Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Up, Up, And Away ... In My Beautiful Balloon

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

Up, Up, And Away ... In My Beautiful Balloon

Carlos explains why the Elk challenge was his favorite ever!

This is my favorite episode so far -- both as a chef and as a former contestant. It made me anxious, nervous, and excited in all the right places. What an amazing backdrop to film in ... absolutely gorgeous. Great work all you Magical Elves!

Quickfire Challenge

Twenty minutes! I think that is a little tight on the time considering that the chefs have to gut, scale, filet, and clean the trout, as well as prepare a sauce and side dish. I would think a half hour minimum. And the added pressure of cooking for Eric Ripert must have been unnerving. I was very impressed with all of the chefs just to get the entrees prepared. Interestingly enough, I found myself reaching (at least in my mind) for the corn just like the other chefs. And what was up with those uneven stumps -- "My kingdom for a folding table!" I didn't understand Brian's comment about trout not being real seafood. Maybe one of you can explain that to me. Is it because trout is a river fish? "A fish by any other name still needs lemon juice!" But I digress. Casey's roll continues once again -- very impressive!

Elimination Challenge

In true Top Chef style, the producers stick the chefs in the stables to cook their meals -- just like livestock. Too funny! I thought that maybe Brian was burning sage to rid the evil spirits. Ha! Actually it was a great idea to create an ambiance, as well as very practical to cover any lingering, unwanted aromas -- they were in a barn after all. Elk can be very difficult to cook and to serve at the perfect temperature, as it is quite lean and can be a bit gamy. This really reinforced the old axiom "The secret's in the sauce!" One of the signs of a true chef is their ability to create beautiful sauces to enhance their dishes. My two favorites as well as those of the judges were Dale's huckleberry and blackberry sauce and Casey's smoked tomato butter. Both obviously brought out the quality of the elk and as Mr. Ripert said, "took the elk to another level". Unfortunately, Casey undercooked her elk, and I am sure that it was rather chewy as a result.

On to the issue of piling too many ingredients and spices onto one plate. It tends to show a lack of clarity and vision. The judges who review for the Michelin Guide put it the best: simplicity sings. Work with four or five ingredients and let them soar in harmony. Otherwise the palate goes into sensory overload and nothing stands out. I think this is ultimately what did Brian in for this challenge. But he had a great run, and with his personality I know we will be seeing more of him. Congrats Dale, you really pulled this one out of you're a**! It was very smart to abandon an idea that didn't work. And to think that this was actually your first win. Bravo brother! Don't forget to go to Miami Spice for my latest recipe on this week's webisode here. Until next week ... Break an Egg!