Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Lee Anne Answers (a Lot Of) Your Questions

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

Lee Anne Answers (a Lot Of) Your Questions

You asked. Lee Anne Wong answers.

Hi, everybody! I wanted to take the time to respond to some of your questions and commentaries, especially some of the more negative ones. It's been such a pleasure being given the opportunity to blog about Season 2, and I am glad that we (Tom, Gail, Padma, Harold, Dave, and I) have been able to give you our individual perspectives, as well as provoke some reactions from you. Thank you all for watching and reading!

Mun Yee L Cooling wrote: My husband Adrian & I enjoy cooking very much and we LOVED Season 1. Our favorites were you, Dave & Harold. It's so nice to see that you guys have formed a great friendship. The three of you have inspired us in different ways but together I think you'd make a killa team. Do you think the three of you would consider working together? Congratulations on your success and we hope to hear more from you!

The Peppermonkey and the Top Chef are two of my favorite people in this world. Harold has his hands full with opening Perilla, and we just found out this past holiday season that Dave will be moving east to take on the job of Executive Chef at Lola in Soho (which is right down the street from me). I think most of us have taken separate paths after the show, and life goes on (I didn't quit my day job, if you know what I mean), but I am also incredibly grateful that we have stayed in touch with each other. I have offered both Dave and Harold my assistance with filling their kitchens with good cooks when the time comes.

Jo Anderson wrote: Lee Anne - Please elaborate about your diet and how you learned to eat right. Jo

Another fabulous friend .... Please check her out at andreabeaman.com.

Susan wrote: LA, love your blog but I must question your involvement with the production staff for Season 2. You say you were brought in to define the rules of the challenges. Are you an attorney? It seems not only suspect to hire a former losing contestant on the show but extremely unethical. Why not enlist the other 11 cast members from Season 1? In all fairness, you didn't even make it to the top three! There is also talk around other fan sites that you are dating the director of the show. Hmmm.... Would love to you to address this. Perhaps that is how you get the "inside scoop." It all sounds pretty unprofessional for a show that is supposedly on the up and up.

Yes, I am a losing contestant from Season 1. No, I am not an attorney. And who I happen to be dating is none of your business. The Elves hired me because of my perspective from being a contestant in Season 1, and also because of my experience in a kitchen and on a TV set. Part of my job at The FCI involves setting the stage for other chefs when they come to give a demonstration or presentation. This involves logistical aspects such as coordinating recipes and schedules, ordering food and budgeting, setting up mis en place and equipment, and working with the chef to basically make sure he/she has everything they need to ensure a successful presentation.

Working on the set of Top Chef was slightly different, and took quite a bit of adjusting and learning, but my familiarity with such situations made it a comfortable fit. As far as defining the rules, I worked with the executive producers to make sure that the actual written rules would cover any questions the contestants may have and make the challenges explicitly clear to them so there would not be any incident where, "I didn't know" or "I didn't understand" would come up. All rules are sent to NBC legal for approval before we proceed with a challenge. And for the record, The Magical Elves are not only incredibly professional, but also happen to be very good at what they do.

peter cruize wrote: hey lee anne, thanks for your pizza tip using the pita bread. i will try it tonight. whatever happened to tiffany?

Peter, enjoy your healthy pizza, and last I heard Tiffani was working at Riche in New Orleans. I have no doubt she is doing very well and putting out some phenomenal food in the Big Easy.

Tad wrote: I couldn't agree with you more here in regards to the Marcel issue, but i just have one question: shouldn't a responsible producer have done more to show the kinder side of marcel in last night's episode? Hs willingness to help others, assist cliff with his color blindness, etc was reduced to a few seconds worth of footage. the rest of the episode was nothing more than a free-for-all bashing against him. now, to read all these blogs in defense of him just seems a bit cheap. the guy is clearly trying harder than what he is being given credit for on the air. i am not a fan of the petty drama the producers seem all to eager to air, while waiting to tell the other side of the story in a blog that few people will read. your viewers are deserve better, and marcel certainly deserved to be treated better than the footage the production team presented to the public last night.

I have nothing to do with the editing of the show, at all. Each episode is hours (and sometimes days) of footage that is sliced and diced down to roughly 45 minutes of solid TV. I am sure the editors are aware of the strong reaction from the viewers to cut back on the interpersonal drama and make it more about the cooking, and I am also sure they will take it into account. At the same time, this particular cast gave them plenty of ammunition. Personally, I'd rather see more about the food too, but the double edge of reality TV is that most of the time viewers like a little drama (just not this much of it).

Jung wrote: Thanks for your insider viewpoint. Marcel doesn't seem all that bad, and your comments verify that the others are picking on him. Do they read these blogs and viewer comments? Are they aware of how distasteful their behavior was to us viewers? Hopefully, in some follow-up or reunion, they will apologize.

Being under the glass for that long sucks. It is such a high-pressure situation for all of these contestants, and there is a lot at stake. It is not exactly easy to watch yourself on TV, each week rehashing the emotional rollercoaster you had to go through. I learned a lot about myself, both the good and the bad. I've gotten to know some of the Season 2 cast, and off camera, they're pretty spectacular individuals. Put 'em all together in the same room for weeks on end, maybe not so great. The spirit of competition is a vicious thing. Hopefully this has been as good of a growing experience for them as it was for me.

pat walsh wrote: Lee Anne, Where does one get to taste some of your food?

I'm still working at The French Culinary Institute in NYC. Keep your eyes open though, working on a book, a TV show, and spreading the gospel of pork.

Aingeal wrote: Sorry Leann but, if what I heard about your relationship with Harold is true, I have very little respect for you or him. (and just a side note...I never saw what the problem with Tiffany was....she was just as up front as any of the rest of you) I have to say that you do seem to have an odd affinity for a very poor chef in Mike, but then only a few people seem to have been chosen this year based on talent. It would seem the theme this year is Top Jerk not Chef. Only El has even come close to being a likeable human.....but I suppose this is what ratings get you. I'm very sad. I liked this show last year for the most part.

What exactly have you heard? To dispel all of the rumors once and for all, I am not dating Harold, I have never dated Harold, and nor will I ever date Harold (or what ever else you happen to be insinuating, speaking of respect...). We are very good friends, end of story.

Anne wrote: Hey, Lee Ann, you're affiliated with a culinary institute, right? Isn't front-of-the-house training part of the curriculum? I hold a meager degree from a community college and spent a full semester at the front of the house. Educational experience aside, it is so hard to imagine that these chefs with their audacious restaurant expertise have NO expectations for how their food should be presented. I was amazed that neither Cliff nor Illan could make that transition from conceptualizing to executing proper guest service of their product.

Not all cooks ever get a front of the house education, whether it's in a classroom setting, or working as a waiter. It is in fact a separate profession altogether that requires training and skill. Learning how to make a perfect sauce takes time enough, and while most culinary institutions do offer a small bit of front of the house training, Ilan and Cliff probably spend most of their waking minutes focused on how to make the food taste and look good, not how to present it. Add the pressure of building a restaurant in a few hours and not getting eliminated and there you have your drama.

done again wrote: Can we all agree that no one over the age of eight should ever use any form of the word yum? Yes, that includes yummy, yummo, yummilicious and any other modifications/derivations.

Could you possibly be speaking in yum about a certain yummo personality? I will admit to using words like yummalicious, yumtastic, yummorama, and yummalummadingdong. Or I could just be full of s#*t (otherwise known as yum). Agreed. Keep up the great comments everyone, I'm off to get some yummy snacky numnums.

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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

 

Bravotv.com: 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.

 

Bravotv.com: 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!