Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

Hugh picks the season's most condescending line, talks LSU's football prowess, and thinks lunch ladies are the future.

The biscuits are still having their effect a week later. The results of last week are that we are Travis-less, which means we will learn a lot less about Vietnamese cooking and his opinions of who's on top or bottom.

Strategically I think Nicholas pulled the best tearful moment in the history of Top Chef. I have no hesitation that it wasn't sincere, I'm just saying that his timing was perfect. The judges fell for the heartstring pull and the gnudi. He is a solid contender.

Brian, a man who has really encapsulated the new joie de vivre of LA cooking with his thoughtful food, tearful family odes and penis jokes, comes through with another gem to describe the moment. Unless someone makes a "Big Boner Mistake," he asserts, they should live to see another day. Brian continues to be the enigma of potty humor.

Questlove comes in for the Quickfire. He is the leader of the Roots, the ex-owner of HyBird Chicken and the leader of Jimmy Fallon's band. Padma mispronounces "restaurateur" just like everyone else in America. Questlove is on a quest for good food and nothing will stop this quest. Drumline. Drumsticks. Lots of fowl. You get the picture.

They cook and come up with novel and not so novel ways to use a drumstick. The initial rush of the cart is full of drama with Shirley falling down and getting trampled. It’s like a scene from Walmart on Black Friday. Nicholas ends up with quail drumsticks because he is a knight in shining armor and has assisted Shirley after she rang her Alert1 button ("I've fallen and can't get up!").

Drumsticks have a fair bit of connective tissue to them and you have to sever some of those tendons. Some of the chefs are getting all cheffy with this challenge, like Nicholas and hs artful butchery on his little quail fibulas. When you nail the cooking on a drumstick, and yes I am thinking about Popeye’s right now, you transcend the simple and simple food gets ethereal. Don’t contest my love of Popeye’s fried chicken. John T. Edge was right on with this assessment.

Sometime during this culinary drumroll Nicholas calls out the incessant hammering of Carlos on a goose bone by saying, "Carlos is self-taught, you know, and there are things that he doesn't know." Now, I am also self-taught, or rather taught my awesome chefs while I got paid, and I would like to thank Nicholas for the most condescending line of the season. Oh omniscient one. There are many bright people who come out of culinary schools but there are plenty that don't really get the term "boundless" attached to them. Same goes for the "self taught" league of chefs, except they don't have 90K in loans to pay back.

Padma, still wearing her referee onesie, comes in with Questlove to set the record straight on this whole drumstick cacophony.

Brian: Chicken Soup, Chicken Skin Crackling With Parsley and Thai Basil
Carrie: Squab Legs Marinated in Thyme, Juniper, & Cocoa Powder, Fig Mostarda
Stephanie: Fried-Grilled Turkey Leg, Sriracha and Sour Cream Buttermilk Dressing
Nicholas: Twice Fried Quail Drums With Sesame Sauce Rolled in Gomaiso
Carlos: Fried Goose Leg With Cranberries and Apple Salad
Justin: Chicken Drummettes With Smoked Aioli, Herb Salad & Sorghum Vinaigrette
Shirley: Crispy Duck Leg With Szechuan Chili Salt and Mint
Nina: Jerked Guinea Hen Charred With Juniper Berries and Scotch Bonnet Peppers

Evidently they never taught Nicholas to season properly at culinary school. . .Funny how comments bite you back. He ends up on the bottom with his quail drumsticks.

Self-taught Carlos also ends up on the bottom with some shards in his food from the hammer effect. I feel horrible for his knife, as that was one tough goose bone.

Justin gets shunted to the bottom as well. Too pedestrian. Quest was not in love with it.

Tops is Carrie with her squab drum. So get your pellet guns out because squab is pigeon. Carrie will get through the day as she has been granted immunity.

Going to Baton Rouge, which is a 79 minute drive in normal circumstances. As a Georgia Bulldog fan with SEC blood flowing through my veins I am thrilled to see this challenge at an SEC school. LSU loves its food. Their fans rock the tailgatin' well.

The challenge is to cook food for 500 frosh. The kids will be there for orientation. These chefs will be the lunch staff and are taking over the dining hall, which is one of the nicest dining halls I have ever seen, with the nicest being the Montgomery Bell Academy in Nashville.

Brian went to UCLA on a tennis scholarship, which was before he watched Half Baked 20 times in a row when he was 19. Some experiences change you.

RAV 4 travels. Brian got injured when drunk once. Shirley is getting jittery at the incessant stories, and is having a personal crisis as she finally realizes what it sounds like when someone talks nonsensically ALL THE TIME.

They get greeted by Brandice and Candice and are shown around the campus. LSU has a tiger. They also have a so-so football team this year. We beat them, but at the end of the year we both had kind of lackluster seasons.

Nice dorm, but there are no windows in many of the rooms. Stephanie is having flashbacks. Carrie has house servants and has no idea how to make a bed. Lights out. Goodnight,

Nicholas is still thinking this is restaurant wars and that he is the chef. He is an Alpha, that’s for sure. Carlos is needing a plancha station and is getting on people’s nerves. He is kind of grating on everybody today. Justin thinks it's not a good idea to cook down to people but I disagree on this issue. If the kids have a vote you should make the kids happy. If not, then cook for the judges. It's that simple. Even more simple is that good food appeals to everyone and so therein should be the concentration.

