‘Top Chef’ 16 episode 4 recap: Early arrival of ‘Restaurant Wars’ throws otherwise confident chefs off their game

For the first time in series history, Bravo’s “Top Chef” sprung its iconic “Restaurant Wars” challenge on the competitors much earlier than expected. With twelve chefs still in the competitions that meant three teams instead of the usual four, but still only two days to conceptualize a restaurant and full menu for a two-options three-course meal in one complete night of service in front of the judges.

Below, check out our minute-by-minute “Top Chef” recap of Season 16, Episode 4, titled “Surprise… It’s Restaurant Wars,” to find out what happened Thursday, December 27 at 9/8c. Then be sure to sound off in the comments section about which featured dish sounded the yummiest and your favorite and least favorite chefs in the competition.

9:01 p.m. – After her second straight win last week, Nini Nguyen was feeling much more confident than when she entered the competition while Brian Young began the episode with an “awakening moment” in the opposite direction after failing to impress himself and the judges thus far.

9:04 p.m. – On hand as guest judges for the night’s Quickfire Challenge were alums Nina Compton and Karen Akunowicz. They helped Padma Lakshmi decide which chef created the best amuse bouche using one of three vessels: a Chinese spoon, a ramekin or a small plate.

9:12 p.m.David Viana, winner of two Quickfires already, attempted a ravioli despite the inevitable time crunch the decision forced him into. In the end his overconfidence fell flat with Padma, Nina and Karen. They chose his dry and undercooked ravioli, Adrienne Wright‘s lamb and Kelsey Barnard Clark‘s over-portioned plate as the bottom three. In the top were Brandon Rosen‘s chowder, Eric Adjepong‘s curry and Michelle Minori‘s thoughtful halibut with Michelle selected as the overall winner, earning immunity for the upcoming elimination challenge.

SEE Why ‘Top Chef’ in its 16th season is still the creme de la creme of U.S. food shows

9:14 p.m. – For that elimination challenge, Caroline Styne arrived in the kitchen to help present the curve ball that “Restaurant Wars” was coming early this season! The challenge usually happens at Top 8 with two squads of four, but this season it happened at Top 12 with three teams of four based on which dish they chose to plate on during the Quickfire. Those teams came out to be: Nini, David, Kelsey and Justin Sutherland (Blue Team); Michelle, Brandon, Pablo Lamon and Sara Bradley (Gray Team); Adrienne, Eric, Brian and Eddie Konrad (Orange Team).

9:25 p.m. – The restaurant concept the Gray Team came up with was Thistle featuring organic, clean vegetable-focused food. The Blue Team went with Third Coast, a seafood restaurant, and the Orange Team decided on North East centered around their love of Fall weather food. North East’s menu included a first course of chicken ballotine (by Brian) or striped bass crudo (by Eddie), second course or New York strip with cabbage and cauliflower (by Eddie) or scallops with pork, couscous and carrots (by Eric), and third course of Madeira poached peaches or Harbison cheese with fennel and blackberry (both by Adrienne who was also serving as expediter in the kitchen).

9:35 p.m. – Thistle’s menu consisted of a first course of green tomato gazpacho (by Sara) or sweet pea agnolotti (by Michelle, also serving as executive chef for the night), a second course option of scallops with sun choke and apple or short ribs with artichoke and asparagus (both by Pablo), and a third course of soy milk custard with strawberries or goat cream roulade with blueberries (both by Brandon).

9:38 p.m. – And Third Coast’s menu started with team-prepared chargrilled oysters or crawfish bisque (by Justin), then Creole spiced duck and cabbage (by David) or red snapper pontchartrain (by both David and Justin) and finished with blackberry buttermilk biscuit with panna cotta (by Kelsey) or another dessert by Nini that they chose to refer to as just “chocolate.”

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9:44 p.m. – Taking on front of the house duties for each team was Nini, Sara and Brian. Of the three, Nini seemed the most out of sorts in that position, but Brian stayed up all night to prepare a service manual to present his servers prior to the start of their day and still lacked proper time to meet with them face to face.

9:50 p.m. – In the back of the house, Pablo was behind schedule making two appetizer dishes for the Gray Team and the entire Orange Team was feeling the pressure of too much to do with time running out before start of service. Meanwhile Kelsey stepped out front to check on the service staff only to realize that Nini had not gone over any service rules or expectations with the staff, forcing her to take the job up on her own and ultimately leave the Blue Team’s wait staff on their own.

9:59 p.m. – And if the pressure of the biggest challenge of the season wasn’t enough, Tom Colicchio dropped the second bomb into the “Wars” that it would be a double elimination!

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NEXT WEEK: Service begins at Thistle, Third Coast and North East with all three restaurants in full meltdown mode leading to apologies, excuses and Tom calling it the “most difficult restaurant wars” in series history.

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