Top Chef: Restaurant Success

Top Chef: Miami
Second Helpings

The teams had a second shot at their restaurants. They were handed the bloggers comments as constructive feedback on how to improve on their second try. Howie kept going off on the feedback, but Sara seemed to take it to heart. Hung jumped in there with Sara about how they needed to listen to what the judges and the blogger said in order to improve. Team April wasn’t really shown digesting the blog much. Brian commented that he sweated too much, but he smiled. They didn’t say anything about what they needed to improve or do differently.

Quickfire Challenge

The winning team from the Quickfire would get an extra $200 for wine that evening and an experienced sommelier, which I never knew what that was until I watched the first season of this show and listened to Stephen talk and talk and talk about wines. I learned it is a person that knows everything there is know about wines and make the best recommendation of wine for each course. I would like someone like that to pick out wines for me since I can’t do it. I just don’t need to hear all about it, like Stephen loves to go on and on about it.

Back to the challenge though! In order to win, the chefs had a prep relay race called Mise En Place Relay Race. Love the fancy names for everything. They had to prep as quickly as possible. One team member had to shuck 15 oysters, one had to finely dice five onions, one had to break down four whole chickens, and one had to separate egg whites from three eggs and beat them until they are so stiff that they stay in the bowl after it is turned upside down for five seconds. Tom would be the judge who would blow the whistle when he decided a team was ready to move onto the next part. The teams had two minutes to decide who would do what.

On Team Garage, Hung says he could break down a chicken like nobody’s business. Sara said she can dice fast. Dale knew he couldn’t chop quickly or shuck oysters, so he took egg whites, which left Howie with the oysters, even though you knew he was just hoping for something with pork and truffles (his two favorite food items in the world!). He felt really unsure of himself, but the rest of the team supported him, saying he would do just fine. They believed in him. Awww…good team! Over at Restaurant April, it was a no brainer to have Brian do the oysters since he’s seafood man and has won oyster shucking contests. Are there contests for everything? Tre stepped up on the chicken. Casey and CJ were staying back like they have been doing lately, not volunteering for much of anything. They both said whatever, so Casey was on onions since she said it wasn’t brain surgery. That left CJ with the egg whites, most likely because Tre saw how slow CJ prepped during the last elimination challenge on his one dish.

They were off! Howie was cruising along at a decent pace. It didn’t look like Brian was moving too fast since Howie was opening one oyster at a time and then placing it on the tray. Brian had an assembly line thing going where he was popping them open first, and then going back to take out the meat to place on the tray. He was done while Howie still had five oysters to go. Casey was off chopping onions while Howie finished. I should say, not chopping so much as slowly slicing. Oh, she was slow. I’m about that slow when chopping anything, but I’m not competing! 🙂 While she seemed oblivious that she was in a race, Sara took over after Howie finished and wow! She could chop and dice those onions like they were nothing. It was insane how fast she was chopping.

Everyone was amazed at Sara just flying through the onions, and then it was passed off to Hung. He was his speedy, crazy self with the chickens. No one was shocked by this since he is so quick, but it was still impressive to watch. Tom was laughing at amusement at Hung being so crazy. Hung finshed and Casey was still chopping away while Tre and CJ looked like they would kill her. She finally finished up and passed the torch to Tre on the chickens when Dale was working on the egg whites. He separated and beat the egg whites quickly, but he didn’t even need to, since the other team never even got to CJ before Team Garage was done! They had felt like underdogs so they were so happy they beat the other team.

Elimination Challenge

The only change for the elimination challenge from the night before is they had to offer their guests two choices for three courses. They learn that they get a designer for their restaurants. Yeah Then they learn thatMadonna’s brother, Christopher from the other night, is the designer. Oh no! Both teams are really good at taking his critiques though, so they both get a makeover. Team Garage gets a very modern look. Restaurant April keeps most of the look, but the walls get a make over with a quote stenciled on the entire wall.

Team Garage works on overhauling their menu to make it lighter. Restaurant April thinks they overhear that the Garage team saying they are adding one new dish, but keeping the rest the same. They laugh at the other team and know they are awesome. Restaurant April tweak their menu only slightly. They also decide to pick one great dessert. Tre said he can make bread pudding in his sleep so they all agree on that.

Hung and Dale are off at the wine store to meet with their sommelier, which is Stephen from season one! Then there is a fabulous montage of him talking forever. Hilarious! They get the wines Stephen recommends while Casey and Brian figure out on their own what to get for Restaurant April.

