Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Those Tricky Holidays

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

Those Tricky Holidays

Executive Producer Shauna Minoprio reveals the insider scoop.

The holidays are always a tricky time. Honestly -- I'm not sure why Mia did it. She just seemed to get caught up in a wave of some kind of emotion that is hard to quite define. I think perhaps a combination of exhaustion, frustration and resentment towards Cliff pushed her over the edge. In the end I think she didn't want it enough. She seemed to feel that she had achieved enough by getting that far and now she was tired and pissed-off and wanted to go home. I know I've said this before, but this competition is extremely stressful and requires a lot of stamina to stay the distance.... You have to want it really badly. I also suspect that Mia felt that she was not likely to win the competition and so would rather quit than eventually be fired -- she is clearly a very proud person. I think she made the wrong decision but at the time it was also good to know that she was going home to her family and a decent night's sleep.

Anyway -- the party! What a totally awesome and groovy event it was that the glamorous Warner Brothers Special Events crew threw on the WB lot. It was very Hollyweird watching their workmen in shorts and T-shirts setting up trees and spraying the fake show around. I think the street we were on is where Bill Cosby/Dr. Huxtable used to live which was rather exciting -- and we had the Gilmore Girls around the corner, too! Of course the chefs were more excited about their mobile film catering trucks -- they LOVED them. They weren't the only ones, when Tom saw them, his eyes lit up like the proverbial tree. Seriously -- I know what someone wants for Christmas!

These chefs -- they definitely do live in their own world, and it sure is an alternative universe. They did work incredibly hard throughout the party, even Monsieur Midgely who I had a premonition might slack off to the vodka bar, was doing his utmost to get food from Elia and Cliff and deliver it to the table. Unfortunately his utmost wasn't anywhere near enough to pull off that particular yuletide miracle.

Elia and Cliff sweating it as hard as they could but they had backed themselves into a corner with their cooking "a la minute" plan. By contrast the other team was a well-oiled machine churning out the gourmet snacks despite the fact that they had Marcel and everyone apparently hates him. Maybe they were touched by the holiday spirit -- peace on earth and goodwill to all men, even Marcel. From my point of view shooting at the party was great, the only problem was shooting around the party guests and making sure they didn't get elbowed by a cameraman or hit by a boom pole.

Of course there's always the nagging anxiety that the chefs might screw up under pressure and accidentally poison all 250 guests. There's not a lot I can do about that.... Except, of course, have everyone who eats the food sign a piece of paper absolving the production from all responsibility should they find themselves in hospital with a touch of botulism. Still, it would be rather embarrassing. I'm someone who generally thinks that all publicity is good publicity, but in the case of a Top Chef mass-poisoning, perhaps I would have to re-think that position. At the end of the night the guests were still healthy, if a little drunk, and all was well. My one regret is that we didn't persuade Midgely into a Santa Claus outfit on some spurious pretext -- Top Chef meets Bad Santa, now that's a show!

Make Melissa's Mom's Egg Custard

Melissa entrusted her mom to remake one of her childhood favorites -- and came up with a win. Make your own version at home.

Egg Custard With Shitake Mushrooms, Clams, and Lobster Ingredients


3 cups water
1 bag of bonito
1 small piece of dashi
10 shitake mushrooms (additional to dice for garnish)
1 Tbsp soy sauce
1 Tbsp Mirin
3 eggs
Scallions (for garnish)
Salmon roe (for garnish)
Lobster knuckle meat (for garnish)

Directions for Clams
1. Steam clams, remove meat, and chop.
2. Reserve residual liquid for broth.

Directions for Broth
1. Boil to a simmer for 1 hour.
2. Strain.
3. Adjust seasoning with soy sauce, salt, and mirin.
4. Cool liquid in ice broth.
5. Mix 2 cups of chilled broth with 3 eggs.
6. Whisk well.
7. Strain to create the egg custard.

To Garnish
1. Put knuckle meat, clams, and mushrooms into small bowls
2. Top with chilled egg custard (about 4 oz.)
3. Cover with plastic wrap and steam for 10 minutes.
4. Top with scallions, salmon roe.

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