Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Lee Anne's Favorite Cobbler And Brussel Sprouts

Gail: Mei's Menu Was Almost Flawless

Make Top Chef Mei Lin's Winning Dessert!

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

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Hugh: Mei's a Chef's Chef

Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Make Mei's Sushi Style Guac!

Gail: I Wasn't Surprised Doug Stayed on Top

Get Doug's Masterpiece Brisket Recipe

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

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

Lee Anne's Favorite Cobbler And Brussel Sprouts

Two Thanksgiving Recipes from Lee Anne Wong.

Two of my favorite Thanksgiving recipes:

Apple, Pear and Cranberry Cobbler INGREDIENTS: 1½ lbs. Apples, Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into ½" thick wedges 1½ lbs. Bosc Pears, peeled, cored, and cut into ½" thick slices 1 cup Fresh/Frozen Cranberries 2/3 cup Granulated Sugar 3 Tablespoons Dark Brown Sugar 2 Tablespoons Cornstarch 2 Tablespoons Lemon Juice 1 teaspoon Vanilla Extract 1 teaspoon Ground Cinnamon 1 teaspoon Freshly Grated Ginger 2 cups all-purpose Flour 2 teaspoons Baking Powder ½ cup Cold Butter, cut into small dice 1 cup Heavy Cream, plus more for brushing Sanding Sugar, Pearl Sugar or Sugar in the Raw, for sprinkling Salt

DIRECTIONS: Preheat the oven to 375F. In a large bowl, combine the apples, pears, cranberries, 1/3 cup of granulated sugar, the brown sugar, cornstarch, lemon juice, vanilla extract, cinnamon, and ginger with a heavy pinch of salt. Mix well to coat and combine. Lightly grease a 13x9 (2 quart) ceramic or glass baking dish.. Spread the fruit mixture in the bottom. In a food processor, combine the flour, baking soda, and remaining 1/3 cup of sugar. Pulse once or twice until combined. Add the cubed butter and pulse a few times until the mixture resembles a coarse meal. Add the heavy cream and pulse until it forms a soft, sticky dough. Be careful not to overwork the dough, as it will become tough. Spoon the dough in heaping spoonfuls to cover the fruit in the baking dish. Gently brush the dough with a little extra heavy cream and sprinkling with the finishing sugar. Place the baking dish on a parchment or foil lined sheet tray and bake in the oven until golden brown, about 1 hour. Let cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before serving.

Pan-Roasted Brussel Sprouts with Bacon

INGREDIENTS: ¼ lb. Applewood Smoked Bacon, cut into ¼" dice 1 pint Brussel Sprouts, washed and halved 1 clove Garlic, minced ½ teaspoon Fresh Thyme , minced 1 piece Bay Leaf ½ cup Dry White Wine 2 Tablespoons Apple Cider Vinegar 1½ cups Chicken Stock Salt and Black Pepper Juice of 1 Lemon 1 Tablespoon Parsley, minced

DIRECTIONS: In a large saute pan, cook the bacon over medium heat until it begins to brown slightly, about 5 minutes. Add the brussel sprouts and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 3 minutes until they begin to color, and the bacon is getting crispy. Stir in the garlic, thyme, bay leaf, and deglaze with the white wine and cider vinegar. Cook until most of the liquid has reduced, about 3 minutes. Add the chicken stock and cook, partially covered, until the liquid has evaporated and the brussel sprouts are crisp tender, about 10 minutes. Remove the bay leaf and discard. Finish with a squeeze of lemon, salt and pepper to taste, and freshly minced parsley. Serve immediately.

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

Richard Blais explains why Mei Lin won, and why we'll definitely be hearing from Gregory Gourdet soon.

The finale of Top Chef is the one absolute every season. Make the best meal of your life, in a multi-course tasting format for a room of the "who's who" in the culinary industry.

If you get to the finals, it's the type of thing you can prepare for. Every finalist should have a few four to five course menus floating around their heads, including a dessert, and all complete with options and Plan B's transcribed to their moleskins. And although the knowledge of what's coming is helpful, the format does not play to every chef's strengths.

There aren't too many restaurants committed to such meal services. Which means less chefs experienced with how to "write" and execute them. A progressive meal has to have a certain flow about it. And even the stereotypical versions of the "menu degustation" could force a contestant into cooking a dish that's not in their wheelhouse, for instance a straight forward fish course because "it belongs there."

Tonight, Mei Lin has a slight advantage. She cooks in a restaurant every day that showcases a tasting menu. Her food has been the epitome of a modern tasting menu all season. Many previous times, to a fault. Mei's food is small and precise. Beautiful to look at, and intellectually stimulating to discuss. Cold sometimes, every once in a while a shaved radish plated with tweezers heavy. It's not for everyone. It's not for everyday. But it's the type of food that when done well, can win Top Chef. Win James Beard Award noms. Win Best New Chef honors. Win Michelin stars.

Her future could indeed be bright.

What struck me most about Mei's food tonight however, wasn't technique. Technique and presentation often can get in the way of flavor. But tonight Mei delivered a few courses that were deeply satisfying. Soulful, delicious food that also was presented at a high level and cooked with surgeon's precision. That congee though...combined with a simple dessert that took yogurt and granola to another planet, won her the day. Her other two courses were fine, but suffered from the strains of modernity. Overly plated (the duck) and technically overwrought (the fried octopus).

Gregory on the other hand, it's just not his finest work. You can hear it in his voice as he's explaining his food. He's cooking improv, an ode to Mexico. The problem is, this isn't a jam session at a local cantina. This is a studio session where the chefs should be cooking practiced and refined pieces.

His octopus was a highlight and featured the unusual combination of passion fruit and avocado. It was an explosive start. The following two courses unraveled a bit, with the soup being good, but way too unrefined for the moment and technically problematic (the crispy shrimp heads), and the fish course bordering on dessert with the sugary carrot purée.

The mole was authentic and delicious, the rib cooked perfectly, but the dish felt a little incomplete. I believe Gregory had the better ideas, but just needed to think them through a bit more.

His sadness after the fact, I can attest, is profound. Tearful. Absolute emptiness. Close to the feeling of the sudden loss of a loved one. This may shock some of you, because it is indeed just a game. The mere thought of feeling that way over such silliness is well, silly. But not for us. This isn't the Super Bowl where an athlete loses and they can shake it off. Jump in their Bentley and start thinking about next season. There is no next season. There is no guaranteed pay day for the runner-up. The ten wins you had before don't matter. It just ends. Suddenly. And it's rather sad.

The good thing is, this is certainly, 100%, not the last time you will hear from Gregory. I waxed last week about Doug's professionalism, all of which is very true. But Gregory... Gregory is a special talent. His food (and I can say HIS type of food, because it's unique to him), is a study in refined, exotic comfort. What the man can do with a one-pot meal of braised anything, some chilies, sugar, vinegar, herbs, and spices is beyond impressive. Rarely do I taste food that makes me jealous as a cook. Rarely do I taste food that makes me start thinking about a new restaurant concept. The word inspiring in cooking competitions is sort of like the word "love," when it gets used too much, it loses it luster. Gregory's food however. I love it. It is inspiring.

Congrats to Mei and Gregory! Tom was right, I can't wait to one day say I saw you two way back when, in Mexico, in a little kitchen, before the bright lights, fancy kitchens, and big stages that lay ahead for both of you.

See you next season. I hope!

Richard Blais
@RichardBlais - Twitter and Instagram

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