The teams learn while they are prepping that the guest judge for the evening is chef and owner of Town and Country restaurants in Manhattan, Geoffrey Zakarian. They also learn that Tom will be hanging out in the kitchen that evening to observe everything behind the scenes. Probably for better judging. Go Tom! Ted Allen will be hanging out with Padma and Geoffrey in the dining room.


They decided to change their name at the last minute to Quatre, which is French for four. They ran it by Christopher over the phone. He said no one reads French, they won’t know what it means and it is not a pretty word. When pronounced, it sounded like he was saying cot or cat, I’m not sure. Very odd I think. I liked Garage better.

Sara kicked butt in the kitchen. When checking over a dish that Hung was preparing, but Dale came up with, she said that the carrots should be a little crispy. Hung said, “Who wants them crispy? You?” and she said, “Do them over.” He did! Later on when Howie was arguing that he thought the lamb was done enough and after it had rested, it would be perfect, she said it was too rare and to put it back in. She was really good with quality control.

For some reason, Dale decided to wear a short-sleeved checkered polo shirt with jeans. I have no idea why. He could have worn what he worn the last time and it would have fit in with the restaurant. He wasn’t as dressed up as the clientele so he stood out, and looked like a bus boy more than someone running the front of the house. When the judges arrived, Ted commented that Dale looked like he was working at Denny’s.

While serving, the restaurant had surprise guests of Sara N. and Joey. Dale was thrilled to see Sara N. again. When Dale told the kitchen they were there, Hung asked sersiously, “Who?” hahaha. Oh Hung.

The prize of the team was to get Stephen to present and serve wine, but he just talked forever and has that air of importance which causes people’s eyes to glaze over. Dale had to pull him over and tell him to cool it. Stephen was not thrilled, but something had to be done before it made the team look bad.

Course #1 – Hung
Tuna Tartare with Egg Vinaigrette, Nicoise Olive Puree & Herb Salad

One of two dishes the team kept from last time. Geoffrey said he hates that every menu has tuna tartare. It is cliche. I don’t think I eat at the same restaurants as these people.

Course #1 – Dale
Poussin with Mint Gnocchi, Sweet Pea Puree, Carrots & Hazelnuts

In this episode, I learned that poussin is a small game bird. They were going to go with rabbit, but the fresh market only had two so they had to switch. Ted said it was delicious and other random people in the restaurant said it was really good.

Course #2 – Sara
Halibut with Grapes & Braised Leeks

Geoffrey said it was a great way to serve halibut. Ted loved the texture, the crispiness of the leeks and the grape sauce.

Course #2 – Howie
Lamb with White Beans & Haricot Verts

Ted said the lamb was beautifully seasoned and beautifully cooked. Geoffrey had the expressive descriptions of nodding and saying, “It’s good.” Joey was shown eating it and saying, “Howie dish, definitely a Howie dish. Undercooked. Undercooked.”

Course #3- Hung
Panna Cotta with Fresh Berries

No comments from anyone, but it looked yummy.

Dessert – Hung
Sweet Crepes with Orange & Grand Marnier Sauce

The second dish that carried over from the previous menu. Imagine the scary pink blob missing and it is the same dish as the last time. Ted loved it so much that he ordered it again. Other people were heard saying it was fabulous.

Restaurant April

Tre decided that he was going to be Mr. Mellow executive chef, which meant that he just let the team do whatever while he concentrated on his dishes. He trusted that they knew what they were doing so everyone did their own thing. Dale commented that the other team did have complementary cooking styles so they worked really well together.

Camille and Lia showed up at Restaurant April as the special guests. Brian loved seeing them and the kitchen was excited to cook for them.

Course #1 – Tre
Seared Sea Scallop on Corn & Black Truffle Custard

Same dish as the night before. Geoffrey said that he loved the balance of the sweetness of scallop and the corn. Ted said he loved the dish before so he had to get it again.

Course #1 – Tre
Wild King Salmon with Macadamia Nut Pesto & Grapefruit

No picture of this one. Maybe because they destroyed it right after the judges tasted it. Ted said it was the worst dish he has had in a long time. The flavors didn’t work. It made Padma make a very ugly face, which has to be hard to make her ugly. Geoffrey said that the executive chef should not have let it get out of the kitchen.

Course #2 – Casey

Chilled Carrot & Ginger Soup

No comments from the judges, but random people in the restaurant seem to like it.

Course #2 – CJ

Lobster Salad with Arugula & Caramelized Cauliflower

Once again the judges didn’t say anything, but other customers said the lobster was too salty. Oh, I hate salty lobster. It ruins the fabulousness of it.

Course #3 – Casey

Monkfish with Mascarpone Potatoes

Padma said the monkfish was overcooked. A customer elsewhere said it was gorgeous. I’m not sure if that is how it tasted or how it looked.

