Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Top Chef 3.0

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

Top Chef 3.0

Carlos Fernandez congratulates Hung on his win!

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Step right up folks ...we have a penthouse in Miami, a New York challenge, an Aspen finale, and a live reveal in Chicago. But wait, there's more ... trips to Italy, the French Alps, and round-trip Continental Airline tickets to anywhere in the world! I have always been a Top Chef fan, but this season has been super-sized. Just take a good look around this Bravo Web site to get an idea ... blogs, recipes, and videos ... oh yeah, and Miami Spice featuring ...me! Ha! But I digress ... let me get on to the Season 3 finale.

Final Season 3 Challenge

Eleven thousand feet elevation. Oh ... my ... goodness. I wonder how many of the three remaining chefs did research on cooking in such an elevated climate and the effects it would have on moisture and boiling points? Our intrepid chefs have 35 minutes to put together a three-course menu of their lives. (They may say they have given it no thought, but every chef I know has their dream menu, and it is no secret that is what the chefs are always asked to for the finale of Top Chef.) That having been said, the surprise is always the ingredients they have to work with, and it is quite a challenge to put together a menu in such a short amount of time. I would like to have known the number of guest judges I would be cooking for at the onset as that is an important factor in determining what and how many dishes you will serve. Just in time alone, eight is easier than twenty. And can the chefs deviate from their menus? I would guess that they aren't supposed to as Tom is holding the menus in his hands like a prosecution lawyer!
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I loved Casey's choice of pork belly. Belly always gets my attention. Ha! And Dale has really proven himself the game king. His choice of Colorado lamb was spot on for its "seasonal and regional" appeal. Todd English really hit it on the head when he said this was the way to go. When I saw those celebrity sous-chefs, I found myself picking Rocco. (Don't forget my application to be your sidekick!) However I would have been thrilled to cook with any of these pros. The following day Tom announced the surprise addition of a fourth course, as well as ushering in the return of Howie, CJ, and Sara. Again, I would have chosen Sara for her technical skills as well as her work ethic. Hung really made out with both of his assistants.
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The judges really had it tough. They dissect everything, sometimes seeming merciless. Also the chefs have to stand there as their creations are disemboweled. (I know that sounds harsh, but when you are the one on the chopping block, that is what it feels like.) For example, the judges say they would have liked a little more acid in Hung's dish. All he really needed was more of the tomato vinaigrette and I bet that would have done the trick. The judges felt that Casey's addition of three small pieces of salmon roe ruined her dish. I know salmon roe is distinctive, but not overwhelming. And as far as Sake poached anything, you can count me in. I also believed that Dale's lobster dish had the potential to be phenomenal. He just needed to lighten up on the curry to a curry-scented broth, cook the lobster through and you have a home run. Hung's almond tuile with dessert was lovely as well. And I cannot wait to re-create his amazing looking duck next week during my cooking segment on "Cada Dia".

How lucky was Dale to have Todd English to French cut his lamb chops? Those puppies were gorgeous! Another home run for Dale in presentation and execution.

Congratulations to Hung. He worked hard and really 'hung" in there. And to all 15 chefs who put themselves on the line, go out into the world and show them what you've got. Make the most of this incredible opportunity. This whole experience continues to be more amazing than I can describe. I have had a blast with these blogs, the webisodes, the cooking segments on Telemundo and much more. Thanks to all of you who have and continue to join me on this amazing ride. And there is so much more to come. You can hear all about my future projects both here and at my web site www.chefcarlosfernandez.com. As always, stay well and ... Break an Egg!

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!