Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Common Scents

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

Common Scents

Ted Allen talks Restaurant Wars, cleavagegate, and Dale's Queer Eye.

In this post: The last word on Cleavagegate, "Rats with Hats", and Dale's Queer Eye.

Also in this post: So-called "political correctness" (grrrrrrrr!)

But first: Just wanted to say for the record that I didn't mean to spark so much Howie-hatin' in this space last week. I've said it before: I really like Chef Kleinberg, and I like his cooking, too (excepting, of course, his infamous "Howie spice").

True, I would have liked to send him home rather than Sara because, upon watching the episode, I found his unwillingness to work with people more troubling than her flawed cooking. However, that was not an option. As we've said over and over, the decision is based on the dish. Booting Sara was the right call.

But speaking of TC's dwindling female contingent: Some people posted last week that they feel that the show is routinely unfair to the female contestants, or that some of the judges are biased in favor of men. Here, I'm gonna call bullshit. I do agree that last week's nightclub challenge presented the women with a disadvantage, and the kind of disadvantage that is less likely to occur to men (like myself) until after the fact. But every challenge is going to be harder on some players than others. I'm not going to speak for the producers, but I think the high-heels and silk-blouse problem was just something they didn't anticipate; it certainly is nobody's goal to create an uneven playing field or to show preferential treatment to men. (Why would it be?)

I've spent many hours debating the pros and cons of cheftestants' cooking this season and in seasons past, and the goal of everyone involved in this show has always been to decide every challenge fairly. And that experience applies to everybody, from Bravo (which has a female president and many female top executives) to the producers (TC's executive producer is a woman, as are many mid-level producers and the culinary coordinator) to the judges (two of whom are, emphatically, ALL woman).

And, while I would love to see Tom cooking in stilettos and a teddy as much as the next guy, it's not likely to happen -- at least, not on television. He'd lose all his cred with the "bear" community...

By the way, anybody who thinks it's "politically correct" to say that women face sexism in the workplace is, um, an idiot. (I hate the term "PC" -- it is used almost exclusively by right-wing assholes to discredit people having intelligent conversations about complex issues. The exception: Bill Maher, who is a genius. Don't get me started!)
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Moving on: Restaurant Wars! What a tough challenge! I felt that the edit of tonight's show had me coming down pretty hard on Brian. In truth, I had more sympathy for him than you could tell in the episode. Several of his problems really were the fault of his wait staff, who only had 30 minutes to figure things out. Brian is such a charismatic guy; I was amazed to hear that he had no front-of-the- house experience. I also enjoyed how he smuggled his suit to the set inside of a chef's jacket. Crafty!

I also really gave Dale the business. But the sin of putting cheap, aggressively scented candles on the tables in a restaurant was just so unforgivable -- and so unnecessary -- that I had to pull out the sharp knives. And the fact that Hung agreed with Dale about them?! Unbelievable. Look, I'm not some nitpicky whiner, folks -- those candles were brand new, and they absolutely REEKED. Consider also: There are people who get violently ill from the scent strips in Vanity Fair. Almost every serious restaurant in the country forbids smoking. There are many restaurants (including Charlie Trotter's in Chicago) that will turn customers away at the door for wearing perfume, and no halfway-talented chef would permit strong-smelling flowers in their dining room. What the hell were Hung and Dale thinking?
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Also, in response to my lovable mohawked brutha's crack that "Queer Eye's got nothing on me!" all I'm going to say is: Sweetie, you don't see Thom Filicia decorating with spray-painted rocks, mmm-kay?

All that bitchiness aside, I loved Dale's service, I loved his leadership, I loved much of his team's food, and I'm delighted that he and the gang all get to come back for another helping next week.
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Finally, on the subject of "sliders." In case you missed last week's voluminous comments, the consensus seems to be that the term "slider" did, indeed, originate with White Castle (aka Casa Blanca or Maison Blanche) -- but that it has in recent years become common parlance for any miniature hamburger. I can live with that. One hamburger historian suggested that the term was coined by WWII Navy submariners, reflecting the greasy meat's tendency to slide across the grill in rough seas. But that's not the only name people have for White Castle's notorious little onion-steamed delights: Readers offered up Maggot Muffins, Belly Bombs, Gut Bombs, and Murder Burgers. But my personal fave: Rats with Hats!

See you next week for Restaurant Wars, Part Two! --Ted

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

Ingredients 

Clams
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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