Top Chef: Restaurant Wars sends a frontrunner packing

TOP CHEF -- "Restaurant Wars" Episode 1808 -- Pictured: Sara Hauman -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo)
TOP CHEF -- "Restaurant Wars" Episode 1808 -- Pictured: Sara Hauman -- (Photo by: David Moir/Bravo) /

Week 8 arrived for the remaining cheftestants in Portland and with it came a highly anticipated Elimination Challenge that Top Chef fans look forward to every season. That’s right, Restaurant Wars was here and that means tons of the stress and tension that fans have come to expect.

Of course, due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Restaurant Wars was going to look a bit different this season. Instead of all the hustle and bustle, viewers saw a much more subdued chef’s table experience. It included a seven-course tasting menu that would be enjoyed by all the assorted judges from this season.

Thanks to a coin flip, the eight remaining chefs were divided into two teams of four. One included Shota, Jamie, Maria and Byron who named their restaurant Kokoson as a tribute to the blend of Japanese and Spanish foods they were planning to serve. The menu would be a kaiseki, which is a traditional multi-course Japanese dinner and the four chefs quickly divided tasks and who would do what.

The other team included Sara, Dawn, Gabe and Chris and their seafood-themed restaurant would be called Penny. And unfortunately, things went off the rails from the beginning and never quite corrected itself. Most of this was thanks to Penny deciding to wing it when it came to jobs and communication.

Top Chef Season 18 Restaurant Wars did not disappoint at all.

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Kokoson went first and dazzled the judges with course after course. The feeling was that the entire tasting really worked as a cohesive whole and that combined with Maria’s excellent skills in the front of the house made for an amazing experience. The highlights included a hot pot with shrimp machaca and seafood broth and a Japanese eggplant with sesame mole and ham furikake.

Things didn’t go nearly as well for Penny. The entire service seemed disjointed and all over the place with the menu not feeling like it was really thought out. There were a few hits, in particular Dawn’s warm crab salad and johnnycake first course and Chris’s final course of kelp ice cream with hazelnuts, cocoa nib and meringue.

By the time Judges’ Table rolled around, it was clear which team was going to lose, it was just a matter of who from Penny was going to be sent to Last Chance Kitchen. And in a shocking move, it was frontrunner Sara who was told to pack her knives.

Which just goes to show that you can be sitting comfortably on the top of the leaderboard week after week and if you have one bad meal, or two as in Sara’s case, it can send you home.

We are currently down to seven cheftestants and the leaderboard, which had been pretty consistent, has now been turned upside down.

1. Shota
2. Jamie
3. Dawn
4. Maria
5. Byron
6. Gabe
7. Chris

Shota returns to the top spot thanks to his amazing work running Kokoson and Maria jumps from the bottom all the way to the No. 4 spot thanks to her win this week. Dawn jumps two spots thanks to being the only chef who didn’t have any missteps on Penny with Gabe falling to No. 6. And honestly, why Chris is still there is a mystery to me. Any chef worth his knives should be able to make pasta, right?

Next week sees Top Chef up the humor with an appearance by Fred Armisen and Carrie Brownstein. Will the leaderboard get another redesign? We’ll all have to wait and see.

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What do you think Guilty Eaters? Did Sara deserve to go home? Is Top Chef Shota’s to lose now? Leave a comment below and let us know or join the conversation on our Twitter and Facebook pages.