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Top Chef: It’s Restaurant Warfare!

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Justin Stephens/Bravo(2)

There are only eight chef-testants left — which can only mean one thing: Restaurant Wars! But before the epic showdown began, the chefs were split into teams for a Quickfire Challenge that rendered them blind and mute.

Quickfire: With guest judge Rick Moonen, a champion of sustainable cooking and seafood, at the helm, the chefs drew knives and split into two teams led by Jennifer C. and Michael Voltaggio. Jen selected Kevin; Mike Isabella; and Laurine, while Michael V. enlisted his brother; Eli and Robin, who was, shocker, picked last. The teams had 40 minutes to prepare a dish relay-style, with each chef getting 10 minutes to cook. While they weren’t working, they wore a blindfold. Also, there was no talking allowed — sort of like a culinary game of Telephone.

Blind Items: Jen started by prepping a seafood stock and a pot of olive oil that she hoped to use to poach black cod. Meanwhile, Eli fired up steaks and set the prep work for the Voltaggio brothers’ meaty vision. In the end, Kevin decided to sear Jen’s fish — not poach it — creating a dish that ultimately won the challenge thanks to her fishy broth. As a prize, Jen’s team was awarded $10,000 to split. Or they could “let it ride,” Vegas-style, betting the money on the Restaurant Wars. Should they win, they would pocket $10,000 … each!

Meal Planning: Team Jen C. went for a straightforward, refined concept, dubbing their restaurant the Mission with a focus on classical preparations. Laurine ran front-of-house operations but still contributed a lamb dish that Kevin would have to cook while she welcomed diners. Michael V. and his team got creative with their modern American restaurant Revolt. Though it was a play on the teammates names, Robin said the name reminded her of “revolting,” not the most appetizing moniker, she suggested. (The judges later agreed!) Her teammates dismissed the outspoken chef and stuck her on dessert. Eli decided to work front of house and also cooked an arctic char dish.

It’s War: Things quickly went downhill for Jen’s team. The chefs seemed stalled and distracted — and so did Laurine, who wasn’t ready for the diners when they arrived. Preparations were much smoother for Michael’s team, though he and Robin sniveled over her dessert, cursing at each other and fighting. Not that the diners would know! Though slightly disheveled, Eli charmed judges and diners alike. Laurine, meanwhile, had to be prodded to explain the dishes.

Reviews Are In: At the judges’ table it was obvious to the panel and the chefs which restaurant was on top. Revolt was named the winning restaurant — and Tom Colicchio suggested it was best in the history of Top Chef (despite its name). So, Michael Voltaggio was named the winner and awarded the $10,000 that Jen’s team gambled away, deciding to split the money with his teammates. The judges found little to recommend Mission, taking issue with Laurine’s lack of leadership, her undercooked lamb (which Kevin cooked) and Jen’s trout with its broken, greasy sauce.

Shut Down: It appeared Jen would go home, but the judges spared her elimination after scolding her for a poor performance. Instead, they axed Laurine, who admitted, “this was a much harder experience” than she expected. –Brian Orloff

Tell us: What did you think of Restaurant Wars this year? Did you think Laurine deserved to go home? And who do you think will win Top Chef?

Read all about Toby Young’s take on the Restaurant Wars, this season’s crop of chef-testants and living in Vegas.

Justin Stephens/Bravo(2)