Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Summer Soups And Barbecues

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

Summer Soups And Barbecues

Padma Lakshmi spills on what went wrong in the BBQ challenge.

After such an intense elimination challenge in the first episode, the Quickfire should have been a relief for the contestants with the focus on something more simple than wild game -- Florida citrus fruits; however, many of the chefs had some difficulty executing dishes of a high caliber.

The standouts were CJ, Hung, and Tre. Hung's slow roasted sea bass with citrus crumble, watercress and radish salad was a creative play on the citrus theme with three different variations that worked really well together and that is why he won this challenge. I particularly liked Tre's dish of salmon served cold and hot. The variation of textures and flavors in Tre's dish were unique and his use of macadamia in the pesto gave it a richer, buttery flavor than the traditional pesto with pine nuts. This complimented the high fat content in the salmon.

Some other highlights that were unmentioned were Howie's vanilla butter poached lobster tail with blood orange citrus salad, as well as Brian's Alaskan halibut with pomegranate blood orange molasses, which was a beautiful dish. By contrast, one of the most disappointing dishes was Micah's avocado "soup," which was more like a runny guacamole. Chef Van Aken's remark about her dish was an understatement at best.

I don't really care for summer soups that have been turning up on menus these days. Chilled fruit soups, for example, are a real turnoff. I just have no desire to ever order them, preferring to leave the pureed fruit to Jamba Juice. Sara N. should have checked her ingredients before she began, as this is the number one rule in cooking: always prepare your ingredients, or mis en place, before starting the cooking process, especially in the case of a time-tight situation such as the Quickfire. Organization and forethought become crucial in a hot, crowded kitchen.

Sara N. lacked focus and this showed in her presentation to Chef Van Aken. Meanwhile, Casey's twist on the classic s'more was decadent and delicious. What you didn't see in the editing was that she incorporated citrus in the chocolate sauce in the s'more and orange and chocolate is a very classic, old school combination. But it's hard for a dessert to stand up to the might of a main course and that really was her big downfall.

I love summer barbecues so I was really looking forward to seeing what the chefs would come up with in this elimination challenge. I was impressed by Camille, Casey, and Micha's efforts since they made cohesive dishes that had a successful balance of complicated flavors, which is difficult to do in a BBQ setting. The prep work and timing was perhaps the "make or break" aspect of this challenge.

After the grills were fired up and the chefs got to work, I could see the confidence levels rise or fall. Hung and Brian seemed to be having a good time and looked at ease. Unfortunately, not all of the chefs had such an easy time at this challenge. Tre seemed to be struggling in balancing the salt and acidity with his peach glazed salmon. Why do salmon again for a BBQ challenge especially when you're from Texas?!?

Joey's drumsticks were tasty but they were really not groundbreaking or upscale enough to impress the judges or meet the challenge requirements. Sara N's Vietnamese BBQ beef lettuce wraps were delicious and compact which made them easy to eat. The crisp, fresh, cool crunch of lettuce complimented the spicy Asian chili sauce, which was doused over a perfectly grilled succulent piece of meat. It was indeed the perfect bite. Hung's dish was surprisingly simple compared to his previous feats, but I did love the watermelon and champagne spritzer. In fact, I went back for several shots of it.

Brian's Chino Latino seafood sausage was delicious, light and sophisticated. It was perfect for that audience of body conscious sun worshiping fashionistas. I loved how he combined so many types of delicate seafood, a high-end concept that really addressed the challenge.

Keeping in mind that champagne was being served, Brian's dish was the winner for me hands down. The chefs did a fantastic job overall and I can't say I disliked any of the dishes but the most disappointing performance was Sandee since she did not actually grill anything and sadly this cost her the competition. I was sorry to see Sandee go, she seemed to have a lot of heart and great enthusiasm and I believe had she had a little more experience as a chef and listened to the requirements of the challenge more, she wouldn't have risked serving something that wasn't actually grilled or barbecued. I am sure she will continue to be interesting to watch wherever she lands.

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

George decided the best way to satisfy New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski  was with a hearty breakfast. Make it for yourself at home.

Pork and Veal Sausage Patty With Sunny-Side Up Egg and Potato Hash

 

Ingredients
3 lbs pork butt
1 lbs veal
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 bunch chives
1 bunch parsley
1 Tbsp fennel seed
Pepper (to taste)

 

Directions
1. Grind prok and veal using medium dye, reserve and keep cold

2. Toast cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in a sauté pan until aroma is released. Grind in spice grinder, reserve

3. Chop parsley and chives fine, reserved

4. Chop garlic super fine, reserve

5. Mix meat with spices, smoked paprika, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper

6. Test a small batch in fryer. Taste and adjust seasoning

7. Form into patties, place on grill, then finish in oven