Top Chef México 3/24/16 #6

Matteo’s suffering a Moctezuma-over. Sure, it was fun to be the emperor…until it wasn’t.

The chefs assemble in the kitchen and Ana Claudia announces there’s no Quickfire because

It’s Restaurant Wars!

They’ve got 24 hours to open their restaurants. Matteo and Rodolfo are team captains. Matteo still has a little of his Matteozuma aura hanging over him, so he gets to choose his teammates first.

Team Orange: Matteo, Fernando, Eduardo, José Miguel, Pía
Team Green: Rodolfo, Katsuji, Christian, Irving, Kori

There will be TWO chefs eliminated after Restaurant Wars. Ana Claudia takes the chefs to see the two restaurant spaces. Rodolfo gets to choose the space for the Green Team and the Orange Team gets the other one.

There will be three chefs working in the kitchen during service, including one Executive Chef. Two chefs will work front-of-house, one as Capitán (head waiter/expediter) and the other as Anfitrion (host) .

Prep

So, what’s the first thing both teams figure out? That it’s going to be “Anfitriona” in both restaurants. Seriously, dudes? The Green team fairly quickly decides they’ll do seafood, while the Orange team chooses Italian food with Mexican ingredients.

The four front-of-house team members Pía and Matteo (O), Kori and Rodolfo (G) go to Banquetes Ambrosia to pick out their tables, chairs, linens, and place settings. You’d think there could be no drama involved here, but no. Kori and Rodolfo find out the hard way that there are no “dibs” in Restaurant Wars. They may have wanted the metal chairs, but they didn’t actually tell the employees they wanted them, so too bad. ‘Cause Pía’s not going to be having any “silla cursi de boda” (cheap tacky chair you’d rent for a wedding) at her restaurant! (Pía’s comment cracks me up because I’m pretty sure the chairs she wants are the ones they had at the very nice country club for that wedding I did chocolates for a few weeks ago, so I guess those were non-cursi sillas de boda?)

At Selecto Chedraui, the remaining team members go shopping for ingredients and I ponder what it would be like to visit a grocery store where the “Mexican” food is all over the store and there’s just one little aisle of “International” food where there’s something like a shelf of Kraft Macaroni and Cheese representing US cuisine.

Once again, this show lives up to its reputation for being WAY harder on the chefs than the US version by making them paint their restaurant spaces. With, you know, actual paint.

Chef Martha comes by to chat with the chefs about their restaurant concepts. She likes Team Orange’s paint color and thinks the green is like jaguar eyes. Matteo gives her kind of an “OK, if you say so,” look. He explains that he’s going for an osteria (a place that serves simple food and wine) with the feel of being in a house in Italy. They’ve named it Cucina dell’Anima. The Green Team is painting their space blue and naming it Entre Costas. Because seafood.

Time for the kitchen cooking montage. Everybody’s tasting everyone else’s dishes, consulting each other for advice. José Miguel makes two sample plates of carpaccio (thinly sliced raw meat) just so his team can decide which thickness they want. There’s fresh pasta getting rolled out, and ravioli being made, and bread dough being kneaded.

Pía and Kori leave the kitchen to go set up their respective dining rooms and do the last of the decorating.

Service

The judges start out at Entre Costas (Green)

Menu

  • Ceviche Peruano (Peruvian-style ceviche) de jurel (mackerel) y coco (coconut)
  • Pulpo frito (fried octopus)
  • Arroz con mariscos (rice with seafood): Costilla de cerdo (pork rib), camarón (shrimp), almejas (clams) y calamar (squid)
  • Pescado agridulce (sweet and sour fish) pochado en caldo de sake (poached in sake broth), camote (sweet potato), calabaza dulce (sweet calabaza) y ensalada de hierbas (herb salad)
  • Macarrón de lemongrass con albahaca (lemongrass macaroon with basil)

There’s some feedback from the diners that the service was slow and courses were skipped.

Next, they head over to Cucina dell’Anima (Orange)

Menu

  • Focaccia con orégano y romero (rosemary)
  • Aceitunas (olives) con aceite olivo (olive oil) y sal de escamas (salt flakes)
  • Fiori de zucca alla romana (roman-style squash blossoms): ricotta, piel de limón (lemon zest) y chile chilhuacle
  • Carpaccio di manzo (beef carpaccio): res (beef), burrata (an Italian cheese made from mozzarella and cream), arúgula (arugula) y vinagreta de balsamico (balsamic vinegar)
  • Ravioli di zucca (calabaza ravioli): Ravioles de calabaza de castilla (castilla pumpkin ravioli), pepita (pumpkin seeds) y arandanos (cranberries) con chile
  • Ossobuco piemontese (Piedmont style osso buco): chambarete braseado (braised leg) y polenta con aceite de trufa (truffle oil)
  • Polpo a la Siciliana (Sicilian-style octopus): pulpo (octopus), puré de garbanzo (garbanzo bean puree) con salchicha italiana (with Italian sausage), ensalada de hierbas (herb salad) con borraja (borage)
  • Torta de la Nonna Nina (grandma Nina’s cake): ricotta, naranja (orange) y ciruela (plum) confitadas (candied), streusel de almendra (almond streusel)
  • Bacio di passione (kiss of passion): ganache con fruta de la pasión (passion fruit ganache), bizcocho de avellana (hazelnut), sorbete de naranja y azafrán (orange and saffron sorbet)

