Mon. Jul 6th, 2020

TV Recap: Top Chef All Stars LA Episode 8 “Restaurant Wars”

Welcome to our gorgeous recap of “Top Chef: All-Stars L.A.” Last week was the battle, this week it’s the war! The Restaurant War, that is! We’re all dead inside! Nothing matters! Time is immaterial!

My name is Daniel Trainor and I’m actually a vegan, but I absolutely REFUSE to talk about it!

I’m Sam Stone, and I’m so thrilled to be able to announce that I’ve been a vegetarian for four days. 

DT: I’m truly concerned about your iron intake, but let’s get into this recap. 

SS: The Restaurant Wars have begun. Daniel, as a novice to “Top Chef,” I can only assume that this is some kind of fight club?

DT: It’s usually not, but my oh my, when both teams want the same plain white plate……….blood may be shed!

SS: Before we can get to plate-gate, last week’s restaurant pitch winners, Kevin and Gregory, must choose their teams. Gregory is up first and chooses Malarkey.

DT: Padma quickly asks the question on everybody’s mind: “why?!”

SS: Gregory fills out the rest of his team with Lee Anne and Stephanie. Malarkey describes them as “the funky team,” which seems like a code word for “bad.”

DT: Kevin links up with Bryan, Melissa and Karen. It’s revealed that the winning team will earn $40,000, which feels like A LOT OF MONEY AND NOBODY IS THAT EXCITED.

SS: How is it that Malarkey spends 98% of his day screaming at the top of his lungs and trying on the world’s loudest hats, but the idea of winning tens of thousands of dollars only elicits a calm, subdued murmur?

DT: The teams split off and Karen volunteers to be Front of House. Baby girl……..have you seen the show?

SS: I, for one, am glad that Karen will be sparing diners from Bryan Voltaggio’s blank and emotionless stare as they enter the restaurant.

DT: The chefs begin to construct their menus and Kevin is absolutely addicted to talking about food “inspired by the plantation South” in a way that feels, at best, misguided and, at worst, racist as all hell.

SS: Meanwhile, Gregory constructs a menu of traditional Haitian food, that feels, at best, life-changing, and, at worst, still very good.

DT: At Whole Foods, Lee Anne is shown wheeling around a grocery cart full of rum, which is the first time on television that I’ve felt truly seen.

SS: Representation is so important, especially for vegans flirting with alcoholism. 

DT: Post-rum haul, the chefs split into groups to get some shit done. Gregory sends Malarkey and Lee Anne off together to shop for decor, which is like relying on Tom and Jerry to figure out the Middle East.

SS: Kevin and Karen meet them at the…plate store (?) on their own decor run and, if you can believe it, things get tense. At the plate store. 

DT: Kevin and Karen accuse Malarkey and Lee Anne of stealing their tableware concept. Kevin is furious, and seems positively belligerent about…the very unremarkable white plates he’s chosen.

SS: We start to see the Boston come out in Karen a little bit, but before things get too serious, Lee Anne gracefully deescalates and plate-gate comes to a close. 

DT: I was really hoping for a Sissy Spacek “In The Bedroom” moment here.

SS: We get it! You watch the Oscars! 

DT: The chefs begin their prep, with Gregory’s team hoping to execute a beautiful Haitian-inspired menu and Kevin’s team hoping to execute something about a captain.

SS: Gregory has chosen not to include the oxtail dish that won over the judges last time, and Kevin has chosen upwards of 700 side dishes to accompany this country captain situation that his whole house of cards is built on. Both decisions seem risky, but as a Restaurant Wars virgin, what do I know?

DT: Stephanie telling Malarkey to shut up while they were prepping is so far the Iconic Moment of the Episode™, which is a thing I just made up.

SS: Malarkey can’t handle peeling carrots in silence, and, like a second grader who’s allowed unlimited TV at home because his parents are fighting, cannot help but disrupt the entire class.

DT: Lee Anne, meanwhile, is maybe lost?

SS: I was worried about rum queen Lee Anne! While everyone was prepping she was trucking around L.A. buying root vegetables. Lee Anne! Come back!

DT: She makes it back in time to fully execute her pineapple upside-down cake, though. Karen, however, can’t find the time to cook up some fucking mushrooms? DIDN’T SEE YOU SCHLEPPING ALL OVER GOD-FORSAKEN LOS ANGELES TO BUY PLANTS, KAREN!!!!!

SS: To be fair, Karen was busy training her front of house staff, which manifested as monologuing about table numbers to a small gaggle of dead-eyed twinks. 

DT: The vast industrial spaces begin their transformations into “restaurants.” Gregory’s restaurant Kann is pretty normal looking, but the walls of The Country Captain look like a sixth-grade horse girl chose the color scheme. 

SS: Before long, we hear Stephanie frantically announce that our first diners are approaching and we know that the Restaurant Wars have begun in earnest. 

DT: Malarkey is fully, wholly, spiritually in his element. He looks like Dick Van Dyke in “Mary Poppins” after a weekend with Jonathan Van Ness.

SS: The judges marvel at the beautiful introduction Gregory has written for his menu. Gregory should be writing these recaps. We love you, Gregory.

DT: Almost immediately things start to go downhill. The Country Captain has a big wait at the door (maybe because Kevin has served his diners 900 separate dishes?) and Kann is having a lot of issues at the expo station. 

SS: Lee Anne starts going OFF on this poor caterer who I’m sure is just working this day job until his voiceover career takes off.

DT: Stephanie volunteers to step in and expedite service, which is the new Iconic Moment of the Episode™, a thing I made up earlier.

SS: Our judges are initially upset that Gregory didn’t include the oxtail that made them all foam at the mouth last week, but the pork dish he makes in its place makes up for it. Gregory is cooking with a lot of heart, and the judges agree that it comes through in his food.

DT: The Country Captain, meanwhile, is floundering as the titular dish doesn’t live up to expectations. IT’S THE TITULAR DISH!

SS: Padma describes Kevin’s banana pudding as “too sweet” which, and I think I speak for the entire world here, is the POINT of DESSERT. 

DT: While the judges are debating the merits of dessert, Karen is spilling wine all over people. The entire Captain experience is kind of a mess.

SS: At the final judging, Gregory’s restaurant comes out the winner. Kevin, it seems, could not country captain his team to a victory.

DT: The judges question why Karen spent most of her time flutzing around instead of focusing on her mushroom dish. She attempts to save her ass by backing up a big ol’ bus over her teammates. A bus filled with shitty mushrooms.

SS: When it comes down to it, Kevin, as team captain, puts his own head on the chopping block for the failures of The Country Captain. He gets sent home, saving Karen from certain death.

DT: We learn that Kevin loves analogies! He dies on his sword! He went down with the ship! O Country Captain, My Captain!


SS: Gregory…king…please come write these recaps with me.


Daniel Trainor is writer, podcaster, son and friend from Los Angeles, California. Originally from Michigan, his love for all things pop culture started early, once using pancakes to bribe his way onto the Oscars red carpet bleachers with his mother. In addition to writing for AwardsWatch, he is an huge sports fan and hosts the LGBTQ sports podcast “Same Team.” One day, he hopes Jane Krakowski will win an Emmy.


Sam Stone is a writer and actor based in Brooklyn, New York. He writes humor, culture, and travel among other things, and spends his free time reading about all those things. You can find him on twitter @sam_the_stone or on Instagram @samstone000.


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