Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

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 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

And Don't Call Me Shirley

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

Hugh explains Carlos' problems with cutting fish and chides the woman who was allergic to seafood and came to this party.

Happy 2014, people! I hope you all got to eat some Hoppin’ John and some tasty collards with your loved ones. After a week off I feel like I need to get us back up to speed.

Justin has gone back to his little grocery store and his growing family. He did well to get this far in the competition, and I am very happy for him. More so there is a city that is still cheering him on, no matter what. That New Orleans; what a town. I hope Justin is smiling under that beard. He should be.

Phone calls from home start this episode. Stephanie's boyfriend has been tasked with getting her a fishing pole, and he has not followed through. She found him while looking around her kitchen. He was on the line and not playing hard to get. He even stuck with her after she got booted from last year’s first episode, which brings up a good relationship advisement: if someone leaves you after you fizzle out on reality television, they were not the person for you.

On to Captain Grumpypants, I mean Nick. He is sporting a yellow handkerchief in his back right pocket, which, golly, I just looked up the meaning of that and I hope this is just some oversight on his part. In some circles it means a love of watersports. I never saw that coming. But goddamn, he will retain his integrity, as opposed to that Carlos fellow, that no good, stealin', fish stinkin', knife stainin', guy in the bunk below him. I love that they are sleeping in bunkbeds, as this is the best way to whittle them down to tears, anger and utter hopelessness.

Nicholas really is the grumpiest gentleman at this stage of the season. It kind of is the next stage of his reality television personality arc. He has gone from utter chutzpah, to tears, to grumpy, to "doing pretty good so far." In his mind he is building a nice cabin out in the woods with a special writing room. He is starting a series of books entitled, The Most Serious Cook in the Room.

It’s an étouffée challenge with John Besh. I have a theory that John’s hair is actually a hairy brain separate from John that controls his every movement and thought. That is one smart bundle of golden locks. This is just a theory though, but a beautiful one.

They are all cooking and running around like mad. Nicholas has a lot of pet names for Stephanie, so many that I cannot keep up. John and Padma, and John's hairy brain taste the offerings.

Padma schools Carlos with the real meaning of the term étoufée. She just learned it a couple of minutes ago and feels the need to show off this newfound weapon.

Brian: Étouffée with Gochujang, Corn, Peppers, Crab, Crawfish, Andouille, and Pasta
Carrie: Spanish Style Étouffée With Crawfish Broth, Chickpeas, and Almonds
Stephanie: Crawfish Bisque with Parisian Gnocchi and Poached Crawfish
Nicholas: Crawfish-Shrimp Mousse Stuffed in Napa Cabbage With Brandy and Corn
Carlos: Soup with Crawfish, Guajillos, Garlic, Corn, Potatoes and Crispy Chorizo
Shirley: Singapore Chili Crab Étouffée with Crawfish Stock, Cucumber, and Egg
Nina: Italian Style Étouffée With Pici Pasta and Tomato Crawfish Broth

Carrie, Nicholas, Carlos and Stephanie hit the bottom. Brian, Nina and Shirley hit the tops.

Alas Shirley pulls it out with a pretty awesome looking Shirley can win some Quickfires. Nice.  

On to the Elimination Challenge where they will cook with Louisiana Seafood to show one dish showcasing two seafood offerings. Padma kids the kids with a quote of 1000 guests. . .HA HA HA HA. . .it’s only 200. That’s still a bear.

First they go to eat at John's abode. It’s a beautiful house with John doing his thing. That boy can cook. He and his wonderful wife met in kindergarten. That is nuts, but cute and awesome at the same time. The chefs eat like it's their last supper and get philosophy from John. At the end of dinner Nina wants to move in, set down roots and be adopted by the Besh family. You could do far worse in this life than to have that wish.

They pick their seafood and there is a lot of crudo talk. Carrie is having none of this and is making a dish that you would want in Maine, in January.

In watching Carlos cut the fish, his problem is that he is following the grain, as opposed to cutting through it. In this case it is a knife and it's operator causing problems. He borrows a knife from Nicholas, which is like borrowing Nick's firstborn child.

I still love the fact that they offer tastes of their dishes to each other looking for feedback. Under all the mild drama they are still quite enamored with each other. Except Nicholas. He is an army of one.  

Brian: Grilled Swordfish, Shrimp, and Sweet Onion Puree with Fennel Daikon Relish. He is not doing a crudo. It’s pretty great. I liked it a lot. So do the Tom and the John.
Carrie: Flounder Croquettes With Oyster Emulsion and Pickled Cucumbers. She paddled that fish. It was fine, but out of place, and the strangest use of flounder and a sauce that was blah. It was not stellar enough to rise above.
Stephanie: Fried Louisiana Oysters With Tuna and Pickled Beech Mushrooms. It’s an American Hustle but she’s doing it. And it was a great fried oyster. Really smart and played to a crowd that loved fried oysters. Every person I talked to loved it.
Nicholas: Oyster Soup, Champagne Emulsion, Green Apple Yogurt, Cured Amberjack. He’s a busy mind. It was fine. Technically sound, but it lacked texture and a reason.
Carlos: Amberjack Ceviche With Rustic Peach and Shrimp Relish Great salsa, fish was tiny and uncelebrated. Fish was really underseasoned.
Shirley: Tuna-Amberjack Ceviche, Aged Soy Sauce, Lime Dressing, Toasted Pecans. I thought it was great. In case you haven’t noticed yet, she is a beast of a chef.
Nina: Marinated Wahoo With Salsa Verde, Tonnato Sauce, and Pickled Vegetables. Nice. Very smart. Nina cooks what she knows and she knows a lot. She just cooks with such sincerity.

There really was a woman there allergic to seafood. That’s like going to a toga party with an allergy to cotton sheets.

Nicholas retrieves his only child, I mean knife, crusty with fish scales and left by the side of the road. He says that "Give me the chance, I will turn into a monster." Years of therapy may be in order. For all of us.

There is a moment where Nina and Stephanie are having a chat about Padma’s beauty. Then they turn to stone.

The teaser of our comments comes on to get the chefs into a nervous fit. Then the tops are brought out. Stephanie, Brian, and Nina are there. Stephanie wins. She deserved it.

As an aside: I think my posture is really good.

Bottoms are Nicholas, Carrie, and Carlos. Shirley is in the middle slot and happily stays back in the stew room to drink wine and cheers to another day.

I mean nobody likes being on the bottom but Nicholas just looks like he is going through the 6th rung of Dante’s Purgatory when he is up there. Carrie gets rocked with poor use of fish. Carlos get comments for bad fish focus. Nicholas gets the WAY TOO BUSY but flat.

Carrie is done. She’s done great and them's the breaks. She’ll be great in this food game. Good luck.

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