Course #3 – Tre

Wild Mushroom & Gorgonzola Crusted Beef Tenderloin on Smoked Potatoes

The same dish, yet the potatoes were not killed in this making of it. Geoffrey said he remembered the scallops and he remembered the soup, but he said this dish was forgettable.

Additional Course – Tre
Apple & Brioche Bread Pudding with Cinnamon & Brandy Anglaise

Tre presented this dish table side. He drizzled the cinnamon and brandy anglaise over the bread pudding for each person. Ted said there was nothing custardy in it and the apples were overcooked. Another customer said it was terrible. So much for doing it in your sleep. I guess he should have woke up.

Judges’ Table

They commented that it was a completely different experience in both restaurants than the last time. Starting with Quatre, Geoffrey said the food was really good and really on point. Ted loved the poussin. Padma loved the halibut. Tom said he preferred the halibut to the other team’s monkfish. Ted thought the lamb was perfectly seasoned and cooked. Tom didn’t like the puree with the lamb. He said it was too chunky. They did not like Dale’s outfit. It didn’t fit in with the overall vibe of the restaurant.

Discussing Restaurant April, Geoffrey said he felt there was a real honesty in that restaurant compared to the first one. Padma loved the scallop dish. Ted said the salmon dish was a catastrophe and disgusting. It suffered from too many ingredients. The lobster dish looked beautiful, but it was too salty and overdressed. Tom said CJ didn’t know how to make all the ingredients work together. When discussing the bread pudding, Geoffrey said the apples were too chewy and overcooked. Tom said he watched Tre prepare it, and he didn’t peel the apples first, which he should have. Ted did love the table side presentation. Geoffrey agreed that Tre was really good on the floor and that was a plus for him.


Quatre was the winning team. Everyone hugged and were so happy. Sara said she had a great time working with everyone. They were all complimented on their changes and how they listened to the feedback. Geoffrey said the team showcased the food, which is what is most important. He picked Sara as the overall winner. I really agreed, since she was very impressive as an executive chef.


Restaurant April was the losing team. Tom talked about how they were too easy-going and were not focused on the details. They were not looking at everything that went out. Tre admitted that the pesto in the salmon dish was on the strong side. Geoffrey pointed out that if he had tasted that dish, he would not have let it leave the kitchen. It was dreadful. They did tell Tre the scallop dish was great. Tom said the lobster dish just missed. If you put a bite together it was passable, but overall, it was too salty. CJ said it had capers in it. There’s your salty!

Tom said the monkfish didn’t work at all. Geoffrey said it already dead. Casey shouldn’t kill it again. Casey admitted it was overcooked. Why did it leave the kitchen then? I don’t understand how Tre and Casey admit that the dishes didn’t come out perfect, but just let them leave the kitchen that way. Why didn’t they fix them or why didn’t Tre stop them as executive chef?

Tre said that the bread pudding was the best he could make out of what little he knew about desserts and pastries. The judges asked who knew how to make bread pudding. CJ said he did. When they asked why he didn’t make it, he said that Tre had the idea so he figured he knew how to make it. The judges didn’t buy that excuse for a second. Oh CJ, you just let your teammates hang in the wind if it’ll save your butt. CJ said it was a little boring when he tried it, yet didn’t say anything. Geoffrey asked him why he wasn’t watching his chef’s back. CJ’s response was to look around to see if Casey would say anything.

After shooing them away to discuss things, the judges said the team suffered from overconfidence and a lack of focus, with a mess of leadership. Brian didn’t really steer the ship even though he was the front of the house. He could have stopped food from going out that wasn’t good. Tre didn’t step us as a executive chef and do quality control. Casey and CJ just hid in the back. Ted asked if CJ, who put the team together, picked Tre as the executive chef and hardly took on any responsibility to save himself if they failed. I really think he did in a way on the team challenges. Instead of leading, I think he hides since it is hard to stand out on a team challenge. I say to work extra hard to stand out, and also make your team shine. They thought Tre took too much on himself and wasn’t setting the tone for the kitchen. They talked about CJ only having one dish and not helping his chef. Brian wasn’t responsible for any dish, like Dale was on the other team.

I was really hoping that CJ would be sent home, but I agreed with the judge’s decision to send Tre home. I was so very sad since he was my favorite. I wanted him to win, but I thought he didn’t step up and run the kitchen. He let it run itself, which led to a mess in quality. Tre said that he thought he would be on the chopping block if the team failed since he was exectuve chef. Everyone was very sad to see him go and a few thought he would be there until the very end. He felt the show gave him knowledge to not make the same mistakes when he is opening his own restaurant.

Photo Source: Top Chef

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