Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Stranger Than Fiction

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

Stranger Than Fiction

Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio gives you the insider scoop.

It seems like each season we have one episode that is a total train wreck from the chef's point of view -- last season it was the wedding, I honestly never thought this season it would be Thanksgiving dinner. Cutting the odds down for the chefs by half certainly put the heat on -- unfortunately it seemed to push Elia over the edge, while not having any noticeable effect at all on Carlos. I guess this whole thing really goes to show that no one ever knows how things will play out -- least of all us! The myth of the all-knowing manipulative reality producer really is just a myth. You cast people you believe in and create challenges you think are interesting and legitimate, anyone who tells you we know how this whole thing will play out either doesn't work in this business or is lying. I remember early in the production, once we had confirmed who our final cast would be, we played our usual guessing game of what we thought might happen.

Depending on your point of view this is either a) professional reality producers using all their experience and skill to foretell what will happen with the characters they have just cast or b) people trying to look clever by pretending they can read people like books and tell the future. I'm pretty sure I thought that Frank would be the annoying one, Mike would be gone by now, Josie would still be here, and that Anthony Bourdain would be impressed by his Thanksgiving dinner, not clinically depressed by it. The genuinely unpredictable nature of this kind of show is exactly what makes it so interesting and exhilarating to produce. Sometimes it really is a bizarre study of human behaviour. afpblog_bourdain_320x240.jpg
afp_marcel_320x240.jpg I

t was during the shooting of this episode that we on the production team started asking each other, "Why do they all hate Marcel so much?" This question has been the subject of much speculation behind the cameras. Now don't get me wrong -- you have seen that he can be cocky and annoying, but it just doesn't seem to correlate with the level of hatred directed at him. Now even Sam is getting in on the act -- winding up Frank to have a go at Marcel, and Betty is accusing him of ruining her crappy creme brulees. What is this all about? My theory is that living communally under the strict control of the production team has reduced the chefs to a bunch of kids in camp egging each other on to bully the unpopular brainiac. Pretty soon they'll be flushing his head down the toilet ... mark my words.

Speaking of being unpopular -- I've been reading the comments left by readers of my blog and am really flattered by how many people have bothered to read it and by the nice encouraging things alot have said. It's the hate mail that comes as a shock, especially for a behind-the-scenes operator like me. It's a healthy reminder that when you do put your head above the parapet someone is gonna want to knock it off! After all, that's what our cast have to deal with. I've read some things on the message boards that contain such stunning personal attacks on their personality, skills, dress sense, sexuality, hair, etc. It takes your breath away. That's part of the deal with exposing yourself on this show, and boy do you have to be thick-skinned to take it! In its own tiny way it's part of the deal for writing a blog, I now realise. As for my own hate mail -- it's curiously hurtful to be called an incompetent producer by a viewer of the show I have never met -- so I guess I need to take a leaf out of the chef's book and toughen up some.