Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Stay Away From The Salmon

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

Stay Away From The Salmon

Harold Dieterle gives his take on Season 3's Restaurant Wars.

First, let's start with Restaurant Wars: Part I. They had Daniel Boulud as guest judge. Daniel is very, very charming. It's a lot of fun watching him. I got to hang out with him when I was in Aspen, and he just totally breaks the stereotypical snooty Frenchman mold. He's totally a gentleman, really, really knowledgeable, really smart. I could just sit there and listen to the guy talk for hours. And then he's also ridiculously talented, one of the greatest restaurateurs in the world -- he's on top of the world! The chefs had to make burgers for him in the Quickfire Challenge. I think it's one of those things where they give you the Red Robin menu for a reason. I think Daniel made a great point: It's called a burger because it's on a burger bun, and a lot of them didn't make burgers. A lot of them used slices of bread -- that's not really a burger.

Overall though, I thought they did a pretty good job. I mean one of them was a crab cake sandwich. That's not that interesting. I thought Howie's burger looked good, but I thought it was kind of a riff on Daniel Boulud's burger at DB Bistro, so It wasn't that interesting. But I thought a lot of them did a nice job.

When Padma told them they would no longer get immunity...I know that feeling. It's like them telling you "You're going to get a sandwich at Witchcraft in San Francisco," and you're thinking "That's great, but I'll trade that for immunity right now." That's nice and that's cool, but it's not exactly what I'm looking for. But CJ got to choose his team, and that's pretty amazing. That's huge. It's a great opportunity when you're under the gun, and you get to choose who you're working with. I thought for certain CJ was going to pick Dale instead of Casey. I just never really saw CJ and Casey mesh, but it was a good point about having a woman's touch. I thought that was interesting, and it was very interesting to see who the other team was with. It just boiled down to the fact that Howie's going to be a tough guy to work with. He's very opinionated -- he says what's on his mind, and he'll do what he needs to do to get what he has to say done.

Let's talk about a couple things though: I don't have a problem if they wanted to call the first go-round a draw, but the way it was perceived, the way we saw it, it wasn't a draw. I thought it was absolute bullshit. I thought April won. I thought April absolutely won. So they say the table service sucked, but the food at The Garage was like they killed it -- they totally destroyed it. Yeah, it's Restaurant Wars, and it's about the whole experience -- points for service, the food, just totally creating this thing out of nothing in 24 hours. But at the end of the day they say this isn't Top Sous-chef, Top Sommelier, Top this, Top that -- this is Top Chef. It's about the food. And the food on April's team was clearly better than the food at The Garage. So there shouldn't have been a draw, unless there's something we're not seeing. So that being said, when I first saw the episode I thought it was kind of cool, but then when I saw who got eliminated in the second parter, I thought it was bullshit. I'm not gonna lie -- I had my arms up in the air.

The scented candles? You have to be kidding me. You're a chef -- where do your taste buds come from? If there's someone who walks by my kitchen, such as a guest, with an obscene amount of perfume on, I smell it, and it can totally ruin my taste buds. Why would you have scented candles? I don't get it. Howie's risotto? That was totally unacceptable. I'm Sicilian -- risotto's very sacred. That is not risotto. Tom's Italian too! What are you kidding me? That's not risotto. You don't put cream in risotto. You get your creaminess from activating the starch by beating the shit out of it with your spoon in the pot. That's how you make risotto. It's not by adding more dairy. He can say he makes his risotto different, but don't call it risotto. Want to call it creamy rice? By all means, go ahead.
I really thought making Sara M. head chef was brilliant. I really liked seeing it and I really enjoyed watching her put Howie in his place. It was highly entertaining. I hadn't been a Sara fan up to this point, but that kind of did it for me. The Quickfire was fun to watch too. That was painful watching Casey trying to cut onions. This is a Quickfire -- that's what it's called. It's not called "Let's perfectly dice onions." Let's get it done. Let's knock it out. I would have really enjoyed seeing it head-to-head, watching Hung and Tre knock down chickens, because I bet you Tre could've given Hung a run for his money. I thought that would have been pretty interesting.

I thought the designer guy [Christopher Ciccone] was kind of a prick. I wasn't really impressed. Basically creating a restaurant in 24 hours would be like going to him and telling him to go design a house in 24 hours and go have at it. I wasn't really that impressed with the improvements. It was kind of an afterthought. I'm not a bells-and-whistle type of guy. I'm not into design elements and yadda, yadda, yadda. I like understated designs. I thought April was really nice to begin with. I thought they did a really nice job. And Team Quatre did have an advantage with Stephen as sommelier. Stephen's brilliant. I thought it was a huge advantage. He likes to hear himself talk a little bit. He definitely enjoys the sound of his own tune. So, that was fun watching Dale tell him to calm down. I thought based on watching the food go out, Quatre did a great job. I thought the food looked really nice.

Tre screwed up. He really did. He was laid back. He was really relaxed. And you know it's just one of those things. Yeah, you can sit back and relax when you're the chef and you've cooked with some of these people and they've cooked your food numerous times, but not the first time out of the gate. CJ disappointed me -- I really just didn't' see him bring anything to the table. I think they all just seemed to have a super laid-back demeanor. Just specifically, I've been saying it from the get-go -- stay away from the salmon. I was just looking at the elements that Tre put there,and there was just nothing that I want to be eating in the summertime. I don't want to eat beets. I hate beets in the summertime. It was frustrating for me to watch because I think the guy is the most talented chef there. I think Tre and Hung were the front-runners to go all the way, and I just thought, "They can't be sending this guy home this early." He had a bad day. Thinking back, I don't' think there should have been a draw in the first round. I wasn't there, but this is what I'm saying.

Now that Tre's out, I'd like to see what Dale has up his sleeve. I think he brought a lot to the table. They weren't crazy about how he was dressed. Whatever. I don't care about that. For me it's about sitting down and enjoying the food. For me, that's what this competition is based around -- making the best food and the tastiest food. The guy goes out there and gives them a good dish and give good service, and put it all together. They had a lot of adjustments, and it was really really impressive. All of them together, I thought they worked well together. The momentum in the Quickfire Challenge just swung, and it was pretty impressive.

And as for Geoffrey Zakarian, I'm a big fan. I like Geoffrey a lot. I think he's a great chef. He has two three-star restaurants in New York City. The decor of his restaurants is fantastic. I'm not positive but I think that Geoffrey has an architectural background as well, so the architecture of his restaurants is really pristine. I think Geoffrey knows what he's doing. He's someone you hope to come in for a restaurant challenge. He's a chef and an amazing operator -- you can't do better than him. Restaurant Wars i's a hellish 24 hours. It's so entertaining to watch though. It always is. I have to say though that I would put Tiffani, Dave, and I against any of these guys any day of the week. Any day of the week.

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!