recap
Tonight on Top Chef 5, it's Restaurant Wars! Restaurant Wars!, a concept that, if written, should always be followed by an exclamation point, and if spoken, needs to be accompanied by jazz hands, or little shooting guns motions, or something else that expresses what a big deal it is. Because it's a Big Deal! It's an extra-15-minutes-of-Top-Chef Big Deal!

And this season, we have the extra-added spice of Hosea Rosenberg and Leah Cohen and will they or won't they take the flirtation too far?

Well, let's get on with it and see if they get it on.

The general consensus in the house seems to be that Ariane Duarte was “thrown under the bus” by the lovebirds. Leah dissents from this opinion, naturally, thinking that it was Ariane's own fault for not fighting harder.

But eliminated chefs are old news, and the chefs now have a Quickfire to attend to. Padma Lakshmi introduces the guest judge for this episode, restaurateur Steven Starr. Everyone knows what's coming: Restaurant Wars! (jazz hands!)

The chefs have only thirty minutes to prepare a dish that will communicate their concept. Appropriately, for this episode that airs a day after the Inauguration, the most common theme seems to be American cuisine. Even Stefan Richter, one half of the Euro duo, is willing to give us some credit by calling his cuisine “Euri-American” or something.

Two chefs don't impress Starr: Fabio Viviani, whose lunch concept falls flat for the restaurateur, and Jeff McInnis, whose choice of salmon didn't go over well.

But Radhika Desai's global cuisine, and Leah's Asian-influenced dish did, and they are chosen as the leaders of the two teams. They pick, with Radhika picking strong player Jamie Lauren first, while Leah picks her buddy Hosea, a move that Stefan questions. Of course, it might just be sour grapes on his part, as – after Radhika picks Carla Hall and Jeff, and Leah selects Fabio after Hosea – means he's the last person left and gets put on Leah's team by default.

Once the teams are picked, the chefs have to divvy up their duties within the team. No one seems to want front of house on Radhika's team, so, in a pretty baffling move, she takes it. Jamie will be the chef de cuisine, Carla will do dessert, and Jeff will also be working the savory side.

Things are going pretty much as expected on Leah and Hosea's side. She's chummy with Hosea, and Stefan's abrasive side is difficult to deal with. Luckily, Fabio steps up to take front of house, and, as he puts it, that means they can serve “monkey ass and an empty clam shell” and it won't matter, that's how powerful the Fabio Charm is. Stefan will do desserts, although he won't tell them what he's doing. Hosea and Leah are therefore teamed up with the main savory dishes.

That night, it happens! Well, some things happen. Leah and Hosea kiss! And regret it first thing in the morning. They both are feeling guilty about their partners back home and the tension throws them off their game in the kitchen. Leah is, again, lucky that Fabio took the front of the house; she's so busy dealing with issues with the food she can't even check the set-up of the dining room.

Over in Radhika's kitchen, things are mainly going well under Jamie's control with the main dishes. But Carla is once again having some freezer frustration. Her frozen yogurt is not setting up correctly as the freezer is just not cold enough. She's making the best of it, but is on her own, as there seems to be a power vacuum with Radhika being too overwhelmed to give strong direction.

The experience of the diners pretty much mirrors the strengths and weaknesses of the teams. On Radhika's side, Jamie's dishes are all fairly well-received, with only a few elements that were clunkers, but overall seemed solid. Carla's desserts are a disaster, though, and she knows it, calling them a “hot mess.” Radhika's frazzled nerves are evident not just to her teammates but also to her diners. She disappears from the front again and the judges decide to exit.

In Leah's restaurant, Fabio's charm works just as it should, if only the food could live up to it. Tom Colicchio said he's had better frozen eggrolls than the one they offered up. Their soup is just “okay” and another dish is underseasoned. The worst offense, though, is Leah's undercooked fish. Quelle scandale! However, Stefan – the person no one wanted on their team – saves the day with impressive desserts including a chocolate rice parfait and a lemongrass panna cotta. Considering the fact that he, too, had trouble with the freezer than meant he had to rework the desserts, it's even more impressive. He ends with a little chocolate-dipped mango cube that everyone loves.

And so it turns out in Restaurant Wars! (jazz hands) as opposed to World Wars, it's the Europeans who ride in to rescue the Americans. Although the savory food was better on Radhika's side, Leah's team is saved by Fabio's charm and Stefan's sweets. The judges take care to tell Leah her fish was the worst dish of the night, though.

Radhika's team is called back, and it's clear that Tom, as I suspected he might, is gunning for Radhika, calling her out for a failure of leadership. Carla doesn't escape unscathed, though, as her excuse that she knew her dish was failing but she tried to send it out with love is not met with a receptive audience.

Nevertheless, Radhika's lack of leadership is deemed to be the bigger failure, and she is told to pack her knives and go.

We'll be talking with Radhika tomorrow, so head back here to find out what she had to say about her time on Top Chef!


Jeff: Pan Seared Snapper


Jeff: Seared Sea Scallop Chick Pea Panisse


Jamie: Red Curry Carrot Soup


Jamie: Braised Lamb Shank


Jeff: Naan Bread


Fabio: Sunset Lounge Amuse Bouche


Hosea: Boneless Braised Shortribs


Hosea: Sashimi


Leah: Black Cod with Lime Chili Sauce


Leah: Red Curry Bisque


Stefan: Orange Chocolate Parfait


Stefan: Ginger and Lemongrass Panna Cotta




- Leslie Seaton, BuddyTV Staff Columnist
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