Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Bananas are Sexy

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

Bananas are Sexy

Find out what Harold Dieterle considers the cooking equivalent of going to the dentist.

I mean, where to begin -- dessert. You know you gotta do it; it's like going to the dentist. It just sucks. I don't enjoy it. You just need to have a whole different mindset and it's challenging because you can't just do pastry as a Quickfire because you need recipes. It's like you can memorize one recipe, but everybody's nervous, you're under the gun, you can see them trying, they clearly have a couple of recipes that they've memorized and they're going over in their head the different amounts and proportions and it's like "Shit, I wish I wasn't nervous right now, 'cause I'm trying to remember this." It's tough, pastry's a science -- its not just like cooking when you just shoot from the hip and you taste something and it's just seasoning; you need to have your proportions right on, so right there, right from the get-go it's challenging. And then nobody there is really a pastry chef. That's why you hire pastry chefs, to do that type of stuff, 'cause we don't want to do it.

A chef dessert is something that you focus less on technique and more on ingredients, something similar to what Richard did. Bananas are really sexy, and he sold them. Bananas and avocado sound a little weird. I've never really had the combination, but if the banana's good and the avocado's good, it probably was a smart idea. He didn't do anything that was mind-boggling technique -- he focused on the ingredients. He made guacamole, he cut out some bananas. There's not a whole lot of pastry technique there but he sold it, so good for him. Everybody's focusing on making tarts -- that's great Spike made a souffle, and that shows you've got balls, but if it's not a really standout souffle, and you're passing it off to a pastry chef, it's gonna be tough.

I like Johnny a lot, he's been in the restaurant. We've gone out and had cocktails together on numerous occasions. I think he's a great guy. He does cutting edge pastries at a four star restaurant in Manhattan. He's highly decorated -- let's put it that way.

I liked the fact that Mark tried doing something from Down Under -- he tried doing pavlova. I thought that was pretty cool, 'cause I've had some really bad pavlovas in my day and it's a dessert that I've tried to make before and I've totally f****ed it up. It's like cornstarch and egg whites and basically what you do is you dry it out and bake it off and it's supposed to get really really crispy and traditionally you serve it with some Down Under tropical fruits. It's almost like a baked meringue, so to speak. It gets a little more textured; it's supposed to get a little crispy. But not be hard either.

I thought Dale's was cool. I thought it was a chef dessert. I thought it was one of those things were he was saying, "This is what I know how to do," and just knocked it out. It's like, I have a basic custard recipe: It's two eggs for every cup of cream, and you can do anything you want with it -- you can make creme brulee with it, you can just make a total flan with it, or you can use it for a savory custard. When I was on the show we had to make a fig tart, that was the ratio I made for the filling, and Le Anne helped me out and she hooked me up with a great shell recipe. So you just have your little things you remember and when you gotta knock it out, you knock it out.

I saw the Elimination Challenge and I was just like "Wow, man." I was getting cranky watching that. I get cranky quite often. But I would get really cranky -- all these knuckleheads are making me make this food. I thought some of them did a really good job. I take a lot of pride in making a curry. I always have a curry on my menu here, so I thought that was pretty cool to watch them do that, and I thought the whole technique with marinating the curry inside the beef, that was brilliant. I thought Richard did a really nice job with that. Do I want to sit down and eat a big brick of tofu? Probably not, but from what the judges were saying, they liked it, and it's something that's got a good sauce, and tofu's very much like a blank canvas -- it absorbs flavors very quickly. I have a vegetarian here every once in awhile. I'll have folks come in here that want to have a tasting menu that are vegetarian and I'll do something similar and put it out with tofu and poached with black olive oil. And it worked out real well and for the vegetarian, it was an eye opening experience. rate_407_jen_stephanie_elim.jpg

The proportions of Jennifer's entire dish were ridiculous. It was this massive piece of crispy melted cheese, and then the big piece of bread, and asparagus, and it was weird. I thought the dish was really weird. And I felt like Jen had more creatively invested into the dish than Stephanie did. I felt like Stephanie just kind of sat back and was like "Alright, let's do it." It just doesn't look like something Stephanie would conceive of, not that I know her that well, but just based on the type of food I've seen her cook, just doesn't seem like a lot of her creative input went into that dish.

I don't know why Antonia and Lisa were hating on the Eastern Europeans. I love Polish sausage. It's like pretty much a no-brainer. It's taking Polish sausage and heating it up in beer. I would have liked to see them do something a little bit more creative than that but you gotta keep the Polish sausage in there. They totally went away from the concept of the dish; the fish is the focal point of the dish, and you got a little bit of sausage, and I don't even remember, what did they make, some kind of tequila sauce? The easy way to look at that, especially Eastern European food, traditionally goes really well with rooted vegetables which is why they used the Peruvian potatoes, but I was surprised they didn't do something with beets. Just get that really sharp purple color, and I just didn't get where it all came into play. It was weird.

My favorites? Richard is really killing it. He's doing some really creative food; he's sharp. Dale's doing well too. I'm enjoying it.


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. 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. 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. 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!