Food Court Wars Recap: Detroit Crunch City

Life intervened and prevented my recapping of last week’s episode of Food Court Wars, but this week we’re back on track so let’s get right to it. We’re in Midland Michigan at the Midland Mall.

Our main man, Tyler Florence , who has been in the restaurant business for a quarter century (that sounds much more impressive than 25 years) remains dapper looking in the middle of the mall. Quick fashion note, his pocket square doesn’t match the rest of his outfit, but let’s just move onto the teams.

Chip N’ Wich – run by Jonathan and Craig, both from downtown Detroit. Friends for six years, they developed a gourmet sandwich shop that puts their own potato chips right on the sandwich, giving them “the sandwich with the crunch.” They both have jobs in kitchens in Detroit, but are looking for other ways to support their families.

Oasis – Diana and Melania serve international food at the World Cafe, which specialties in Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine. They already have a restaurant, but the food court kiosk would be called “Oasis” and would be the “quick service” version of their main restaurant. Melania formerly worked in retail, and after moving home to be with family she reinvented herself as a chef relying on culinary experience that came from working in restaurants as a teen.

The standard opening challenge begins, with the twist being that a local food blogger will be sampling the food and promoting the winning team. Oasis opts for their top seller, chicken schawarma, which Diana explains as a “Middle Eastern method of marinading meat in spices like cumin and allspice and garlic.” (now you know Tony Stark). They serve it on pita with some side veggies and a special garlic sauce.

Chip N’ Wich make their southwest BBQ chicken sandwich on Texas Toast, which looks like a pretty standard chicken sandwich with bacon on it, oh and don’t forget the homemade rancho potato chips. For a side they make a red pop float, which looks like ice-cream and Mountain Dew Code Red. They claim to be the only people who put potato chips on a sandwich but Bobby Flay would beg to differ. Also, anyone who has ever been to Primanti Bros. in Pittsburgh is rolling their eyes right now.

Chip N’ Wich has some trouble with their bacon (limp bacon is the worst thing ever) and Oasis has to deal with making a dish in an hour that usually requires an entire evening. In a pretty frazzled ending, both teams finish, but don’t quite look ready.

Meanwhile, Tyler meets with Nicole Rupersburg the food blogger and tells her that whichever team the customers vote for gets a write up on her blog. Which is different from what he told us a moment ago when he said that Nicole the blogger would be making the decision. Nicole is rocking an awesome leather jacket and we find out that her blog – Eat it Detroit – gets 30,000 hits per month – HUGE as Tyler explains.

Craig is a one man billboard for Chip N’ Wich while Oasis is a bit more laid back and has to take on the task of explaining what schawarma is to their customers. It appears that this was filmed before The Avengers came out, because many people say they don’t know what it is, and seriously the Avengers made alllll the money and actually affected national schawarma sales.

People seemed a little down on both meals, with some saying that the schawarma lacked the garlic sauce that you expect and that it was oily. Meanwhile, the bread on the chicken sandwich was just overwhelming when compared to the filling. Tyler reveals the prize for winning – the blog by Nicole – and introduces Nicole, before announcing that Chip N’ Wich is the winner.

During the breakdown, Tyler tells Chip N’ Wich to fix the balance in their sandwiches and look toward making their floats more natural, with the addition of fresh fruit. As for Oasis, he encourages them to focus their menu more and create more bold flavors.

In the worst editing move ever, we jump right into the two teams planning their marketing event and apparently Chip N’ Wich is headed to a baseball game. I get that after a few episodes people know the format, but geez that’s quite a leap. They decide to bring a root beer float (classic) and a turkey club, which they consider more health conscious.

Oasis decides to create flyers and make a falafel, but decline to mention exactly where they are headed. Seriously, who the heck is editing this show? Note to editors, context matters, oh and more Nicole the blogger please, she was cool.

Can we make her a recurring character or like sidekick to Tyler? By the way, if you want to check out Nicole’s blog – Eat it Detroit – here it is. I’ve been reading it during commercial breaks, highly entertaining, even if you aren’t from Detroit.

So turns out, both teams are going to be at the ballpark and actually sharing a kitchen, which could cause serious tension, but it doesn’t. Chip N’ Wich adds an avocado/roasted pepper spread along with jalapeno flavored chips to their turkey club. Okay seriously that sounds delicious and I don’t even like avocados.

Speaking of tension, some does crop up with Oasis when Diana sees Melania making the falafel recipe incorrectly, and ignoring her questions. Diana takes her place and Melania talks about the need for Diana to remember that it’s a partnership.

Good news everyone, the limp bacon problem has been solved, as both teams cart up and head out. Both teams have t-shirts, flyers and either stickers or collectible cups. Tommy Lasorda, baseball legend/hall of famer, shows up to test out the food and both teams geek out a bit. How much you wanna bet he showed up at the ballpark and some PA grabbed him 10 seconds before he went on tv and told him to walk toward the tables and eat some free food? I’ll bet you the free rent in the food court that’s exactly what happened.

Jonathan throws out a pretty decent first pitch, but Oasis gets on the Jumbotron. Right on cue, Tyler shows up crazily overdressed for a minor league baseball game (hell, even Tom Colicchio wears a Bears jersey on Top Chef sometimes) to assess the teams. He tells Chip N’ Wich that the sandwich needs to be EPIC, and that everyone loves their brand.

Oasis is still having issues with their product, and Melania airs a bit of her concerns about Diana’s overbearing nature. Tyler does a little counseling then leaves the pair to work out their issues. Things get real for a minute, but everything appears to be alright.

It’s now opening day and both teams inspect their store fronts, which frankly look amazing every single week. Kudos to the production staff. Both teams check out Nicole’s blog post and then get the extra last minute help in the form of the World Cafe Sous Chef and Damon, a friend of Jonathan.

Oasis has changed up the recipes a bit to add more flavor and added Kafta, Lebanese meatloaf, to their schawarma and falafel. Chip n’ Wich is going with their two previous sandwiches  and a roasted veggie sandwich. They pair those with 4 different floats: ginger ale, root beer, and two new “natural” floats with pineapple or strawberries. Both menus are rather extensive, but both teams get through prep without an issue, except that Chip N’ Wich didn’t write down their menu…whoops. Seriously guys, that’s like a big deal.

Service begins with Oasis taking a lead because of the menu issues with Chip N’ Wich. There are some communication problems in the Oasis kitchen and both teams settle into the flow of the challenge. The handy little sales figures that now pop up for both teams put them both over $1000 in sales and pretty close headed into the end.

With service over it’s time for the winner to be declared. Tyler declares that with $1,293 in sales, Chip N’ Wich overcomes their problems and take the victory and the food court restaurant. It’s a massive family celebration as Tyler consoles Oasis who took massive steps with their brand during the competition. Chip N’ Wich signs their lease and another episode is in the books.