Quagmire Forecast for ‘Top Chef’ Restaurant Wars Part 2? (UPDATED)

Lunch plus dinner service double whammy puts the squeeze on cheftestant teams

No one was eliminated last week on “Top Chef”—it was the first half of the Restaurant Wars two-parter. Already by far the most-dreaded challenge, this year it was made doubly brutal: For the first time, cheftestant teams were assigned lunch as well as dinner service—a mere 100% work increase, shoehorned into the same 24 hours.

The judges, notably Tom Colicchio, groused a bit about Amar Santana’s choice of lunch protein—though didn’t fault its preparation—pointing out it was the third time he’s cooked chicken this season. Overall his orange team’s dishes seemed well-received. So, no specific worry for Santana, a seasoned restaurateur-partner in both Broadway in Laguna Beach and just-opened Vaca in Costa Mesa.

Or… is there? Watch these preview clips of tonight’s episode, if you dare, both titled in typically histrionic Reality TV fashion—that nevertheless does strike a little terror in the heart: “Why is this raw?” and “The Biggest Restaurant Wars Mistake Ever Made.” Yikers.

Here’s the link to Restaurant Wars part one, if you haven’t yet seen it. Keep your eyes peeled for a glimpse of O.C. chocolatière extraordinaire Amy Jo Valenza of Valenza Chocolatier, who was a lunch guest at the non-Amar restaurant. You can see Amy Jo in the background when chef Marjorie Meek-Bradley, working front of house and really needing to turn the table, offers a party of lingering luncheoners complimentary sparkling wine if they’ll kindly repair to the bar.

And speaking of Valenza… Amy Jo’s Valentine’s Day pop-up shop opens today at The Hood Kitchen in Costa Mesa, where she makes all her chocolates. Find everything for your sweetheart from 11 a.m. to 6 p.m. today and tomorrow, and Saturday from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., or until sold out. Pro tip: Snag a little something extra for Restaurant Wars stress snacking.

(Read my earlier Taste of Orange County “Top Chef” posts here.)

UPDATE: Amar wasn’t eliminated, but only just—Restaurant Wars def took its toll. Phillip Frankland “Man Bun” Lee was dispatched to “Last Chance Kitchen,” where Jason Stratton continues to dominate. Lee lost, and Stratton seems to have a good shot at getting back into the big game.

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