Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Return Of The Midge

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

Return Of The Midge

This episode really got to Lee Anne, except for the part when she got to hang with Entourage's Debi Mazar.

Happy New Year everyone! Hope you all had a wonderful holiday season. I rang in the New Year by having a porktastic party with some of my friends.

This episode really bothered me, as it turned into another Marcel bashing. I have to say, I am sometimes stunned at how the other contestants really let loose on him. Mob mentality plays a big part here, and when you're cooped up with the same people for weeks on end, it's easy to see how all the little things can get to you. The difference is, as adults, we have an off switch and we should know when to keep our mouths shut. I sometimes wonder if the contestants forgot there was a camera around.

I remember how in the end it became second nature to have a camera in your face at all hours of the day. As spoken of before, yes, he's annoying. Yes, there's an abuse of foam. But for the record, Marcel is first and foremost a human being, and actually a pretty nice guy. I have hung out with him outside of the show and I respect his ambition and focus. After witnessing the level of hostility he fielded from the other contestants, I respect him even more for maintaining a sense of humor and composure. The other contestants just come off as being juvenile and in my mind it all just becomes motivation for Marcel to win.
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Poor Mike Midgely. I remember seeing him before and after he went to the dentist. It's as if the dentist took out his molars with a pair of rusty pliers. I was particularly fond of the challenges for this episode. Both of these were about the creativity of the contestants, with very little restrictions. I think some of their interpretations of the colors were good, some not so good. For the record, brown can be a lovely color.

Some of the contestants took the challenge too literally, concentrating on single monochromatic tones, and less on flavor. In Betty's case, less definitely would've been more, and she forgot that in the end it had to taste good and make sense. I thought Cliff's use of kalamata olives in his potato puree was genius, and his dish actually tasted pretty good. The same goes for Sam and Elia. Both of them had great use of color and flavors (see ... white's not so hard...). But in the end -- TADAAAA!!! -- Michael comes out on top with his orange glazed salmon. In classic Midgely style, he cracked me up with his quip on the lack of immunity.
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Move onto the seven deadly sins. What a fun challenge and I think the contestants responded really well to this challenge. I'll do a run-down in order to make this quick and easy. Sam's ceviche with popcorn was absolutely delicious, with a good amount of heat to remind me of wrath. Betty had several problems. Her soups were not balanced in flavor or texture. Plus the idea of serving three soups out of champagne glasses, not so great. By the time you get done plating all of the soups, they are all cold.

Cliff's bouillabaisse was tasty, but there was not enough broth (which actually is what makes a bouillabaisse a bouillabaisse). Mike does well with his trout and salmon creation, which I prepared for the webisode. It's actually very easy to make and deliciously satisfying. Elia's chickens were ridiculously good, bathed in whole butter. It became a timing issue because she wanted to present her chickens and carve and plate tableside. All of the contestants were given 20 minutes to plate from the time that the previous course goes out. Plus there was the timing issue with the guests taking smoke breaks.
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Marcel easily had the nicest plated dish. I was actually standing in the kitchen with the contestants when the whole exchange between Marcel and Betty went down. First of all, he didn't really snap at her. She was about to go running into the dining room with his plates before he was ready. She was being hypersensitive and the fact that Ilan plays into this is sooooo boring. I am curious why Ilan didn't fry his funnel cakes on site. Technically, he had the most time to plate and prepare, with over three hours to get his dish ready. For him to publicly rag on Marcel's dish, his own dish needed to be spectacular, which it was not. Either way, he scores 20 points for immaturity this episode.
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Hooray for Mike, taking the entire episode as the winner. I was really happy to see him win both challenges. But we say goodbye to Betty, whose sparkling personality and comfort food got her this far in the competition. (Just don't get on her bad side.) From what I hear, Betty is doing quite well for herself and says that Top Chef was a great experience for her. I wish her the best and hope to see her again someday.

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Let me end by saying that Entourage is probably one of the ONLY shows I watch religiously. For Debi Mazar to come up to me and tell me she was a fan of mine was thrilling. She and her friends were fantastic to meet and work with and I'd love the opportunity to cook for her someday. So it's back to work. Hope you all have made good resolutions. I've set some challenging goals for myself and I hope that 2007 will be my best year ever. I'll keep you posted. Til next time....