Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

The Real Housewives of Seattle

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

The Real Housewives of Seattle

How do you solve a problem like John Tesar?

Hello, my little fried onions! Before, I get into this week's episode, I want to make sure you have all watched Last Chance Kitchen, or promise to immediately following reading my recap. Not only is the, ahem, Emmy-nominated, ahem, series back, but there's an added twist this season called Save a Chef, where you can, y'know, save a chef. Come back to for more details on Thursday!

We start this week's episode back where we ended last week's -- in the Stew Room. Josh and CJ vs. John. They throw around their insults -- Josh refers to John as a redneck, and we kinda start to see where John may have picked up that reputation he talked about. As is my custom to defend the more controversial cheftestants each season (Hi, Marcel!), I find that the best thing to do is usually ignore them if they bother you. John's initial argument about Kuniko's elimination wasn't anything that needed to escalate to the point it reached, but, hey, i haven't been up for hours cooking Thanksgiving dinner, so my state of mind is a little bit different. A reference to "The Real Housewives of Seattle" is made. Let's hope dinner tables don't get thrown!

Cut to the cheftestant house, where we finally see who gave Kristen the foot rub we sneaked a peek of in this season's trailer -- and it's Stefan. I don't know why this surprised me. It shouldn't have. At all. I hate feet, so this whole scene grossed me out like you wouldn't believe.

Sooo, let's pretend it never happened and moved on to the Quickfire Challenge. We see a familiar face -- Top Chef Master Naomi Pomeroy, chef and owner of the highly-acclaimed Beast in Portland. She has brought two beasts of her own in the form of giant beef slabs. The challenge? To butcher a cut of the beef and create a dish in one hour. Again, love the challenge -- it not only tests the chefs butchering skills, but also gives them a pretty wide-open arena to make anything they want. A few things happen in the first few minutes

1. Josie/Carla can't get their cut off the hook -- my heart sinks for them, but they're taking it in stride.

2. CJ eats the beef off the bone to test it for his dish. I'm minorly grossed out again, but I shouldn't be. We also get a little more insight into how confident he is this time around. And he has reason to be. If you'll remember, when he first competed he was working as a personal chef, most likely working in personal kitchens, but he is obviously much more comfortable in a proessional kitchen now.3. Kristen cuts her self, but don't worry she's fine! And it wasn't her beautiful face!

4. Lizzie reveals that she learned to use a pressure cooker before she came to compete. Smart cookie.

Padma and Naomi start tasting the beef, and we discover that Naomi likes her beef a bit more done. This actually shocks me. Woud've presumed she was a medium-rare lover. None of the dishes are looking very done, but at least that puts them on somewhat of an even playing field.

John wins the Quickfire in a close race with CJ and Josh. Victory is the best revenge.

Tyler, with a failed dish, utters the words "I can't do anything right," and my heart breaks. But I'm lightened by the fact that I can now successfully cast the role of Eeyore in the Off, Off Broadway production of Winnie the Pooh I'm putting on.

On to the Elimination Challenge! We meet Brian and Mark Canlis, the namesakes of the iconic Canlis restaurant in Seattle. The challenge is to recreate the restaurants' original menu from 1950. Although in past seasons we've asked chefs to upate classics, this time we're asking them to recreate the original classics. Although many of the dishes are no longer served in modern restaurants, the skills needed to create them are still pretty essential. Each chef gets one dish -- including side dishes -- and John opts to expedite since he has immunity.

Some fun things happenin' the kitchen: Josh teaches us what calf fries are. I obviously missed that episode of Bizarre Foods with Andrew Zimmern. Eliza makes up a "supreme" song, and I kinda fall in love with her. John tells us what a foodie his dad was in the '50s. I wonder if anyone knew what a foodie was in the '50s!

The chefs present their dishes, and the judges look almost tickled to be served such retro dishes. I have a flashback to Kitchen Confidential, Bourdain talking about serving classic dishes at the Rainbow Room. The chefs cook with mixed results. Stefan's calf liver is killer, and the judges are happy to see Stefan not turn the liver into ravioli. LIzzie makes herring with saltines! The judges love it. I"ve never had herring because i know my body will reject it. Just can't do it. Joshua's onion soup is just wrong. He had gotten mad at John earlier for telling him how important the chesse is, and you know what? He should've listened ot him. In fact, Noami wanted to "have a problem eating it." She didn't. John gives Josh a compliment (sorta) later saying it looked good. Actually he said that it looked like onion soup. That's not a real compliment. If you ever hear that, be offended. Brooke knows Josh's soup is salty -- I instantly respect her palate.Sheldon's mahi mahi is good, but Tom gets a bloodline. Josie makes a Flintstone-sized baked potato. It's aight.

But, honestly, who cares what anyone made cause Tom is digging those fried onions from Kristen. Every time the camera panned to him, he was putting more in his mouth. It as hilarious. In fact, they were so good they got Kristen the win, along with very well-executed mushrooms. She took her two "easy" side dishes as seriously as any of the chefs took their "more complicated" dishes, so kudos to Kristen. The desserts are all OK if not melted. You know it's the 1950s when you refer to something as "sherbet" instead of "sorbet." Amirite?! (I'm actually not right -- they're two different things.)

On the dark side of Judges' Table, Joshua reveals that John expedited like a "monkey." It didn't look like the judges were too keen on that assessment. CJ is on the bottom for his odd sous-vide kebab, but he gets to stay. Carla and Chrissy aren't so lucky. Carla's squab was just wrong -- undercooked for the diners, overcooked for the judges. She didn't pay attention to what the guys were doing in the grill room. Although I felt bad for Carla, I'm sure many of the chefs were happy to see her go. Her loud style wasn't received well -- Stefan couldn't even hear John's orders because she was talking so much!

Chrissy goes home for overdressed salad. But not just any salad -- the Canlis Salad. She had a difficult task, creating the only dish on the menu still there from 1950, but you could tell the minute we saw her tossing the lettuce in her bowl how overdressed and wilted it was.

But never fear, ladies -- you get a second chance in Last Chance Kitchen. (Did i mention that you should watch it now?)

I won't reveal who wins #LCK, but we'll discuss it in next week's recap, so stay tuned.

Until then, 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!