Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

The Other Side

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

The Other Side

Season One's winner Harold Dieterle weighs in on Season Two.

I have to admit that it was kind of crazy becoming a judge. I'm going in there on the other side of things. It's amazing to watch the new contestants, because the whole time I'm thinking, "This is going to be one of the craziest times of their lives, and these contestants have absolutely no idea what they've gotten themselves into." I don't have any early favorites yet. And it's still interesting to watch them get into things.

Last year there were twelve, and this year there are fifteen. The contestants are a pretty diverse mix of people, I don't know if it actually gets more diverse than what they've got. There are professional chefs, there are culinary instructors, caterers, people in the food world. And it's really a wide range. I really found myself putting myself more in their shoes. I actually thought that their first elimination challenge was so much more difficult than our elimination challenge. They had a mystery box! We had been pretty much able to shop for -- we got to shop for our signature dish. With all the time to go out to shop, and purchase stuff and cook. It wasn't like we were thrown in without a clue. I think that the amount of time that they were given was definitely a little...excessive. Almost crazy.

I find myself wanting to help, but I don't give any tips. I'm just an elimination judge. Tom, though -- they kind of give him that update on what they're making. He seems to have it well in hand. Basically, looking at the first basket of goods, I kept trying to put myself in their position and think what would I make. They had escargot, potatoes, American cheese, artichokes and peanuts. And I thought that was pretty tough. I think that the American cheese is the standout ingredient, but there's no criteria bout how much cheese you need to use. So I probably would have made a potato gnocchi, put some American cheese in it, then I would have sauteed the gnocchi with the escargots and a little white wine butter sauce. Probably with a nice crispy salad on top, with shaved artichokes and peanuts. And then I thought the second group had a much more difficult basket.

The first group thought that they had it tough, but I'm sorry -- chicken livers and frog legs? Try to put those together. That is not easy at all. I'm still fuzzy on what I would make. I really have no idea. I love frog legs. I guess, I'd make a frog leg confit and a chicken liver sauce, but other than that...I'm lost. Judging is hard. You're sitting around the table and everyone is talking. The contestants kinda had the opportunity to decide who was in the top and who was in the bottom. And a couple of them, I didn't exactly see eye to eye with. I wasn't exactly sure how they thought the criteria was used. I certainly didn't think Marcel's dish was great, but I didn't think it was one of the weaker dishes. He displayed some refinement and some good plating. And the flavors were classical and they were good.

The elimination was just awkward. I felt a lot more comfortable naming the winner than I did talking about the loser. They asked me who I thought the loser was, and I was like, "You guys did a good job picking out the winner, I'll let you do what you do." Obviously they know who should go home, they've been down this road before, I'm not going to name who should go home. They all seemed fine with it, except for production. I've spent a lot of time since the completion of the first season with Tom and Gail. I think we're all friends at this point, so it's nice to sit around and joke with them. I'm looking forward to seeing what these contestants are going to go through. I can't wait to see more drama, figure out who's going to be the villain. Who's going to have their moments. Here's what I miss:

The most fun for me was always back at the house, when, you know, the craziness was taking place. Chefs like to rock star it up quite a bit, and now I'm a judge. So that's definitely something I miss. Check back next week, I'm sure I'll have a lot more to add.

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!