Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Salmon Fishing in the United States

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

Salmon Fishing in the United States

Everyone's full of hilarious one-liners. Maybe it's the crabs!

Hello, my little Jonah crab claws (my personal favorites!) Kristen is kicking arse and taking names in Last Chance Kitchen. Her last defeat is over her own hubby, Stefan! I'll miss Stefan, but I won't miss another awkward kiss on the mouth between these two. Back at the chefs' digs, the remaining four chefs -- Brooke, Josh, Lizzie, and Sheldon -- are talking about how good-hearted Stefan is. I know they mean it, but it sounds so insincere. Sheldon does admit that he thought Stefan was the front-runner for the win. Interesting. Josh also reveals that his wife's due date is fast-approaching, and he wants to tell his wife not to have the baby until he's back. Good luck to you, sir.

The chefs head out into the cold, and Sheldon drops this bomb on us: "I better throw on a couple extra underwear, just so I can keep the package nice and warm, y'know?" Oh, we know, Sheldon. We know. 

The chefs are greeted by Padma and Chef Sean Brock -- someone I've heard Hugh Acheson laud many a time -- at Tracey's King Crab Shack. I love, love, love crab. I'd rather have crab than lobster. Whenever I just need a quick fix in NYC, I usually go to BLT Fish Shack. Our very own Harold Dieterle also held Crab Mondays at his restaurant, Kin Shop, this past year, so hopefully he'll keep them going next year. 

Our chefs are tasked with creating a dish highlighting Alaskan Crab. Literally five seconds after I think about how I would eat all the crab in sight, Brooke echoes my thoughts: "I'm not going to have any crab to use cause I can't stop eating it," she says.

Brooke makes crab toast, deemed "easy" by Chef Brock, but I think he was going for the word "simple." Making a good compound butter is not easy. That being said, he loved the dish, despite himself. I would literally buy Dungeness crab compound butter by the boatload, so start sellin' it, Brooke! 

Josh serves succotash -- or "suckertash" as Brooke calls it -- which made Sean feel like he was at home. So, Josh thought he "nailed it. 100%." Unfortunately, Sean is a "succotash snob," and didn't care for the unnecessary bacon or broken sauce. Fair. So far, Josh has unsuccessfully served succotash to Sean Brock and grits to Hugh Acheson. Eek!

Lizzie's crab got lost with all the other flavors going on in her fritatta. Got to be careful with those capers!And so, Sheldon wins with his "miso." Aaand, Sheldon's got his groove back!

On to the Elimination Challenge: Salmon and Sourdough! I use an exclamation mark, but I actually don't enjoy hot salmon (as my loyal readers already know), and sourdough is probably my least favorite type of bread. (Geez, who invited the Debbie Downer?!) The chefs are given a 30-year-old starter and start baking in their home. 

Oh, wait! I forgot the most important part! Sheldon scares the s--- out of his competitors back at the house, and it's amazing.

Some of the chefs go traditional while others try to add other elements to it. I love when bread has little surprises in it (besides raisins!), so I'm down with the idea. Josh promises he won't use bacon. "I'm done with bacon apparently," he declares. I don't believe him.

The next morning the chefs head to get their salmon. I don't think I've ever seen salmon that color in my life, and I will probably never eat salmon that fresh... unless I visit Alaska, obviously. Fishing and cleaning fish reminds Lizzie of her father, so we see heartbreaking photos of the two of them together. I cry for maybe the first time this whole season, which is rare for me, but my heart just breaks for Lizzie. 

We learn that Josh's wife is dilating, and that Sheldon yells "Yahtzee!" a lot. Equally important, obviously.

As Tom does his walk-through, some of the chefs start to get nervous. First, there's Sheldon who doesn't understand why Tom thinks his dish idea is funny. He is less nervous after Tom explains that he's been craving pea soup. In fact, he yells "Boom!" And I giggle.

While Tom is excited that Lizzie is roasting her fish whole, he has some pause about Brooke poaching hers on-site. I actually think Brooke's nervousness was based more on Tom's tone when he asked why she was poaching her fish, rather than him necessarily thinking that was a horrible idea. But, who knows?

There are bears at the site where the judges are and Tom makes a joke about them being his fanbase. Has Tom gotten funnier, or is it me? I'd like to think that Hugh's off-beat humor might be rubbing off on Tom. Either way, I love it.Brooke serves her dish, and despite Hugh commenting that her mustard seeds were unappetizing-looking, everyone loves it. She wins.

Sheldon serves chum, which he deems "pretty cool," but is apparently what locals serve to their dogs. I don't know if we can state that fact in a negative way anymore. Have you seen what people feed their dogs?! They eat very well! But, Sean wasn't thrilled with how Sheldon handled his fish -- he kept grinding the salmon, to which Hugh hilariously demonstrated the grinding of the salmon. Also, Hugh thought his soup was like baby food. Uh-oh, Sheldon.

I interrupt this recap to present once again that beautiful story Emeril told about his chef saving his restaurant's mother dough. You can watch it again HERE.

Next up is Josh, and although his components are cooked correctly, it's a ltitle off-balance.

Finally, Lizzie offers her salmon sliders. Her bread looked delicious, but it was just too much for the salmon on it. Because she didn't marinate the salmon in her beet-citrus sauce, the flavor was lost. We'll later learn that she never tried her composed dish. Top Chef Cardinal Sin No. 1! 

Despite Josh's balance issues and Sheldon's creation of a "world of bitterness," ultimately, LIzzie heads home. And in her own words, all I say is "shucks."

Lizzie heads to Last Chance Kitchen in its penultimate episode before the Last Chance Kitchen finale. Good luck, Lizzie!

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.

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!