The lunch ladies come in to help. Lunch ladies are our future. If we let them cook better food, the whole nation gets better. So go hug your lunch lady. But punch your mascot, cause that tiger is neither funny, nor a positive cheerleader. My nine year old is still terrified of mascots so we steer way clear of them.

Brian: Shrimp Cake and Spinach With Chipotle Aioli. The frosh crowd seems to love it. Judges like them as well.
Carrie: Broccoli Salad With Herbed Yogurt Sauce and Pita Bread.Her food is not really selling. Pretty healthy boring, but she’s got immunity. It shows.
Stephanie: Spicy Tomato Soup with Pimento Cheese Sandwich. Sandwich in bowl is a mistake. These LSU kids don’t eat pimento cheese? See, Louisiana is definitely a different part of the South.
Nicholas: Roasted Pork, Parmesan Grits and Bacon Brown Sugar Gravy. Yankee cooking Southern food. This rings well with me.
Carlos: Seared Tilapia With Chile Ancho and Mexican Coleslaw. Oven gate. This challenges Nick’s honor. Nick gets ornery. The judges like the food though.
Justin: Marinated Gulf Shrimp, Cauliflower, Asparagus, and Garlic Puree. Justin likes it but the judges think it lacks flavor.
Shirley: Roast Beef With Potato Puree and Fire Roasted Tomato Relish. They likey. Cooked to the right doneness.
Nina: Fried Chicken With Sweet Corn Puree and Pickled Onions. Bland.

Stephanie has a little lunch lady in her, and wants to let her out.

They go to the stew room and drink. Nick decides to talk through OvenGate. Nick still doesn’t understand. The TV comes on and they like some of the food and find some flaws in others.

E

Tops are Shirley, Brian, and Carlos. Carlos proves that you can serve food really slowly and still fare pretty well. Shirley wins with her beef and now is the owner of a Toyota RAV 4. It also has an air conditioner.

Bottoms are Justin, Stephanie, and Nina. We all know exactly how they will react. Stephanie will be all agreeable. Nina will be diplomatic. Justin will be feisty.

Tom thinks that the key to institutional food is to load it up with salt, fat, and sugar. That is the proven path, yes, but we can do so much better. I don’t think, given his wonderfully engaging stances on food policy that Tom believes in the salt, fat, sugar path as a sustainable one, and that he was just pointing out the proven winner.

Nina is toasting herself. This is a ruse, as she ain’t going no where. Justin is packing his knives and going back home to his baby. Best of luck chef. You are a wonderfully feisty soul.

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Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Richard Blais congratulates Doug Adams on his admirable run and knows (from experience) this is just the beginning for this talented chef.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef.

Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about. A jumping off point for unrecognized or yet truly discovered talent.

Mr. Adams, yes I'm saying Mister because it pays respect to the man, and also because that's how The New York Times goes about things, came on to this season touting his resume of being a working class sous chef from Portland.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef. Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about.

Richard Blais

Sous chefs are on the line everyday (sous chefs from Portland I imagine are also butchering whole animals and foraging for botanicals, buts that's for a different blog). They are hands-on, blue collar grinders and early on Doug uses this statement to separate himself from the contestants who maybe are clipboard surfing, or worse, not even really in a restaurant at this stage of their careers. And although this is a part of his strategy or drive, and a very honest personal understanding and awareness of self, I have news for you...

Doug Adams is no longer a sous chef.

Sure, he may actually, technically still carry the title tonight, I'm not certain to be honest, but by his performance this season on Top Chef, he is now ready for the next stage in his career, and this is what can happen and should happen after Top Chef.

I can't imagine someone not taking a chance with giving Doug the opportunity to run a small restaurant. I can't imagine that someone out there tonight, hearing about Doug's goal of operating a Montana restaurant, connected in some way to hunting and fishing won't contact him. I can't imagine it; because it happened to me... My restaurant Juniper & Ivy in San Diego is a direct connection from my performance on Top Chef, and my gut tells me it had very little to do with "winning."

The fact is, winning is overrated.

Winning is fun. It may get you some cash or secure your ego, yes, but really, six months after this thing runs out on television, we are all just "that guy or girl from Top Chef.

Throughout this season, Doug has demonstrated everything one looks for in a great business partner. He cooks delicious, relatable, soulful food. He does it with a smile on his face. He cooks with a sense of authorship and knowledge of place and time. And perhaps most importantly (no, not his epic beard), most importantly, he communicates with his colleagues professionally and with integrity. I'd guess every cheftestant likes him. I know every judge likes him. He takes risks, like roasting a whole lobe of Foie gras, or say, blending up an aioli of ant eggs. Which, by the way, are you kidding me? Maybe he takes these chances because it's part of the game, but I think more so because Doug is a curious cook, which is a sure tell sign of a chef ready to do their own thing.

Doug, it may seem like I never had anything positive to say about your food, and maybe indeed that's how it played out on television, but it's not the case, Chef.

Congrats on an amazing run, one for all future contestants to take note of. And when rooms become available at your resort in Montana, I'm booking...

Blais
@RichardBlais (Instagram & Twitter)

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