Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Whip It Good - Ep 8

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

Whip It Good - Ep 8

Maybe the chefs should just worry about their own dishes.

Hello, my little husky muffstaches. Ew. 

This past week's Last Chance Kitchen episode pitted newly-eliminated Danyele against reigning champ, CJ, in a battle of the sandwiches. If any of you have been watching since Season 1, you'll remember that Tom issued a similar challenge in Episode 7, a challenge Harold Dieterle won. This time, though, it was all about the lunch meat, poking fun at Padma's critique of Danyele's berry challenge-losing terrine, that apparently tasted like balogna. Danyele decides to go the classic route and makes a turkey sandwich, something she eats daily. CJ puts a spin on a classic ham and butter sandwich. Although Tom does like simple food, I don't think Danyele's turkey sandwich is quite it. It's still Top Chef. I think if she had elevated the sandwich a bit, Danyele may have had a better chance. Farewell, Danyele. (I'm a poet, and I didn't even know it.) While she dukes it out with Kuniko in our Save a Chef vote, CJ moves on to compete another week. Go, Big Ceej!

OK, on to this week's episode. Sidenote: if you like Kristen's Top Chef hoodie, you can purchase one right HERE. I want one too!

The chefs wake up early to head to Bow, Washington to harvest their ingredient. What ingredient? They have no idea. They end up at Taylor Shellfish Farm. I hope Top Chef Master Kerry Heffernan is watching because he loves an oyster. Anway, the chefs start picking their oysters, and Josie gets stuck. No one wants to help her. Sadsies. Micah helps and falls on his arse. Life isn't fair. John is in heaven as he grew up in east end of Long Island and knows what he's doing. This reminds me... although it's about clamming and not oyster farming, I recommend the movie Diggers about clamming on Long Island. I have a feeling the lifestyles might be similar. Hey, Paul Rudd and Ken Marino are in it! The chefs have to use their harvested oysters to create either hot or cold dishes for Emeril. I instantly thought to make a po' boy for the New Orleans connection, but John one-upped me making oysters in the style of Drago's. Drago's is sooo good. They charbroil their oysters. He also mentions Brennan's, home of Bananas Foster. The chefs come up with some pretty varied preparations. Stefan smokes his oyster, which is legal now in the state of Washington. Lizzie highlights red currants. P.S. Josh called his shucking a "wrestling match for sure." I love that Josh compares everything to wrestling. We're going to need to come up with a name for him. His last name is Valentine, so the possibilites are endless. There was Greg "The Hammer" Valentine, so I vote for calling Josh "The Hammer" from now on, but it's up to you guys! Leave your sugestions in the comments below!

Ultimately, Bart, Josie, and John fall to the bottom. Lizzie, Micah, and Brooke end up on top. And Micah wins! He knew to bring the heat. He reveals that he's a single father with two daughters, and that he was just happy to cook for Emeril, whom he refers to as G-d to his Moses. Okaaaaay.

On to the Elimiation Challenge! The chefs are going to cook for one of Seattle's hottest sports teams -- the Rat City Rollergirls! I instantly thought of a very underrated film, Whip It. Watching the movie has pretty much ben my only exposure to roller derby, so bear with me. The chefs team up. John and Brooke. Bart and Josie. Micah and Lizzie. Joshua and Sheldon. Stefan and his wife, Kristen, who wink at each other. Each team must create a dish inspired by their rollergirl's name.

That evening, the chefs head to the derby to see what all the fuss is about. Although iti's relaxi-time, no one is relaxing. Josie is cheering, loudly, and everyone's getting annoyed. Not only does Josie's voice hurt "The Hammer's" soul, but he now says it's like nails on a chalkboard. When the chefs get home, Josie and Micah get into it. Josie tells the chefs not to bark up her tree. She says something about Micah getting out of the closet. Although this seemed like she was insinuating that Micah's gay, I didn't get that impression. What else would it have meant? I don't know. Either way, it did not go over well.

On a happier note, the judges enjoy coming up with fun roller derby names for each other. Or rather Hugh enjoys giving his fellow judges names. Emeril reveals that his is "Bam Bam," which rivals his porn name, Toughie Baker. Don't know what I'm talking about? You're going to want to watch THIS.

Padma gets "Padma Smacks me." Yikes!

Let's get to the food. John says that Brooke reminds him of his daughter, which is sweet and sad. Their food is received really well. 

Bart and Josie have some issues and end up on the bottom. Their dish actually reminded me a lot of a dish I just ate at Five Leaves in Greenpoint with beautiful forbidden rice with beets, sans any teriyaki. That dish was a winner, though. This one, unfortunately, was "interesting." Interesting crappy, in this case.

Stefan and Kristen had an, um, interesting, concept: an "inside-out" chicken, much like Paul Qui's dish for Charlize Theron last season, but the judges were missing the chicken. 

Lizzie and Micah receive kudos for their fried pepper, while Josh and Sheldon's fried offering, tempura, is lacking.

John, Brooke, Micah, and Lizzie make up the top group, with John and Brooke taking home the win.

Josh, Sheldon, Josie, and Bart fight for their right to stay in the competiion. Josh pulls a CJ, but admits he's doing it, and asks how Micah and Lizzie's pepper ended up on top. Worry about yourselves, chefs!

Luckily for Josh, the judges thought Bart and Josie's dish was worse than his and Sheldon's. In fact, it was "teriyaki terrible." Good one, Tom. Bart goes home for the dish -- he apparently needs to season his food more. The adorable Bart goes home graciously but notb efore mtioning that too much salt is bad for you. Touche, Bart. Touche.

Bart moves on to face another Amazon, CJ, in Last Chance Kitchen. Watch now!

See you in 2013! Until then, Have a Nosh!

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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!