Top Chef Season 8 Episode 7: Now With The Daily Sip’s Eric Arnold for Extra Flavor

"Somebody get a sponge."

This week, OT’s usual commentators on the most recent edition of Top Chef – Caroline Potter and Ed Cotton — are both out of town. So I’ve been asked to step in and take over for the next two weeks. Normally, I’m the editor of The Daily Sip, a free, wine-centric e-newsletter; and you can usually find me waxing about the wines of New Zealand–and other booze-related topics–herehere, and here.

Each season of Top Chef, we’re expected to look forward to Restaurant Wars, when the remaining contestants are split into two groups that square off in a battle of pop-up restaurants. It’s also usually the episode in which an otherwise strong contestant is shown the door because he or she ran the front of the house like it’s the DMV.

Some Restaurant Wars battles have been better than others, and this one, unfortunately, belongs in the scrap heap. For starters, the contestants weren’t put under nearly as much pressure as in previous seasons: No shopping for flatware, dishware, curtains or scented candles — just cooking. While one could argue that this levels the playing field, it really didn’t last night because someone still had to run the front of the house and, potentially, sacrifice food quality. And truth be told, last night’s Top Chef proved beyond doubt that the contestants will make or break themselves in the kitchen all on their own, no matter the challenge. So why not just keep them all in the kitchen?

Nevertheless, therein lies Top Chef‘s strength as a series: It’s the little things, from sliced fingers to stolen fishes to drunken kisses, that evoke an emotional response from viewers one minute to the next. I had plenty last night, in fact. Here they are, in order from last night:

* Ah, the brief recap — and yes, what fond memories we have of Jamie finally being sent packing last week. Oh, snap: Tonight’s episode starts at Le Bernadin?! Oh man, what I’d have given to see her survive another week and return to the scene of her braised-celery crime. Oh well.

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Top Chef Season 8 Episode 3: Gang of Four Sends Two Packing

You'd be smiling, too, if you had as many Michelin stars as Chef Michael White of Marea.

Chef Ed Cotton is still on a special secret assignment this week, but, once again, we’re fortunate to have a guest chef correspondent lending a hand. From the second season of Top Chef Masters, Chef Carmen Gonzalez joins us! Chef Gonzalez shared exclusively with OpenTable that she is currently the national chef ambassador for BACARDI rums. She will appear as a guest on an upcoming episode of Top Chef All Stars that you won’t want to miss!

David Chang is in the house. Have you dined at his restaurants? He’s very talented, but I rather dislike the trend he’s been swept up in — of anointing of new chef-kings. What do you think of this trend of people treating chefs as though they’re the second coming?

Yes, I have dined at David Chang’s restaurant, and he is extremely talented. The idea of chef-kings reinforces how important your reputation is in this business. In my opinion, chefs should be praised for their talent and cuisine, not the “awe” factor. One of the biggest concerns that I have right now is that people are going to culinary school for the wrong reasons. They may be able to cook well and have raw talent, but, realistically, not everyone is going to end up on Food Network or Top Chef. The chef-kings are great to aspire to…but at the end of the day you just have to cook good food.

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