Going into Top Chef: Kentucky episode 5, there were no surprises. We knew that Restaurant Wars was coming and beyond that, we also knew that the judges were going to claim two more chefs. We would be seeing a couple of notable names depart by the end of the hour and we just had to figure out who would it be and why.
Judging from the way in which the first part of the episode went, we don’t exactly think that there were any surprises here. This was really a Restaurant Wars defined mostly by atmosphere, which can be the grand equalizer if the quality of the food is similar across both kitchens. Nini Nguyen was a great chef this season; yet, the wait staff was disorganized and while it didn’t seem to be entirely her fault (most of her staff seemed to be clueless as to what they were doing), she was the figurehead of that group. The biggest issue that the Blue Team had was that there were long waits and there was conflict almost from top to bottom. It didn’t create the sort of atmosphere that inspired a lot of fun at their restaurant.
On the flip side, Brian Young was the winner on the Red Team, in part because he was able to combine good food with a friendly atmosphere and organization at the front of the house. when you can make your patrons feel welcome, that can really go a long way to being able to ensure that you compensate for shortcomings.
As for Pablo Lamon going home, this was just a case of him trying to do a little bit too much — something that was telegraphed perfectly in the first part of the episode last week — this was more of an old-school elimination that we often see happen on Restaurant Wars, where someone decides that they want to be the hero of the kitchen and blow away the judges.
Overall, Top Chef: Kentucky episode 5 was a rather-fantastic exercise in watching some home cooks show a little bit of how they can handle pressure, but in general, this was not the best Restaurant Wars ever. Actually, it may be the worst. As viewers, we don’t think we were invested enough yet in these contestants to care so much about their visions or their food — things just felt a little bit too bland across the board and it didn’t help that the reviews of the food were somewhat uneven from one team to the next. We do like some of the contestants this season, but other than losing a potential favorite in Nini tonight (at least for now — there’s still Last Chance Kitchen), this was not the sort of Restaurant Wars that is worth coming back to the table for. Move it back to the final eight in the future.
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