Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Tequila!

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

Tequila!

Pee-Wee Herman serves as guest judge for -- what Bravotv.com's Senior Editor considers -- the hardest challenge of the season so far.

Hello my little Chairies! I want to start by saying that this week's episode was probably my favorite of the season thus far. Gail told me that next week's is outta control, so I reserve the right ot change my mind. But, this one was giving me heart palpitations. We'll get to thatin a minute though.

Let's start with the Quickfire. Padma introduces the chefs to the guest judge, and it's none other than Pee-wee Herman! LIke pretty much everyone, I did watch Pee-Wee religiously as a child, and even saw Pee-wee's Big Adventure, and like the Ernest movies, I'm pretty sure it scared me. But Muppets scare me, so that's not really saying much. Either way, i was pretty psyched to see him as guest judge. The judges were first tasked with making Pee-wee's favorite food -- pancakes. Some chefs,like Grayson and Sarah, went super-whimsical, which actually surprised me, and others went more of the elevated route. In the end, Edward killed it with his kind of ingenious "pancake bits." Was anyone else surprised not to see one Chairy-inspired pancake?! Also, total sidenote, but Grayson's Minnie-inspired pancake reminded me of these ice cream pops I used to enjoy when I was little, so thanks for the memories, Grayson!On to the Elimination Challenge, which shocked me by its shear difficulty level. The chefs had to ride around San Antonio on Pee-wee-like bikes buying ingredients with the $100 they were given. They then had to find a restaurant with which to cook their dishes in. The dishes were to be focused around foods Pee-wee said he liked. The meal? Lunch. Some of the chefs, like Lindsay and Paul, had a little more difficulty finding workable kitchens than others, but I have to say that when they all finally found their places, i was overwhelmed by the comradery of the chefs. It seriously warmed my heart to see how the chefs were welcomed into unknown kitchens in San Antonio, other chefs willing to help a hand, give them or, y'know, sell them whatever ingredients they needed. For some reason, the whole thing made me think of Anthony Bourdan's books. Sure, the writing is insanely colorful, but what strikes me most is the depiction of the culture of chefs. It's something we all try to learn more about, but won't ever quite understand if we've never worked in a kitchen. Part of the reason I love this show so much is that we get a glimpse into that world, and I think this episode, maybe more than any other, gave us the biggest entry into the real world of chefs and their kitchens. Anyone else get this feeling or am I just that emotional over this show?! (Update! Hugh just tweeted this during the show, sooo maybe I'm wrong about the hospitality! Although I will admit the sweating grossed me out too.)

Anyway, the chefs wrapped up their food and headed back to the Alamo. Finding the Alamo was apparently a challenge in itself. Watching Grayson bike with one hand while holding her fragile egg-filled chicken was quite a sight. I don't even like holding my Starbucks without a sleeve -- no idea how she was able to hold that pan. Amirite?All in all, the judges seemed to enjoy all of the dishes, and it truly was small differences that set them apart. I was really nervous Paul might go home after he admitted to "destroying" his dish before he presented it. Thankfully, he didn't. Unfortunately, Grayson, a fan favorite went home. I'm dreading the texts I'm going to get from my family and friends on Grayson's departure. She was a favorite among my closest circle of foodies. Gail's blog, which will be up tomorrow, dives deep into why Grayson went home, and hopefully will put some of your minds at ease. Grayson represented herself well and I'm sure has a gained a ton of fans. She's also duking it out with Bev in the last Last Chance Kitchen, so watch that here.

Until next week, Have a Nosh!

P.S. I loved being reminded of ice cream soup. Yum!

 

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

So she's going to take more time shopping at Whole Foods -- and ask for the best of Melissa's basket and Adam's shrimp.

Bravotv.com: Let's dive right in. How did it feel to go shopping?
Gail Simmons: Shopping at Whole Foods was fantastic and hilarious. It made us realize that you need to be strategic, which was the point of the exercise for us. They gave us 30 minutes, but we took a little longer. We didn't let the producers push us around! We’re not contestants and we weren't going to stand for it! So, you realize how little time you have, and how big Whole Foods can be. You spend a lot of time running around.

