Changing things up a bit, the cheftestants start their day at Le Bernadin, Eric Ripert's three-star restaurant, rather than the zero-stars Top Chef Kitchen. Instead of being greeted by Padma, the group is welcomed by the lovely and vivacious Anthony Bourdain. Tony tells them that they are going to meet Justo Thomas, the man who butchers all the fish for Le Bernadin. During an average day, Thomas butchers 700 to 1,000 pounds of fish, and after the chefs see how quickly and efficiently he works, they understand how he can achieve such a feat.
The Quickfire Challenge was for the cheftestants to butcher one cod and one fluke in 10 minutes. After some frantic knife work, Dale, Richard, Marcel, and Mike were judged by Justo Thomas to be the best. While the others stewed in the front of the restaurant, the four winners were left in the kitchen to battle it out for immunity. They would have 45 minutes to make a delicious dish from the fish leftovers. Tony and Justo Thomas tasted all the dishes, but Dale's fluke back fin sashimi with cucumber and fluke liver sauce along with a bacon dashi with salt roasted cod collar gave him the win. This meant immunity in the next challenge.
Back at the Top Chef Kitchen, Padma finally arrives with Ludo Lefebvre, former Top Chef Masters contestant and practitioner of the new trend: pop up restaurants. Padma explains that this week will be restaurant wars, and the two teams will set up their restaurants in the pop-up tradition. Since Dale had immunity, he was named captain of one of the teams and he could name the captain of the other team. Dale didn't want to work with Marcel, so he made him the other captain. The teams worked out as follows:
Capt. Dale, Richard, Tre, Fabio, and Carla
Capt. Marcel, Angelo, Mike, Antonia, and Tiffany.
For this version of restaurant wars, the customers would judge the winning restaurant and the judges would pick the winner and loser. The two teams set about planning the name of the restaurant and the menu. Dale's group comes up with the name Bodega, and quickly devise dishes which would be upscale versions of things you might find in a NY corner store. Marcel's team meanwhile are against his idea to call the restaurant Medi, as in Mediterranean, and cannot come to terms on a menu. The bickering is a bad omen.
Twenty-four hours later, the two teams are setting up in an outdoor space at The Foundry. They have five hours to prep and the winner of the challenge takes home $10,000. Once again, Dale's team works quietly and efficiently while Marcel's team is fighting and completely disorganized. Marcel's obsession with technique slows down the prepping process and, even when he has good suggestions, the group members have no respect for him and ignore his comments.
At long last (this is an unnecessarily super-sized episode), the two restaurants open and Marcel's restaurant has now been given the sketchy name of Etch. Dana Cowin of Food & Wine Magazine arrives with a party to judge both restaurants. It's clear from the get-go that the bad vibes in Marcel's kitchen are spilling over to the food because many people are complaining and sending food back. Tiffany, who is working the front of the house, is doing her best to schmooze the diners. Meanwhile, Padma and Tom are over at Bodega with guest judges Tony Bourdain and Ludo Lefebvre where they are enjoying everything. Fabio, working the front, is putting on his best Old World hospitality.
When the judges arrive at Etch, Tiffany is still schmoozing the customers, her cackling laugh soaring over the din. When she finally gets around to serving the judges, they are unimpressed with everything put in front of them. The dessert is the ultimate transgression, which Tony dubs, "A perfect storm of f___ing awfulness!"
Back at judges' table, Marcel's team is trotted out as clearly the worst. Only 17 out of 76 diners liked the food, and the total meltdown of the chefs in front of the judges proves how discordant the evening was on all levels. The judges send the grumpy group back to the stew room so they can bring out the winning team. Nothing but praise is heaped on the Bodega team and Richard is ultimately named the winner for his raw tuna belly and fried chicken skin with chilies and lime and chicken-fried codfish with brussels kraut and ginger beer.
Team Etch is then brought back to announce the loser. Although everyone performed poorly, Marcel is the one who is asked to pack his knives and go.
How did this round of restaurant wars stack up to previous seasons? Was Richard's dish really the best? Was it time for Marcel to go? Let us know what you think below.