Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Whip It Good - Ep 8

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

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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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.

For a good time, follow me on Twitter @hughacheson

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