Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Batman Returns ... Plus Lobster Facts

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

Batman Returns ... Plus Lobster Facts

Carlos Fernandez ponders lobster, Miami livin, and Micah's goodbye.

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It was fun to see this week's guest judge, Alfred Portale of Gotham Bar & Grill in NYC, on hand for the catch & cook round. His restaurant is an institution in Manhattan -- a truly beautiful place and he is legendary. Man, you can read so much in his facial expressions as he samples all of the quick fires. I can't believe how expressive it is ... it speaks volumes. Thanks for that lovely introduction to the Quickfire, Sara N. However, I don't want to hear you whine over a wimpy net. COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS. Season 2 would have had both our hands bound behind our backs and we would have to catch the clams with our mouths ... you know, Eddie Murphy style -- "Goonie-Goo-Goo!" LOL! Howie ... Love ya', babe, but please wipe your brow. I'm trying to watch my salt content! And thanks to Lia for having the balls to confront Hung over his sloppiness in the kitchen. How a chef conducts him or herself in the kitchen is also so much a part of being a "Top Chef" and is so often overlooked in this competition. I haven't seen much of Lia so far, but I like her style. Is she perhaps the dark horse who will emerge victorious?
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Congrats Brian on your Quickfire win! Other than your straightforward approach, you were wise to pretty much stay out of the way of the seafood and let it speak for itself. You're on a roll now, kid. Stick with it ... You know, I get jealous every time I see the contestants lounging in that Jacuzzi, but my therapist tells me it is natural. HA! When I packed for TC2, a swimsuit was not on my list!! "Family Favorites" conjures up so many meanings, not just awful cafeteria food. America is a great melting pot ... literally. There are so many great traditions that are personal to each family. I was a bit disappointed to see so many turn their noses up to these classics, rather than embrace them. This challenge really gave them a chance to have fun and be creative with these old favorites. Unfortunately, several chefs viewed this assignment with dread -- and it showed.
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There really wasn't much wizardry to talk about. I again commend Brian for your lobster & cabbage roll. It should have gotten more props. I was a bit taken aback by the judges seeming obliviousness as to the realities of cholesterol and fat content in Lobster. Lobster Facts: According to the American Heart Association, the daily recommended allowance of cholesterol is not to exceed 300 milligrams. A 3-ounce portion of lobster has only 61 milligrams of cholesterol, 83 calories and only .5 grams of fat. So you can see that he was well within his limits. I'm just wondering if he knew this and didn't say anything (since he had immunity), or if possibly he did confront the judges and it was edited out.
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Congrats to Howie for your fennel crusted pork with apple fennel salad and a cider glaze. This dish really shone in its simple elegance. Seems that Howie really got this challenge. It was also good to see him vindicated after the first two very difficult episodes for him. I cannot wait to make this recipe both here at the Hi-Life Cafe and on the Cada Dia morning show on Telemundo on July 11th. It looks and sounds simply delicious! It was a tough choice as to who should go. While not totally ambitious, neither Lia nor Sarah's dishes were worthy of the boot. I've got to say that CJ's tuna dish looked abysmal ... he was obviously saved by the flaxseed tuile; that left only Micah. While I have loved her creativity on the first couple of episodes, I was disappointed that she seemed to approach this challenge from the wrong angle. Since she lived in South Africa, I just kept wondering why she didn't turn her dish in to Baboti -- a traditional dish with many of the same ingredients as meatloaf, but with many more refreshing herbs and spices that would truly give the dish a lift. It can also be prepared in a much healthier style. What did her in, though, was that she seemed to be looking down on Americans with her ketchup remark -- that obviously and understandably put off the American judges.
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That being said, I like Micah a lot and think she is very talented. I had the opportunity to meet her at the South Beach kick-off event and she is a great spirit. I am sorry to see her go, and I hope I get the chance to taste her cuisine in the future! I have no doubt that she will do very well for herself. That's it for this week folks. Have a happy and safe 4th of July and I will see you back here in two weeks for my take on episode #4. BTW ... check out this week's webisode for my bronzed tuna recipe. It is delicious and easy to make. As always, I welcome your thoughts. Stay tuned ...

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!