Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

To 'Infinity' and Beyond

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

To 'Infinity' and Beyond

The chefs board a cruise to Alaska.

Hello, my little butterfly hair combs. (A Titanic reference seems appropriate.)

Doesn't it feel good to dodge a bullet sometimes?

No -- it doesn't feel good.

This little exchange between Josh and Brooke at the top of the show really stuck with me for some reason, but I'm also weird, so, y'know, whatever. Speaking of dodging bullets... Josie and Kristen battled it out in Last Chance Kitchen, and Kristen won. Please -- your applause is deafening. So, Kristen has now won two weeks in a row. And CJ is still alive in our Save a Chef vote. Things are getting interesting, everyone.

Back in the television screen, Padma and Tom invade the Stew Room to tell the chefs to pack their bags -- they're heading to Alaska! On a cruise! Everyone's psyched except Brooke, who apparently hates boats. This is where I tell you that I love cruises! I'm basing this off the one cruise I took on Spring Break with my best girlfriends senior year of college, but was maybe the most relaxing time I've ever had. I had a mild flirtation with a server, Piter (no idea how he spelled his name, but that is how he pronounced it.) But Piter got sick the last night, and so I never got to properly say goodbye. Piter, if you're reading this, you left quite an impression on me! Sigh.

Anwyaaay, I've heard Alaskan cruises are beautiful, so needless to say, I'm very jealous of our chefs. But then again, I don't have to cook things on national television, so I guess it's a trade-off.

P.S. Did anyone notice Stefan's odd look of relief when Padma announced that the chefs' final destination was Alaska. We'll call it his "salmon face." Raw fish at every dock! Think of the possibilities.

Stefan is packing his camping pants. Camping pants. Camping. Pants. 

Also! We learn that Stefan's mom tricked him into joining the army, which is one of the most odd and awesome stories we've ever heard on Top Chef. Stefan's ready for another booze cruise. He's ready to put his party pants on, which I think implies no pants at all, but that's just speculation. The chefs arrive at the Celebrity Infinity. We see a lot of great shots of the boat, and I'm ready to book another trip There's a Jacuzzi! There's a Jacuzzi! Brooke, those Jacuzzis get you into trouble. Trust me.

Stefan's already too close for Brooke's comfort.

The chefs enter the boat's kitchen and see Padma and Curtis Stone (he of the dreamboat variety). I love it when a handsome man wears a thick cardigan -- call me crazy. Lizzie comments that he looks really cute, and then says slyly "I wonder what we're going to have to do." Easy, Lizzie! Let's keep it professional.

For the Quickfire Challenge, the chef have to create one-bite dishes highlighting iceberg lettuce. All the chefs are throwing iceberg lettuce some shade, and they're not entirely wrong. It's not super-flavorful and doesn't have nearly as much nutritional value as other lettuces. It's basically water. But, guess what? Give me some shredded iceberg and some queso fresco and I'm satisfied. The chefs check out their cooking space and quickly see that they're working on electric stoves and not gas. As they start to conceptualize their dishes, Stefan makes the gross comment "They're freezing upstairs. Padma should have something warm in her mouth." Shudder. This was actually the first time I thought Stefan kinda crossed the line, but I guess that's Stefan. 

Overall, the chefs did a solid job. A couple of the ladies got criticized for not creating true one-bite dishes, but nothing was inedible. Sheldon and Stefan's dishes seemed to be the most innovative with Stefan braising his lettuce and Sheldon pickling the core. Ultimately, Sheldon wins! 

Sidenote: I loved when Curtis commented that Josh walks like a chef. I honestly have no idea what he means, but yet I know exactly what he means.

After Sheldon's win, he and Lizzie take advantage of some of the amenities on the boat and go for manicures! Josh doesn't think real mean get manicures. Well, I think i can speak for a few women when I say we'd rather you get regular manicures than have either long nails or gnarly ones. During their mani, we learn that Lizzie's father passed away pretty recently. I'm sorry, Lizzie. She admits that this trip will be quite emotional for her, but hopefully she'll be able to focus.

