Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

Gail Has No Problem With Blood

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

Tom Colicchio Answers Your Restaurant Wars Qs

Gail: It Wasn't Keriann's Day

Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

Richard: Chefs Please Follow Instructions

Richard Tries Money Ball Soup

Make a Home Run-Worthy Popcorn Crème Brule

Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

Gail: Keriann and Aaron Were Being ---holes

Make the Winning Surf and Turf

Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

Gail: There Was No Season 11 Underdog

Hugh Wants Nick to Be Kind to Himself

Gail: It Was Difficult to Let Go of Shirley

Big Easy to Ocean Breezy

Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

Emeril Is Proud to Serve Shirley's Dish

Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

Gail on Favreau, Choi, and Finding Yourself

Hugh on Poor Boys, Swingers and Food Trucks

Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Gail Talks OvenGate

Dookie Chase Makes Everybody Cry

Fin, Found, Floundering

What Danny Meyer Taught Gail Simmons

'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

Don't Bring a Knife to a Gun Fight

Hugh Acheson breaks down the first two groups of chefs.

The episode looked great. Texas is a big state, a big concept really, and what better way to show that than have 29 contestants quickly whittled down to the final 16 chef coats? From the first few moments of the show we know this is going to be a showdown of epic proportions. So, to paraphrase John Currence (TCM Season 2), “Don’t bring a knife to a gun fight.” Skills are going to show through quickly: the ability to manage time, the ability to show of a couple of tricks but keep things straight forward, and the ability to keep calm under pressure -- all of these traits will be essential for the chefs to fit into one of those blue jackets.

We start with Chris Crary being caught off-guard by the beauty of Padma. Chris, if you get sucked into staring at Padma the whole season, I foreshadow a short stay on the show. Put your eyes back in their sockets there, big guy. On the other hand, those Moto guys are culinarily adorable (do they have a headband and crazy hair rule at Moto?), but I keep expecting them to make edible paper or pot roast gummi bears. They step up though and make food that looks and tastes like… food! I am sure the Molecular Cuisine will come out soon though. 

So, we have 16 spots and the chips begin to fall in a pretty logical order. Two groups are competing tonight and here we go. Pork is up first.Did anyone notice that the blackboard pig diagram had the ears listed at “Listeners.” You crafty Magical Elves.

Chicago is very represented. I think this is for many reasons, but let’s get our culinary geography right. To me, Chicago is the most important city outside of NYC for food in the last decade. I will get some hate mail on this one. Whatever. 

So the Lake Shore City has a lot of chefs vying for those jackets… Heather, Sarah, Moto dudes, Chuy… Illinois is in the house.

Chef Tyler Stone, where do I start? “Some people mistake my confidence for arrogance.” I think you got that backwards. Should you want to bring an ego bigger than the state of Texas into the arena, make sure that basic butchery skills are in your arsenal. Tom has no patience for this and before you know it Tyler is packing up his knives, but not without declaring that he will conquer the world once more! 

“Tom and Emeril made a bad decision.” Back to your zipcode, and don’t let the swingin’ cowboy bar doors hit you on the way out. 

Colin, a vegan chef from Seattle, happily gives over the butchery to Moto Chris. Finding the tenderloin of the tofu is pretty easy, but pork is a bit more nuanced. 

We have cheeks, ears, belly, loin chops (we did), small hacks of a tenderloin… this is a nose-to-tail challenge. Fergus should be very happy with the impact he has had on our cookery. 

Back to Colin. Plating comes around and he has lost his tip to the frother. Man down. Plating looked pretty rough, and he knows the end is nigh. Does it with class and I respect that. His maturity and honesty make Tyler Stone look all the more child-like. Moto Chris pulls through with his caramelized apple. Sarah gets through with skin. 14 chef coats left. Grayson and Molly get in the bubble, which is clarified as another chance to compete in Episode 2 for a treasured coat. Molly is not thrilled. She thought she had nailed those cheeks. 

Nyesha gets in with a Tex Mex ravioli. Way to play with the locality! Smart cooking and Emeril loves it. Heather wins with a “soulful” dish of grits and ribs. Smart as well. Richie, Vice President of TEAM MOTO, pushes seasoning to the edge and gets through. Simon packs up the knives. The roulade was dry. C’est la vie.  

Chicago is sunny for once.

The people with chef coats start to see their new digs. TEAM MOTO is very excited. The whole group is redecorating in a very Great Lakes theme.

Group 2. Battle Rabbit. There is a lot of talent up there in the group. 

Something is said about rabbit orgies. Focus people, focus.

Let’s cut to the chase. Whitney is in with the sugo. Looked tasty. Don’t hug Tom. Nina is out. She spaced. Timing is everything. Keith is in. He remarks that he is too big to pass out. I envision a news report about an earthquake in Texas should he fall. His story is pretty amazing. Kudos to him for forging through in life. Edward is on the bubble. They want to see him cook. He thinks, “This sucks.” Bubbly. 

It looks like Dakota cries a lot. She rocked it though with some crepinette and bulgur. Nice. She’s in like Flynn. Ty-Lor is in. I have a feeling he is going to be the beloved weirdo of this season… we’ll see how far he goes. Janine is bubble-bound. Chris C. is in with his duo of rabbit. Chuy is in with the pipian and exits with a “booyah, biatch.” I feel like it's 2004 all over again. Bubble Room laments their lack of ink. It ain’t the ink, it’s the food. It’s always the food. Trust me. 

Preview looks great for Episode 2. Cuts, and bubbles, and shrimp, and some snarky Canadian.