Personally, I think Matteo’s laying it on a little thick with the Italian. Chef Aquiles HATES the focaccia, which was apparently transformed from “excellent” to “hockey puck” between the entire rest of the restaurant and the judges’ table. Chef Martha complains that there are no plates for the oil and vinegar. The wait staff cleared the utensils after the first course, leaving Pía to scramble for more. The ravioli is a big hit, but they did not like the carpaccio.

For some reason, we’re hearing way more criticism of this restaurant, yet Aquiles declares them to be a stronger team. Is this an editing issue or is that just the nature of the judging on this show? Because it does seem like the judges keep praising people that they later send home. Matteo doesn’t seem to understand it either, because he’s tasting everything and he thinks it’s excellent.

Judging

Green Team – Entre Costas

  • Rodolfo- Team Leader, Capitán
  • Kori – Host
  • Christian- Executive Chef
  • Katsuji – fish with herb salad
  • Irving

The judges bring up the service issues, long wait times and missing courses. Rodolfo is asked who he would choose to go home and he picks Kori and himself, saying they’re both replaceable. Kori, in her confessional, agrees that anyone could have done her job and she knew she’d be taking a risk. I don’t agree that front-of-house is an expendable position or that anyone can do it, but again, I only work in my own kitchen, so maybe there’s something I’m missing here.

Orange Team – Cucina dell’Anima

  • Matteo – Team Leader, Capitán
  • Pía – Host
  • Fernando – the orange dessert and the pulpo
  • Eduardo – ravioli
  • José Miguel – Carpaccio, osso buco

The judges question whether this team took the easy route by choosing an Italian theme. They didn’t think it was very risky. They hammer on the team for the carpaccio, que why was the carpaccio so thick? When José Miguel explains they chose the thickness due to the color of the plate then it becomes “Why didn’t you pick a different plate?” At least they stick together–and they’d better! Three out of five team members signed off on the thickness of the carpaccio (and carpaccio is starting to not look like a word anymore).

Now, they loved the ravioli and Eduardo doesn’t look like he knows what to do with the chorus of praise. Fernando also gets praise for the dessert and the octopus dish.

But what about that osso buco? Did they know the meat wasn’t good quality? Did they realize it before they cooked it, after they cooked it? José Miguel starts getting a little defensive since it’s all his dishes that keep getting criticized. Did they at least like the polenta?!

Déjà vu: Matteo is asked, once again, who should be “sacrificed.” He says himself–he made all the decisions. And would any of his team volunteer to go home in his place? Silence descends. Feet shuffle. Sounds like a “no” to me.

Deliberations

Chef Juantxo liked the seafood menu more, overall. Aquiles adds that there were huge service problems. They argue about Matteo having been a stronger leader…no wait, Rodolfo was a good leader too, he just was more “folklorico” (and I know what the word means, but…what does that even mean in terms of leadership?)…oh, but being more collaborative doesn’t make someone a better leader…well, at this point in the competition, even though Matteo was more forceful, they should all be leaders. Thankfully, the judges are ready to deliver their verdict, because I think my head is spinning.

Everyone is called before the judges and I look at Pía’s tired face, with her eyeliner starting to run and think “Just get it over with already and let these people sleep!” Other than what they’ve already said ad nauseam, the only thing they add for the Green team is that Katsuji’s fish with herb salad was the best dish of the night. As for the Orange team, there’s nothing new there.

The Green Team are declared the winners. After the judges having relatively little to say about them all night.

They’re still trying to get anybody from the Orange team to throw anybody else under the bus, but they won’t. Pía’s so damn tired of the whole thing, she says if she’s gotta go for problems with service, fine, she’ll take responsibility. Matteo complains about having to run back and forth from the kitchen to the restaurant space. Fernando says Matteo was a good leader and delegated well. José Miguel, joining Pía on Team Had About Enough of This Crap Already says they’ve been complaining about the two dishes he made,

No, I’m not taking it personally, but those were my dishes you had a problem with, so I take responsibility for that.

Aquiles wants to know what HE thought of his dishes. José Miguel says some stuff about fixing what they would want him to fix. It’s kind of a non-answer. It’s late, he’s tired, I don’t blame him. Chef Juantxo makes sure to point out that there wasn’t a winning and a losing team today, just a winner and a non-winner.

And they send home Pía and José Miguel.

And then they send the rest of the chefs to bed.

Which is where I would have gone much earlier if I’d known it was going to end up this way.

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Kat is 5ftLatina. She is really 5' tall (and probably shrinking) and Latina. She is not actually a cactus, but she is both prickly and cute. Mr. 5ft is actually married to Kat, but is not 5' tall or Latina. He is also not a form of plant life.