Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Keep it Moving - Ep 1

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

Keep it Moving - Ep 1

Pride hurts some chefs competing for the chance to compete in Seattle.

Welcome back, my little Belgian knights! It's been a little over a month since I"ve had the pleasure of recapping for you (Masters), and much longer than that since Top Chef 9. Maybe I'm getting ahead of myself! My name is Monica, and I'm Senior Editor here at I'm also a huge Top Chef fan and a total foodie (for lack of a better term.) I'll be recapping this season of Top Chef: Seattle.

I'm so excited about this new season of Top Chef, and I kinda loved this premiere. Last season, we aired casting, which we've done again, but switched up the process a bit. This time, the contenders faced four of our judges in challenges created by the chefs. As a viewer, I loved seeing Tom, Wolfgang, Emeril, and Hugh in their natural habitats, and seeing the chefs put in a real kitchen right away.

First, we find Tom at Craft in Los Angeles, where his chefs had perhaps the toughest challenge of them all -- to perform in the kitchen during a real service. We've got tortellini, butchering, sweating! We learn quickly to never "nick a breast." Heed these words carefully, men!

We meet John, who is apparently the most hated chef in Dallas. He's been in the industry for quite some time, and at the age of 54, has a reputation for being hothead. He does not look 54. 

We meet Micah Fields, chef at The Standard Grill. I love The Standard. Not only is the food great, but the ambiance and servers are awesome. I actually enjoyed a lovely Autumn Bramble the other night in my attempt to patronize downtown restaurants in the wake of Hurricane Sandy and met a lovely group from Denmark in town for work and the marathon. They asked me about my cocktail (brambles are one of my favorites), and we bonded. It was a true New York moment, and I'll just thank Micah for that, even though he had nothing to do with it. Unfortunately, although Micah might be bringing people together on the East Coast, he's tearing fish apart in Tom's West Coast kitchen. In fact, Tom has to instruct Micah on how to filet a fish more efficiently (effishently?) Then there's Anthony who's fileting duck with a paring knife -- a choice Tom quickly questions. Jorel is butchering chickens, but doesn't ask Tom how'd like them and cuts the meat off the bone -- something Tom didn't want. Whoops!

Next, we head to one of Emeril's Vegas restaurants, Table 10 at the Palazzo. First thing I notice is that we already have two chefs with handlebar moustaches. In case you weren't counting. Emeril's challenge? To cook soup, saying, "It's a true test to see if you're a great chef." If this doesn't show what a student of Escoffier Emeril is, I just don't know what does. Auguste Escoffier is quoted as saying, "Of all the items on the menu, soup is that which exacts the most delicate perfection and the strictest attention." Try to think back to some of your most memorable amuses or dishes, and they very well may have been soups,. I'm thinking of one right now -- John Besh's cucumber soup at August in New Orleans. One of the best things I've ever consumed.Anyway! Tina goes for a "layered" soup with seafood, chorizo. Although I'm all for anything with chorizo, her soup sends her home. We learn that Kristen and Stephanie are really close -- they live in the same apartment building and have matching tattoos, but they make sure to tell us they're not lesbians. Kristen reminds me of Jenny Shimizu. Is it just me? We also learn about boob sweat -- apparently a real issue for female chefs. We also learn that if he makes it to Seattle, Josh may miss the birth of his daughter. Wow. We meet the adorable Jeffrey Jew whose chilled soup first gives Emeril pause. "You got a chiller in your pocket?" To which Emeril laughs at his own joke, and I subsequently laugh at Emeril. Emeril is a sweetheart, so him laughing at his own comments just cracks me up. But, Jeffrey pulls it off, and gets ta ticket to Seattle. The girls are separated. Kristen stays. Stephanie and Tina go home. 

We head back to Tom's kitchen. I just want to give a real kudos to Tom's regular staff for really teaching the Top Chefs what to do and not getting annoyed with them -- signs of true chefs. John gets a coat!

We head to Wolfgang's kitchen where he asks his chefs to make omelets. Two things about omelets: 1) everything I know about making one is from Jacques Pepin on PBS. Always use a whisk rather than a beater. 2) I still remember the best omelet I"ve ever had, and it was on Cape Cod years ago, sooo omelets aren't only harder than they look, but they can really stay with a diner.

We meet firecracker Carla, who was married to the owner of Rao's. She has a sort of early Janice Dickinson look going on, and she's loud, sooo predict she will probably ruffle some feathers in the kitchen. We meet Tyler Wiard whose omelet goes brown pretty quickly. Wolfgang assures the chefs that he's "an easy guy as long as you do it exactly the way [he wants.] Ha! And, "The stove is like a woman. It never does what it's supposed to." HIlarious, Wolfgang. Ahem. Tyler isn't the only one who has problems with his eggs. Daniel who has already told us how well his Washington-based restaurant is doing has a layer of grease on his. "Accept, adapt, move forward," he says. Perhaps instead of moving forward he should remake his dish. Carla doesn't like the look of hers so she covers with garnish. Wolfgang tells Eliza to add red meat, she does, and she moves forward. In fact, everyone moves forward except for Daniel, and he is not happy about it. I almost forgot Kuniko, who was a banker in Japan before coming to America to pursue her culinary career. I'm fascinated by her already.

After they earn their coats, the chefs are treated to an omelet tutorial by Wolfgang -- a once-in-a-lifetime experience.


Next we head to Hugh's kitchen at Empire State South in Atlanta, Georgia. Hugh tasks the chefs with making salads, something Hugh apparently lives on -- look at him! We meet Bart, a Belgian knight. As we saw in ther previews, Hugh asks him if he wears a suit of armor in the kitchen. No? That's good. Belly laughs. Bart's a looker. Gina describes herself as a "ferocious tiger." We'll leave that alone for now. Danyele is flaring her tomato and Gina the Ferocious Tiger thinks she should know better, that it's "ridiculously amateurish." The Belgian is making a mess with the blender and Hugh calls them out on their messiness. As Hugh offers his final critiques, Gina says "You'll make me cry -- stop it." Hugh retorts "Well, no, we could make you cry." Then tells her her salad looks nice." Ouch. Hugh is feeling saucy. Aaand Gina goes home. She goes to the Land of Overly-Proud Chefs with Daniel. Gina, of course, insists tha Hugh has made a mistake. She's not a chef. She's a movement. Wellll, then she won't mind moving on out of the kitchen. Oh! Maybe I'm feeling saucy too.

We're back with Tom where he makes his final decisions. Lizzie impresses from the start with her tortellini-making skills, and makes it through. Micah moves forward because he entered that kitchen like a boss. Everyone else goes home.

And so, we have our 15 chefs moving on to Seattle.

The preview of the rest of the season looks great. We've got Chris Pratt and Anna Faris making hilarious jokes, we've got the gorgeous Curtis Stone in a flattering sweater, we've got Kristen getting a foot rub from an anonymous chef. It's going to be a good season.

Who are your early favorites?! Let me know in the comments below! Until next week, Have a Nosh!


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. 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. 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. 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!