Josh might have some focus issues as well as he hasn't spoken to his wife, and she's almost due. We'll learn later on, in scenes from next week's epsiode, that she's in labor. Yikes!That night, the chefs get to relax -- well, as much as we ever let the chefs relax on Top Chef -- and the chefs eat at Qsine. My friend just took a Celebrity cruise and told me about the atmospher and food there, so it was fun for me to see the chefs there. After quite a bit of shit-talking, Padma and The Handsome Cardigan arrive. They issue the chefs' Elimation Challenge: to reimagine surf and turf. Since Sheldon won the Quickfire, he gets to pick his proteins first. The proteins he selects are off limits to the other chefs. Sheldon jokes that he'll select canned tuna and Spam, which is pretty much what Hugh has been joking about in relation to Sheldon every week in his blog. Weiiird. Oh by the way, Sheldon worked at Disney World. Whaaat?!

The chefs select their proteins, and although Sheldon has first pick, he selects the two most traditional: beef and lobster. Alhough the other chefs are surprised by this seemingly boring choice, I look at it as an opportunity. If he can cook them in a new and exciting way, he could win. Make the judges see them in a different light, Sheldon!

Theres some tension in the kitchen between Brooke and Josh. They actually have a really interesting relationship, but I don't quite know what to make of it. Anyone have any insight they care to offer?

All the chefs are all working furiously till the end of their time. The judges are joined by several members of the Celebrity Cruises team including Executive Chef John Suley. They talk about how nice the weather is. If you're a whale. Tom is waiting to see a narwhal. This is the weirdest exchange i think we've ever had between the judges, and i love it. if this is how they are on a boat, let's film a whole season on a boat!

Let's go through the dishes, shall we?

The judges really like Brooke's frog leg dish. Her papadum was greasy, but that was the only real criticism. Spoiler alert! She wins!

Stefan serves crispy pork with beer sauce and eel/ravioli. HIs dumplings weren't unagi enough, his sauce was greasy, but the the real issue -- or rather, debate -- seemed to be his pork. I found this whole conversation around the pork fascinating and was pretty happy Curtis, someone familiar with that style, was there for it. While the American and Canadian judges seemed to be really bothered by the crispy pork, it reminded Curtis of home. When Stefan said he was making it and i saw how he scored the top, I instantly thought of the pork at Porchetta here in NYC. The method seems to be similar. So, yeah, it's a thing. Whether Stefan's pork was just inedibly hard -- unlike Porchetta's -- is another question.So, was this just a culture clash? I don't know. I think the judges would have allowed for a certain amount of crispines, but if they couldn't even bite into it, what fun is that? Whether you're familiar with a dish or not, good food is good food. And apparently Stefan's was not.

P.S. I'm always skeptical when a chef says they're making something from his/her childhood because it could be amazing and soulful or they may find out that they've been eating crap all these years. Let's just make things inspired by our childhoods, OK? Deal.

Josh shows his cards pretty quickly saying his scallop pasta -- a great idea! -- didn't set correctly, so he had to make scrambled eggs. Thankfully, the diners like it, and he's safe!

Sheldon stays pretty traditional, and his tempura is soft… again. Uh-oh. Also his ingredients aren't marrying well. They're not even dating. [Cue other weird judge convo.] On the plus side, Hugh could eat his kimchi all day. And Hugh knows his kimchi

Lizzie has some troubles with the steamer and her cabbage doesn't cook enough, but her food's good. It's just messy and hard to eat.

Ultimately, it's between Sheldon and Stefan to go home. For the first time I felt like Sheldon really tried to BS the judges. He told them he was uninspired by the ingredients... the ones he chose. Nice try, Sheldon.

Luckily for Sheldon, the judges really didn't care for Stefan's dish, and he goes home to compete against his wifey in LCK. It's a good one! Watch 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.

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!