Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Stifler's Mom Is Saucy

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

Stifler's Mom Is Saucy

Harold Dieterle on Jennifer Coolidge, cooking leftovers, and why chicken's feet are tops.

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I thought that this was one of the better challenges that I've seen for far. Leftovers is very smart. Except... The one ingredient that I wish hadn't been there for the Quickfire Challenge was the sweetbreads. This is why there were so many quickfire dishes with Sweetbreads. Most of those contestants have worked with them before. If it was among the choices in front of me, I would have chosen it, too. It's a no-brainier.

There were a lot of ingredients up there that require a long cooking time. You can brine, poach, and crisp a sweetbread in under an hour. That table had so many ingredients. I was watching Josie grab these giant oxtails, and I thought "No! Grab the small ones! Those things aren't going to cook in two hours!" I saw Cliff trimming up his oxtails, and I wanted to show Josie, "Look at Cliff! Look! You have to make them smaller!" Two hours to do a huge piece of meat like that is quite a push.

A lot of viewers were probably freaked out by the chicken feet, so let me explain really quickly: Chicken feet are really fantastic for sauces. They're used a lot in Chinese cooking, and especially in wonton soup broth. There is a ton of gelatin in the chicken feet. It's what gives the broth its body. And best of all, it's a serious amount of protein. I thought the selection of ingredients was fun and cool and it was fun watching Marcel mix up the pig's blood and make the emulsion. I don't know how well it tasted, but it was interesting. I thought Elia's kidney and crusted potato salad was kind of a cop-out. You've got two hours, come on, show me something.

As for the Elimination Challenge, here's my take: Going into someone's restaurant and using their leftovers sounds really daunting. But that restaurant -- once you see them standing in there, walking around all these fabulous ingredients, it's not really leftovers at all. When I open my restaurant I hope to have leftovers around like that.

I guess was just looking for some decadent food. You have Stifler's mom up there, she's a saucy chick. Who's bringing it over the top? And I liked seeing Betty trying to get everyone together on what they were making. I thought that conversation should have happened at someone point, instead of pulling a menu out of the air. Particularly for a tasting menu, you don't know if there's going to be a cohesiveness among the menu. You have to coordinate those flavor profiles. They're all good at working as a large team, they just never choose to. They clearly do a nice job helping each other plate every thing and get it out there. You want everyone to work together. But planning a menu? It's silly to not work together as a team for that.


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I was sad to see Josie sent home. I really thought she was going to tear it up at some point, but she never really hit her mark. She has an infectious smile, you were always pulling for her, and it was a bummer to see her go.

As for Marisa, I thought being a pastry chef was a disadvantage, and she never really did anything for me. Even in the pastry competitions. I don't know what those girls were thinking when they put that whole odd citrus plate together. When I see food, I want to see something that's going to make me hungry. And that plate did not do that. At all. Tom is not wrong. He has very cut and dry opinions. He's very clear that he doesn't want all those options. That he wants the contestants to focus on something that's going to be really exceptional. And I didn't see a lot of that, aside from the paella. I have to say, it looked incredible. It looked like something I would have torn into and eaten every bite of. And it was good to see Mikey on the winning side instead of his usual droopiness at the judges table. It's like that guy has to put on a Kevlar vest every time he goes in there. So I thought that was cool.

One of the thing that really pisses me off, having been a part of the show, is watching the guest judges just tear apart the contestants. First of all, these kids are getting thrown in to a new kitchen every single contest. There's no sense of familiarity. They're just getting thrown in. They had two hours to pick a dish and bang it out, and when you're cooking for that many people, to hear a guest judge say: "Oh, I would have done this, I would have done that. ..." That's the challenge I want to see. I would like to see some of those judges have to pull off something like this. I'm convinced that these contestants would give them a run for their money.

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!