Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

The Hugh Acheson Comedy Hour

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Make Melissa's Mom's Egg Custard

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Make Mei's Inspired Duck a l'Orange

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

The Hugh Acheson Comedy Hour

There are no pork medallions in team.

Hello, my little nuggets of fried brownness! We start this week's episode with the chefs reminiscing about Carla and Chrissy's elimination. Josh makes a comment about his disappointment over having a poor performance his first time meeting Hugh. I didn't notice this until I watched the episode for the second time, but Josh obviously has a lot of respect for Hugh, and it's adorable. We'll come back to this later.

Back at the house, we celebrate Stefan's birthday, and by celebrate I mean insinuate that he might get sent home because of a Season 5 curse. I had honestly completely forgotten about this. Fingers crossed, Stefan!

OK, back to the food. The chefs are up at the (butt) crack of dawn to head to Pike Place Market, the "soul" of Seattle. I thought Ben Gibbard was the soul of Settle, but what the hell do I know? Eliza shares that she got engaged at the market. Equally as important, CJ unveils his glasses, and I am digging them. I almost forgot how attractive he is. Just me? OK.

The chefs pair up -- little do they realize how important these team-ups will be. Padma and Daisley Gordon present the Quickfire Challenge -- make breakfast for the farmers' market vendors… on a stick! Sausage on stick won't cut it here, but I would kill for one. So, the chefs are off to Sur la Table to find supplies and produce, and they all start planning their menus. I'm usually more of a savory breakfast girl, but I like where Brooke is going with the sweet/savory idea. Also, I had no idea she knew Stefan, so that was an interesting little tidbit. 

Another interesting tidbit? Eliza followed Widespread Panic around the country and sold vegan sushi out of a van. The Eliza "Supreme" Moment of the episode may have to become a new mainstay in this recap because she is just throwing gold nuggets out every. single. episode. She is quickly becoming one of my favorite cheftestants. Tell us more, Eliza! I am hanging on your every word.

Aaand the chefs start cooking. So far, John and Joshua are really getting along, but I will say I don't see the point of putting a taco on a stick, as a taco is inherently a finger food. I do love a breakfast taco/burrito, though, so we'll let this slide for now. 

Bart and the ground are having some issues. He drops his panini press while colliding towards the ground, and actually does break it. Sidenote: I think Bart and Tyler should have their own show. I don't know why, but I would watch it. We shall call it "What the Heck? Salmon on a Stick!"

Honestly, Josie seems like maybe the least agreeable chef, so kudos, John, you get the week off for that title. 

I have one comment before we discuss the dishes, and that is how happy I am to finally see Seattle hipsters! They were obviously hiding at the market. Obviously.After presenting their dishes to Padma and Daisley, John and Josh end up on top, and acknowledge how well they work together. Bart and Sheldon win, though. Broken panino press and all! Danyele and Lizzie were on the bottom for not really making a meal, but they knew that. Josie and Eliza's dish was too sweet. Perhaps the extra heat Eliza wanted to add would have balanced that out.

On to the Elimination Challenge and the true beginning of Hugh's comedy hour. The chefs are told that they'll be working in the same groups they worked in for the Quickfire Challenge. They pull knives, each representing different items sold at the market, and I suddenly have a yen to hop on the East River Ferry and head to Smorgasburg.

The only ingredient that didn't catch my fancy is the rose jelly. I hate rose water. I actually had this conversation over Thanksgiving with my Persian family because it is an ingredient included in almost every Persian dessert. My relatives try to get me to eat desserts with rose water in it, and I refuse! Blech! (Let me know in the Comments section below if anyone despises rose water as much as I do!)

The Elimination Challenge is to create a dish highlighting the chefs' chosen artisinal ingredient - not just any dish, a lunch dish. And the chefs only have two hours to do it.

Let's start with CJ and Tyler, who have pickles. Tyler has an idea for a chowder with a pickle fritter. CJ wants to make a burger, thinking that Tom will be looking for simplicity. In fact, he does an impression of Tom that sort of sounds like Seinfeld. CJ is on fire with his impressions this week.

John and Joshua make grits and pork. John suggests making pork medallions. Josh isn't too keen on this idea, but for the sake of compromise, he agrees. I think these two need to learn what compromise means. John is afraid of Josh exploding. This seems rich coming from John.

Josie and Eliza aren't working well together. Spoiler alert: they end up with sand and rocks (?!) in their dish.

Danyele and Lizzie get chocolate. Lizzie, thinking outside the box, wants to make fish, and Danyele thinks they should go with a tart. We've had successful chocolate/fish dishes on Top Chef, so that sounded good to me. I don't know why Lizzie didn't stand up to Danyele.

