Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Tesar Speaks the Truth, but Sides Win the Race

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

Tesar Speaks the Truth, but Sides Win the Race

Hugh Acheson would like his own "Canlis Restaurant" one day.

I am on this one. Look for a fine Gucci suit with a nervous man inside. 

It’s getting all tense. The Stew Room has its place and that place is to get people a little on edge. It works here exactly as it’s supposed to. Tesar, the man with no filter, calls out whole states in his vindictiveness. Oklahoma, which really doesn’t need to be maligned like this, has a fired-up defender in Josh. He puts on his chaps and challenges Tesar to a showtunes showdown. 

Josh:

“We know we belong to the land

And the land we belong to is grand!

And when we say 

Yeeow! Ayipioeeay!

We're only sayin'

You're doin' fine, Oklahoma!

Oklahoma O.K.”

 

Tesar’s musical response is “Texas” by Soulja Boy. Odd. 

“I'm on that ATL s---, I'm on that MIA s---, 

I'm on that Chi-town s---, that Houston, Texas s---, 

that screwed up s---, that purple s---…” 

 

He crosses his arms and makes strange gang signs but his is a gang of one. A--holez with a Z: Dallas. 

Tesar zaps us with this explanation: “I am not a prick, I’m truthful.” Wise words bad Yoda. 

Sleepy time. Maybe things will be sunnier with some shut eye? Nope. Pretty much everyone gets out of their wearable blanket all angry at the world. But not Stefan. He loves wartime in the condo and takes advantage of the time to fondle Kristen. Kristen loves it. 

Is CJ taller at breakfast? Does he shrink during the day? Naomi Pomeroy in the house. She has brought animals. Beastly butchery from Portlandia. “Land-roaming animals,” someone says, as opposed to that flying squirrel challenge that never happened. Memories of Naomi screaming at her dad in Top Chef Masters; this type of memory makes every family get-together more memorable.  

“We would like you to think of these slabs of beef as a blank canvas”, says Naomi. Bart begins to paint a picture on the side of the cow, taking the instructions very literally. Carla has memories of cold meat lockers where stoolies were dealt with. Stefan is still mentally smelling Kristen’s feet. 

CJ is worried about no one. I am worried about him though because he looks six inches shorter than his morning self. Sheldon is not a surgical butcher but he’s gonna get 'er dun. Tyler is his own worst enemy. He’s literally going to whittle himself down with anxiety. “I just need to shut the f--- up and cook.” Self therapy in the house.  

There’s a lot of beef dishes in this rodeo. Some good, some not so good. Sherry and asparagus do not please Padma. Oxtails are great or undercooked. Hangar steak makes Naomi happy but she’s a medium girl. I would have so thought she’d be a rare beef lover. 

Alas, John Tesar wins. They clap. Why would you all clap for a guy you all hate? Show that man who’s boss. No clapping. John wins immunity and gets to continue his quest to be completely condescending to everyone in the room.

The Canlis brothers introduce the Elimination Challenge which is to recreate classic dishes from the opening Canlis menu. You know, a menu that was resplendent with “a la Louis” and other descriptives. 

When you talk about iconic restaurants there are very few that would be higher up on the scale than Canlis. It’s a stunning restaurant with great views of planes landing on the water from all vantage points. The service is so authentic and real and the content is top notch. Though the challenge was to recreate some of the more storied dishes of a past era, Canlis is thouroughly in the modern food world thanks to the skilled hands of executive chef Jason Franey. Jason was the executive sous chef for Daniel Humm at Eleven Madison Park in NYC. The new menu is a beautiful melding of the history of the restaurant and Franey’s food, evoking brilliance and not relics. You should eat there if you are in Seattle. Sometimes I dream of just having that one restaurant like Canlis, an old BMW 2002 tii, some model boat kits, and a small garden. I would live a stress-free life in the apartment above and study up on the parking/valet methods of Dick Sprinkle, the revered parking boss of Canlis years ago. Check out their fine website for more stories like that. The fear was that we would be served Jell-O salads and pineapple chicken. Well that didn’t happen. We got some pretty good food. The really difficult dish to pull off is the Caesar-like Canlis Salad. It’s a difficult one because it is revered by the customers and owners. They have loved it for decades and it’s crazy popular. It’s like challenging Trader Vic’s to a Mai Tai challenge. You’d lose.

Lizzie’s herring was like an ode to Prune in NYC, saltines and all. John did make good clams, and sadly Josh’s soup was a salty, cold mess. Wrong vehicle for a hearty soup? If that bowl isn’t hot, you have a loser of a dish. Puck-like croutons did not help at all. This paled in comparison to the train wreck that was Carla’s squab. I love rustic Italian food but this was not that. Rare to a fault for some, and well-done on others. 

Sheldon’s mahi mahi was great but uninspired. Simple simple but in that era that’s what win the game. Stefan’s liver was well-executed. Kristen’s sides really did rock, and if you think that you can’t win just with making some simple things sing than you’re wrong. Those mushrooms were perhaps the best mushroom side I have ever had. CJ’s lamb was error-filled and as Tom accurately diagnosed, a sous-vide stumble. Steak a-la-Bart was a middlin’ protein attempt. Josie’s “Potato as Big as your Head” was a baked potato. Not much way to screw that up or make it phenomenal. She calls them “Mamajamas” which makes me want to curl up in the corner and cry myself to sleep. I am actually in that position still. If I just listen to Tyler’s self-affirmations, everything will be OK. 

Desserts are of an era, meaning not great and kind of melting. They were having issues with the ice cream machine. It was fine. Just fine. Some people loved them but they just weren’t my bag. 

Lizzie, Kristen, Tyler, and Stefan take tops with Kristen’s sides winning all. She deserved it. They were rocking ‘shrooms and crispy onion rings. 

Two chefs pack their knives -- Carla and Chrissy. Onwards to Last Chance Kitchen

Follow me on twitter @hughacheson

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!