Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Pouring One for Sheldon's Homies - Ep 12

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

Pouring One for Sheldon's Homies - Ep 12

Not all fried chicken is created equal.

Hello, my little crunchy salmon rolls (my favorite at Momoya -- my New York sushi hot-spot)! Last week I wondered what Stefan would say about his "wifey" Kristen's departure. Well he said she must be pissed, but also, it's a competition. Well, it's more than he said about his other competitors. Brooke regrets not saying anything at Judges' Table. She said she would have if she thought for a moment the elimination would go the way it did. Oh, that bitch hindsight again… Josie tries to commiserate with Lizzie, saying Kristen's achilles heel was her ambition. Lizzie doesn't respond. This speaks volumes.

To the Top Chef Kitchen! Standing with Padma is sushi guru, Katsuya Uechi. I mean, this is a ridiculous guest judge. Ridiculously exciting. You may recognize his name from all the paparazzi shots of celebrities coming out of his eponymous restaurants. The challenge? Create a Dish to Impress a Sushi Master. Katsuya gave the advice to not to mix up too many ingredients. If you have good fish -- which they did -- they shouldn't do much to it. That probably means adding bacon, guys. Just saying. Oh, also, the chefs don't have the opportunity to secure immunity any more. So, yeah, let's probably not add bacon to our sushi. Josh responds to the challenge by saying, "I live in Oklahoma -- I don't make much sushi." Hmm -- he could probably make the sushi I used to eat in college, before I started eating "real" sushi. Since I didn't really want to eat raw fish at the time, I used to order a Dinosaur BBQ sushi roll at my sushi spot of choice. It was obviously tempura'd, smothered in Dinosaur BBQ sauce. Now that I look back on it, I can't believe I ate it, but it was so damn good. 

Also, have you guys seen Jiro Dreams of Sushi? It's on Netflix Instant if you're interested.

I'm done digressing, I swear!

Like Josh, Lizzie is also poo-pooing the challenge a bit saying sushi is an art, but it's not her art. Fair.

After some direct but meaningful criticism from Katsuya, I thought maybe Sheldon would take the win. His lemon charcoal was genius, and it was all created by accident. While I -- and I think I can speak for Sheldon on this -- don't recommend leaving something in an oven unattended while you head to a meeting, it did produce a great idea. But, alas, Stefan, who started the challenge with a little "writer's block" won. I was nervous for Stefan because he made a duo by Julia Child-ing that lobster, and usually more is less for Stefan. But Katsuya loved his dishes. I find it extremely ironic that Stefan won a sushi challenge, a challenge based on simplicity. On to the Elimination Challenge, presented by Tom Colicchio and one of his former employees, David Chang. "Everybody loves fried chicken," David says matter-of-factly. And you know what? I honestly can't think of anyone who doesn't (besides vegetarians, obviously.)

Thanks for the segue, David! Speaking of fried chicken, have you checked THIS out yet?

The challenge is to create a fried chicken dish for a dinner party at Tom's house. Sheldon declares that he's going to wear his deep pants, so he doesn't shit himself. Stefan makes Stefan-y jokes about thighs and legs. Come on, you guys! Get serious! Well, Josh is serious. This is the challenge he's been waiting for, so that either means he'll win or go home. Josie says she's got this one in the bag, so she'll either win or go home. Before we get into the dishes, let's discuss the things we learn in this episode.

1. Padma called tom Tommy. Awww.

2. Wolfgang is a true gentleman and pushed in Emeril's chair for him.

3. The guys from Son of a Gun -- a restaurant I hope to visit at the end of February -- once interviewed to work for Brooke, and didn't get hired. After eating her chicken, they express happiness over this turn of events. Ouch! (Sidenote: I have eaten at their other eatery, Animal, and it's effing amazing. Get the oxtail gravy poutine!)

4. Josie admits time management is her achilles heel. Finally.

Back at the house…

5. Sheldon plays the ukelele, like, really, really well. As if he couldn't be more lovable than he already was. (Also, who caught him say, "Pouring one for my homies," as he cooked his dish? It was so Eliza of him!)

6. Stefan's mother has been struggling with Parkinsons for 18 years. We see a side of Stefan I don't think many of us have witnessed before. I can't even imagine how proud of Stefan his mother is. 

Anyway, back at the picturesque dining table...

All the chefs are bonding, and it's a lot of fun to watch. I had a smile on my face the whole time.

So, let's get to the chicken! Sheldon makes two kinds -- Momofuku-style (ballsy) and umami. His oil isn't hot enough for his first batch of Momofuku-style wings, so he doesn't make enough. Those who do get them are wowed and everyone loved his Umami drumsticks and thighs, sooo he ends up on top.

Lizzie isn't familiar with American fried chicken so she makes spiced fried chicken breasts. She gets some criticism for only using the breasts, but also ends up on top.

Ultimately Josh wins with his smoked fried chicken. The judges all agreed that smoking the chicken before frying it was pretty genius. Josh did his grandfather proud.

Unfortunately, Brooke, Josie, and Stefan don't fare as well. Brooke was actually guilty of poor time managament this time. She didn't crisp her skin as she had planned and was ultimately forced to warm her already-fried chicken in the oven, then re-fry it. Yikes. But, she's safe.

Stefan almost went home for making Chicken Cordon Bleu, and not very well. I actually didn't think the idea was as bad as the judges did, but they may have been more forgiving if it had tasted better. I actually really like Chicken Cordon Bleu. I used to order the Chicken Crave (essentially a Chicken Cordon Bleu wrap) at Pita Pit on a regular basis in college. But, I was also usually drunk, and also, I think we've already proven in this recap that my tastes in college were questionable. Sooo, never mind! But, he's also safe.

And so, that leaves us with Josie. I don't think we've seen Tom this riled up in a long time, but all that fried chicken will do that to you. Josie's chicken was greasy as she didn't have time to rest it on a paper towel. Again, it came back to time management, and, y'know, the curse of Michelle Bernstein. I kid. I kid.

Although I think many if not all of you were ready to see Josie go, I do wonder which you find more forgivable: dry chicken or greasy chicken. I'm not so sure I know my answer. Leave yours in the Comments section below!

It's not the last you've seen of Josie quite yet, though! She and Kristen are caught in an epic battle in Last Chance Kitchen, so watch that HERE.

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!