 

My strategy with my pantry was to get a lot of fresh, delicious food that you can cook in lots of different ways. A good balance of proteins, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, grains. But I didn't want to get too much. Everyone has different strategies; Padma got a ton of different ingredients. Tom's pantry was very pared down. Richard and I were somewhere in the middle.

 

Bravotv.com: Let's start by talking about the two dishes that came from your pantry?
GS: Katsuji and Melissa. They used the same protein, but their dishes were very different. They both used shrimp which one of the proteins that I bought. I bought something else too, something that I know has given people trouble in the past (which is why I specifically chose it) -- chicken wings. And I really wanted people to use them. Instead, they chose the easy way out because shrimps cook quickly.

Melissa's used a lot of fresh vegetables, which I was hoping she would: dill, mint, artichoke. I was so excited about all of it. I think it was beautifully done, a lovely salad with that little shrimp on top with spiced yogurt. But it was just a salad with a quick-cooking seafood. It was so similar to what she had done in Restaurant Wars when she made a scallop with grapefruit salad. I believe she could have done so much more. Melissa keeps saying she wanted to focus on her knife skills, and, of course, your knife skills have to be precise. But I need to see more than just knife skills. I want to see cooking skills, I want to see roasting skills, braising skills. I want to see her hands get a little dirtier and her dishes not be as superficial. It was a light, lovely dish. I was happy to eat it for lunch. But when you're competing against six other really talented chefs, we all want to see a little more depth. Katsuji on the other hand went big. He used his ingredients in a really powerful way. The potato salad, the poached shrimp had bold seasoning and I loved how they went together. It was a great dish. It may not have been the best of the day, but I was actually really happy with what he chose to make.

 

Bravotv.com: So for the rest, let's talk about who was on top and who was on bottom.

GS: At the top there was Gregory who really was going for Padma's heart there. He did great with his coconut milk curry. A really balanced, powerful dish. But it's something we’ve seen from Gregory many times in the past. In fact, in the first challenge he made a similar spicy curry dish with chicken. As much as we thought it was a delicious bowl of food, it was so typical of what we expect from Gregory. George's food was really exciting for us. This was my first time tasting his food and meeting him on Top Chef. He did a great job. The kebab was moist, seasoned really well, and the lentils were beautiful too. My only small issue with the dish is I couldn't understand why he separated the lentils from the kebab in two separate dishes. Why not put lentils on the plate and the kebab right on top, with a dollop of the yogurt? It seemed a little bit disconnected to me. But all-in-all, a really strong dish. Doug had the winning dish of the night. He used Richard's crazy pantry in a way that I thought was smart, clear-cut, and creative. The chorizo and mussels and peppers, just how Tom said, go together well, as do the cauliflower and the garlic. There was sweetness, there was spice, it was light and fresh but had a soulful, rustic flavor we all loved. You could see use of technique. On the bottom were dishes that tried to stretch and didn’t come through. Mei did a great job overall, except her lamb was undercooked. You want lamb medium, medium rare, but the center of that meat was raw to the point where the texture was chewy and almost cold. It would have been better if she had been able to cook it five minutes longer. We talked about Melissa's mistakes already, which also landed her on the bottom. I totally applaud Adam for trying to make a quick-flash marinade. He's been in the middle for so long and he thought "I gotta go big or I gotta go home." He tried to go big and unfortunately, he went home because of that technique. I get the idea of what he was doing, I don't doubt that it could've been successful if it were perhaps done in a different setting, with a little more control. But the flash marinade of his shrimp did not cook it as needed. It was still grey, it was still raw, and the texture of raw shrimp is not appealing. It's squeaky, it's squishy, and it becomes sort of mushy. We wanted it firm and cooked through. It's not like fish that you can eat sashimi-style Unfortunately Adam's hard work, his big risk sent him home.

I will miss him. I think he's an incredibly articulate, clever chef. I think he has an extraordinary career ahead of him. I'm excited to see him back in New York City. I can't wait to eat his food again. Also I want to say of this entire episode that was it was thrilling to see our superfans in the kitchen. We've never let people come into the kitchen in that way before, even though people ask us all the time. It brought so much good energy to have basically a live audience with us for the day. Everyone was so psyched. It was amazing to be around people who really love the show, to let them eat food from our talented chefs. SO much fun!