Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Restaurant Woes

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

Restaurant Woes

If Tom Colicchio knew then what he knows now...

I know what you’re thinking, and I know how you’re feeling, and all I can say is that having now watched the episode and seen everything that went on behind the scenes, I share your frustration. I really do. 

I am going to remind you right off the bat: we judges are not privy to what happens when we’re not there. I usually take a walk-through the kitchen at some point and schmooze with the chefs (though I don’t for Restaurant Wars), but that walk-through doesn’t afford me insider knowledge. It’s really more for the chefs; it’s a chance to help steer them to make their dishes the best they can be. After that, we judges arrive in time to taste the dishes, confer with the chefs and each other, and make our determinations based on what we’ve ascertained from tasting the food and asking the chefs some questions. That’s it. I later learn what you learn the same way you do -- by watching the episode once it’s been completed.

 So here’s what we judges knew: 

· The Bouillabaisse was deeply flawed: the scallops were undercooked and the halibut was overcooked, for starters.  

· Our biggest problem with the dish, though, was that the sauce, which Josie made, was delicious, but there was not enough of it on the dish.

· Kristen plated the dish and determined how much sauce should be added.  

· Josie never stepped up to suggest that Kristen put more, ostensibly because she was deferring to Kristen, because it was Kristen’s concept.

· The gelatin was supposed to go into the dish, but Kristen decided not to use it because there wasn’t enough time; she subbed cream instead.  

· At the end of the day, Kristen, by her own assertion, was the one who approved all of the dishes going out.

Given those facts, we were faced with no choice but to send Kristen home.Here’s what I learned from watching the episode:

· Josie continuously dropped the ball.  

· She was insubordinate: She was asked to make the sauce the day before and didn’t.  

· She then assured Kristen it would be done in the first hour the following day but failed to follow through on that promise.  

· She procrastinated, pushing the dish later and later, so that there wasn’t enough time to execute it properly, nor was there time to fix the mistakes.

It’s bad enough not to do what you’re asked to do, but it’s a whole lot worse to say you’re going to do it and only afterwards reveal that you didn’t… time and again. Had we managed to discover this at Judges’ Table, the outcome of the challenge would have been different, but Kristen wouldn’t divulge it, insisting that the buck stopped with her. I wish I’d asked one more question: “If this were truly your restaurant and Josie were one of your chefs, would you have fired her?” I believe that Kristen would’ve had to have said “yes.” But, to quote Kristen herself, hindsight’s a bitch. I didn’t know to ask that question, 1) given that Kristen was determined not to reveal what Josie had done, and, 2) as a result, given the information we had and how it (mis)shaped our sense of what had happened in the kitchen.

There were other problems that contributed to Atelier Kwan's loss. As you could see, Atelier Kwan’s whole set-up for service was a mess, though, again, that was because they were still dealing with prep when service began. But that’s not entirely Josie’s fault. The dishes, as Kristen herself pointed out in her exit interview, were complex and difficult to produce in their restaurant. A dish with six or seven components on a plate is not going to work. The art in being a chef isn’t in creating the dishes, it’s in then taking them and putting them into a system that will work so that you can then produce each dish writ large. As with composers who have written musical compositions that are too hard for performers to play, it’s not a great restaurant dish if you can’t pull it off in a restaurant.  

Urbano’s cooking and expediting, on the other hand, was smooth and organized, despite that restaurant team’s having one member fewer than Atelier Kwan's team had.  Urbano had none of the chaos that Atelier Kwan experienced. And with Stefan in the front of the house, that meant there were only two chefs in the kitchen making it happen, which was truly impressive. While Stefan’s service left Danny Meyer telling him not to quit his day job, no one was left waiting for food.

And the food at Urbano was great. In all the fury over the Kristen-Josie issue, let’s not forget that Sheldon did an amazing job. His concept was terrific -- I think he’s really on to something. He put together a great restaurant, and every dish was a very good, strong dish. The flavors in each dish were harmonious, and the meal worked beautifully and harmoniously as a whole as well. On a nice note, Restaurant Wars was the perfect challenge for Danny Meyer to join us for, and I’m so glad he came out to Seattle for it. I was partners with Danny for nearly 10 years, and it was great to have him there and to get to take a little stroll down memory lane with him.

However you might feel about Josie and/or Kristen and/or the outcome of this challenge, I have two more things to say.  First of all, I’ve had tweets for weeks now asking why Josie’s still here. Some even cite that she served raw turkey in one episode and demand to know why she wasn’t sent home. She had IMMUNITY. That’s the point of immunity. When you win it, you can’t be sent home in that Elimination Challenge, even if your dish is the worst dish of the challenge. This is a competition. The results are not cumulative; each challenge is judged based on what we are presented (both at the meal and at Judges’ Table) in that challenge alone. The week that Josie served raw turkey, she had immunity.  This week, Kristen refused to fill us in on Josie’s insubordination… as, of course, did Josie herself. It’s frustrating to know that Kristen fell on her sword, but she did… which leads to my second point. Kristen’s assumption of responsibility and refusal to set the record straight when she could have shows a lot of character. It shows, further, that she truly understands what it means to run a restaurant kitchen and be responsible for every plate that leaves it. I commend her for that.

And, well, there’s always Last Chance Kitchen…

 

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

George decided the best way to satisfy New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski  was with a hearty breakfast. Make it for yourself at home.

Pork and Veal Sausage Patty With Sunny-Side Up Egg and Potato Hash

 

Ingredients
3 lbs pork butt
1 lbs veal
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 bunch chives
1 bunch parsley
1 Tbsp fennel seed
Pepper (to taste)

 

Directions
1. Grind prok and veal using medium dye, reserve and keep cold

2. Toast cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in a sauté pan until aroma is released. Grind in spice grinder, reserve

3. Chop parsley and chives fine, reserved

4. Chop garlic super fine, reserve

5. Mix meat with spices, smoked paprika, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper

6. Test a small batch in fryer. Taste and adjust seasoning

7. Form into patties, place on grill, then finish in oven