Stefan and Brooke get rose jelly and make duck… with candied cabbage. Sweet on sweet on sweet. Methinks pickled cabbage was probably the way to go.

Kristen and Micah get curds, and all I can think is that Grayson Schmitz would have killed that ingredient!

Bart and Sheldon made a salad that balances the acidity of their salmon candy.

Sooo, we get to the lunch table, and Padma introduces the judges. Kurt Beecher Dammeier is kind of a big deal in the cheese world, and for you New Yorkers, there is a Beecher's Handmade Cheese in the heart of the Flatiron District, so you can sample his product there."Long Live the Artisan!" Padma toasts the table. I will obviously be foregoing my usual "l'chaim" for this toast from now on. It's too good not to.

Time to eat! And for Hugh to begin his series of zings that surely make this episode one of the funniest ever.

First, Hugh comments on how tough Stefan and Brooke's duck is to cut. Zing No. 1!

Next up is John and Joshua's grits and pork. Hugh declares that the grits suck. Joshua will later say at Judges' Table how intimidating it was to make grits for Hugh. He's in love with him.

The only real complaint about Bart and Sheldon's dish is that there isn't enough salmon candy. Coulda been worse.

CJ and Tyler's crumpet bun gets soggy. I actually think the idea of using a crumpet is interesting, but they made a big ol' mess. I don't know if this would have made a difference, but wondering if they were toasted.

Micah and Kristen's curd dish is muddled.

After the dining was done, Tom went in to go tell them what's what. Sheldon and Bart probably did have the best dish, or at least that's what it sounded like.

I just want to take a moment to say I loved this challenge in concept. I think -- at least in the foodie community -- going to your local farmers' market on the weekend and thinking about what you might make with the interesting artisinal ingredients is common practice. It's unfortunate that the chefs didn't rise to the challenge.

Before Judges' Table, back at the apartment, the chefs wallow in their self pity. This fridge is bare -- just like everyone's imagination. Or so says John. Whooaaa. Intense.

Tyler makes a comment about accepting his elimination if it's his time to go, and Joshua gets very angry. We've seen a little bit of his anger in the past couple episodes, but nothing to this extent. I don't think Tyler's comment was something to get that angry over. Josh calls Tyler an idiot. It's fine to not like a defeatist attitude, but calm down, and step away from the corkscrew!

We also witness Stefan's attempt to explain Last Chance Kitchen to Josh. I kind of love that these two get along. Josh describes them both as likable, arrogant a--holes. Mmm. There's a fine line to likability, Josh. 

Jump to Judges' Table -- a few interesting things happen: 

First, we see that Stefan did try to counterbalance his duck's sweetness, he still served it too sweet. I did appreciate that he knew it was too sweet, and tried to correct it. I actually don't now if that makes it better or worse, but I think it made it better for me.

This is unlike CJ and Bart who really thought their burger was good. I'll take this opportunity to recommend a great pork burger in NYC -- the one at Miss Lily's. It's a Jamaican restaurant and their burger is pretty delicious.

Anyway, not only did CJ not think his burger was bad, but before the chefs leave to head back to the stew room before judges' deliberation, CJ take sthe opportunity to ask the judges what they thought of Danyele and Lizze's chocolate tart because he thought it was worse than his dish. Bad move, Ceej! Hugh pounces to let CJ know their burger was worse. Burn.

Finally we have John and Joshua. Although Josh doesn't want to throw John under the bus, he does, and at that point, I probably would have too. 

In the end, it looked like it came down to Gail's vote. Aaaand Gail hated that burger. Sooo, take the "l" out of "lover" cause it's over.

In the end, CJ and Tyler are eliminated. But fret not, CJ and Tyler fans, they're heading to Last Chance Kitchen to compete against reigning chef Kuniko.

Until next week, Have a Nosh (just don't eat your grandmother.)


Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Hugh Acheson wonders about the health of the kids at Emerson College and debates the cost of roasting that much foie gras.

In this, the tenth episode of this 12th season, we open in the kitchen of the chefs super secret lair. Katusji has taken his wit, wisdom and wherewithal back to his Kosher Japanese Cal-Mex empire to work on a masa matzoh ball taco. He is described as "the most loveable dick in the entire world," which seems pretty on point. These remaining five seem saddened because Katsuji provided respite from the drudgery of competition. They mourn as well, because all understood, though it was never talked about, like a solemn vow, that they could all beat Katsuji in this cooking game. He was the San Diego Padres of Top Chef, the team that all the other competition knew would be an easy beat when the time came.

So the quintet of Mei, Gregory, Dougeeeee, Melissa and George remain. They are all have the stuff that could allow them to win the dough, but Mei and Gregory have really shown that if we must have hierarchy then they are the top two contenders.

