(SPOILER ALERT) "Bite my tongue, bite my tongue," was all Kristen Kish could whisper to herself at judges' table. She could have explained how her teammate Josie Smith-Malave promised to make the sauce in time but procrastinated. Instead, Kristen took full responsibility as executive chef on last night's Restaurant Wars episode and was sent packing because of a Bouillabaisse lacking in sauce. On the phone, I asked the Boston chef if she regrets falling on her sword. "I need to formulate my thoughts," she said. Otherwise, what comes out is "word vomit." So she revealed nothing. Only later did the judges get the backstory. As Top Chef's Tom Colicchio wrote on his blog, had they known everything, "the outcome of the challenge would have been different."
During Restaurant Wars, the contestants form two teams with competing eateries. At the end of the night, the executive chef of the losing team accepts some responsibility and even if he didn't personally cook a faulty dish, he can still get sent home for not asserting himself. Subordinate chefs are also chastised for not speaking up and mutedly taking orders. After taking the blame, Kristen said, "it crossed my mind" that she'd be axed.
Not that we should feel too bad for the chef—despite losing, she did pick up $45,000 in prize money along the way. Still, it's sad to see her go—not only were her efforts fun to watch, but she was great eye candy. Yes, the tall and exotic Korean-American admitted she did briefly model after being scouted in a mall in Michigan. And what of her relationship with fellow contestant Stefan Richter who, at the end of the episode, embraced the losing chef and whispered "I love you" in her ear? Kristen laughed, saying, "I get asked that constantly, and I can even tell when guests want to ask about it" but feel awkward bringing it up. She tells them "we're doing well" but that "we're good friends" and "he was fun to flirt with."
And no, she hasn't spoken with Josie since that episode was taped.
Meanwhile, congratulations to Sheldon Simeon for winning Restaurant Wars. Not only was the Hawaiian chef understaffed, but he also won the judges over with Filipino cuisine—or at least a modern, refined interpretation of it. (Please, no dog jokes.) I asked former contestant Chrissy Camba why we don't see much in the way of Filipino restaurants. She wondered if it needed to be refined from home-cooking comfort food status. Former Washington Post restaurant critic Phyllis Richman once told me she'd visited a few in the Washington area and they were awful. Most of the places I know in New Jersey are part restaurant, part grocery store. But Tom Colicchio and guest judge Danny Meyer raved about the adobo and Colicchio even said maybe the cuisine was waiting for someone like Sheldon to come along and elevate it.