Quickfire begins with Andy and his college roommate. Andy just told the roommate that those "games" they played late at night in their bunkbeds WILL be talked about in his next book, so Dave, you have some explaining to the wife and kids. Andy, we are told, is "known for his antics." That he is.

Andy exorts the contestants to hook up with each other and I immediately think of Dougie spooning with Georgie. I then have to wash my eyes out with steel wool and bleach to remove the image. This hurts and still the image remains.

Padma gets Andy back on task and she introduces the Quickfire. It is a collegiate showdown of ramen proportions but the catch is that they must use the contents of the fridge of some poor frosh. Out come the stoner, the nerd, the sorority girl, the lady who should have graduated in '05 and one other innocuous soul. Their fridge contents make me worry about a scurvy outbreak at Emerson College.

We are regaled with stories of the craziest things they all did in college. Melissa built a 24-story beer bong. I went to school in Montreal so my craziest times were hanging out at Biftek on St. Laurent and getting drunk playing pool. Oh wait, I DID THAT EVERY NIGHT until I dropped out of college. Luckily I had some cooking skillz.

Gregory concocts a bacon, Doritos, leftover pizza broth, and I am immediately worried about the future of our country. Dougie has made a Cobb salad ramen with a "coconut-pineapple" broth, and I start looking for my Canadian passport. George, who has no idea what ramen is, 'cause Mike Isabella has never let him out before, is cobbling together a version of SpaghettiOs 2.0s. It has a hint of hot dog, but so does Andy, so this may be well liked. Melissa is making a "Crunchy Carbonara Ramen" which is probably already dispensed out of a coin machine in Tokyo and actually sounds pretty tasty. There is hope. Mei makes a smoked tomato miso with upcycled sushi. Sounds okay, so I stow the passport back and the "go bag."

There is no immunity but the winner gets 5K. Not bad for fifteen minutes of work/fame. Bottoms are Mei and Dougie. Tops are Gregory and George with Melissa winning this murky challenge.

They go to the little room of stewage and watch Julia Child. Then Jacques Pepin stops by and everyone gasps in amazement. I do too because if you don’t love Pepin you are not a nice person. He da bomb.

The Elimination Challenge is to come up with a dish inspired from Julia's cooking. Three hours to cook and one hour to finish on site tomorrow. They chat with Jacques for a while to learn the secrets of Julia, other than the fact that she was totally a CIA spy.

Doug is silent because of where he comes from. Texas shrugs as he says, "I grew up in East Texas and here I am meeting Jacques Pepin." Then he follows this ode to the state of Texas with, "I am from Texas so I can't pronounce things very well." C'mon Doug, your state gave us that Rick Perry character! He's fun to watch!

Doug is insistent on making a whole roasted foie gras. George is braising some veal and presenting it with some vegetables and pommes puree. There is some French going on around here. Melissa is challenging herself with shortribs. Mei is making duck a l'orange but you know it will show off some of herself. You can't spell Mei without ME. Gregory is making Coq au Vin. Tom wanders in during cooking to advise them to channel Julia and then they all try to sound like Julia. None of them will ever be known for their impersonation abilities.

We eat. It's outside. It's beautiful. The diners, or the we, are Dana Cowin, Jacques, Alex Prudhomme (related to Julia), Tom, Padma, Boston chefs Barbara Lynch, Joanne Chang, Mary Dumont, and little old me. I am hungry so don't talk much.

The food is really good overall. There were some issues like drier ribs, monotonous veal, raw foie, and maybe some flabby duck skin, but pound-for-pound they did the dishes well. Tops are Gregory and Mei, and the verdict is an interesting one. Gregory nailed a classic, but it was like he channeled Julia too much and did a textbook version, while Mei nailed a riff on a dish with her duck a l'orange. It is arbitrary who should win but Mei pulls it off and wins a just decision.

Not so arbitrary but still close is the bottom trio of Melissa, George, and Doug. Melissa erred in rib cookery. George cooked stunning veg but it was the veal that was a yawn. Alas, Doug bows out with his dish, a dish that he had never done but dreamed about. You don't just do roasted whole lobes of foie at the restaurant you work at, cause the owner chef would probably stab you if you ruined the 300 bucks in product. But this is TV money so he took a chance. The problem is that cooking whole foie is tricky. You can''t sear it too much or you will render away the beauty, and then you need to temper-roast it in a medium heat oven. Then it comes out and you rest it on a wire rack. It is pretty much served just warm. He did all of those steps, but over-seared it and then cooked it a hair hot, and not long enough, resultingin a greasy, yet raw internal. Funny thing is that the rest of the stuff on the plate was awesome. Well Doug, you were a favorite of ours and I wish you much success in Last Chance Kitchen.

And now we are four. Until next time.

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