Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Girls Gone Wild

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

Girls Gone Wild

Bethenny Frankel Reveals her favorite New York restaurant.

3 girls in the finals??? This is nuts, and truthfully, I think (aside from Dale) that it is totally justified.

OK, to the Quickfire. Again, bravo to Bravo for a creative yet terrifying task. My steak would have looked like roadkill. Spike rocked it, but then again he comes from a line of butchers. However, when he knew he had it made, he didn't just humbly sit by, he had to let everyone know just how much he nailed it. Being humble is definitely not a prerequisite to being one of most of today's famous chefs, but it certainly is nice to see. Craft is my favorite restaurant in New York, and Tom Colicchio has the nature of your next door neighbor -- no braggadocio. Spike could learn a thing or two from Tom.

I was surprised at all of the fondling of the meats. People were grilling and basting and pan-roasting and slathering their steaks. The best steaks I've had have been simply prepared, on the grill or under a broiler, well-seasoned and topped with butter. Granted, I'm not a steak aficionado, and I did learn a thing or two on this one.

Richard was out of his comfort zone here. I've been mentioning all season that he needs to master the art of doing something straightforward, and this simple steak stumped him. To Spike's credit, his steak was simply grilled, and I will definitely try the rosemary under the meat trick next time I grill. He deserved this win.


Antonia did very well with her grilling then roasting then slathering and basting with butter. She has done well on the old-school straightforward tasks. Her steakhouse salad with bacon and poached egg was a hit a few weeks back.

Stephanie. Stephanie. Stephanie. I really think she's the best and very well may win, but this Quickfire is her Achilles heel. She's always calm, but maybe she needs to get a little fired up during this challenge.

Richard's steak was undercooked. I could easily be guilty of this. Cooking the perfect steak is harder than doing one of his "tricked out" transformations evidently. I disagreed with him when he said that going home at this point would be no different than earlier in the competition. He has proven himself, the world knows he's a good chef, and irrespective, he was going nowhere. He did shine a lot brighter in the beginning though.

Lisa did a good job on the steak. She's a tough broad. I imagine she's eaten and fired up a few pieces of meat in her day.


Now to the main event: Spike's downfall is never using his advantage wisely. He could have made anything he wanted, and he took the safe route of the tomahawk that he had so recently prepared, and the stupid route of frozen scallops. Also, he chose to do a dish that Tom Colicchio has mastered. Maybe he should have read Tom Collichio's cookbook before he arrived. Don't try to sing Barbara Streisand and don't attempt to trump Tom's scallops with mushrooms.

Lisa: I have to give here credit for being ballsy with a breakout risk like peanut butter mashed potatoes although it really sounded like a hot sticky mess. Rick Tramonto liked it though.

Tom commented that Richard was keeping it simple which made Richard nervous. I've been asking for straightforward from Richard from weeks. In the end, Richard went out of the box with his hamachi and veal appetizer. It scared the hell out of me, but it was delicious. He hardly played it safe. Tom commented on his slightly slower pace, and he said he'd rather do it slow and perfect. In theory I get it, but tell that to a 6-foot-5, 250-pound football player waiting for his steak. How about fast and perfect?

This whole task is nervewracking because Tom knows his steak. Tom acted as the expediter which was so cool. Many don't know that many major restaurants such as the Palm or Peter Luger's don't really have master chefs per se. They have tried and true items on their menu that the chefs in the kitchen know. The guy who gets it all done is the expediter. He makes sure that the whole operation runs like clockwork. I live for Tom.


Lisa's cold shrimp salad was underwhelming but her lemon confit was a hit. She does take chances, and does deserve to be alive longer than Spike.

Stephanie always shines in the main challenge. They loved her sweetbreads. I loved that her, Richard's, and Antonia's dishes were things they'd never done. That's being innovative.

Antonia wasn't the strongest here, but she wasn't the weakest either. They thought her menu was too rich. In this environment, that isn't a fatal flaw. As I said, Lisa pulled off the mash for some judges, but her meat was tough to all.

Richard meat wasn't cooked consistently which he was also guilty of during the Quickfire. This is an area he needs to correct. I realized that I probably do the same. They discussed Stephanie's grace under pressure which truly is the mark of a chef who can take the heat.


My high and low point in the show were when Spike called out Rick for having frozen scallops in the walk-in. First of all, I did have that exact thought in the beginning. But with all due respect, most of the shellfish you eat in high-volume restaurants is frozen. Spike was more of the idiot for cooking it than a restaurateur was for having it. But while I'm on the topic, what a blithering ass for getting in the face of a judge, an accomplished successful chef, and the man who let you into his kitchen. Now that he's packed his knives, I don't think Rick Tramonto will be hiring him.

Furthermore, Tom was visibly horrified which was totally understandable. Wow. Season highlight. Tensions were high. In the end Stephanie won which seems to happen a lot. I think she'll take the crown. Are there any more Quickfires? If so, and she wins one, she's got it made like Big Brown in the derby.

Thanks for listening. Visit me at www.bethennybakes.com for some of my simpler, healthy recipes that don't include hamachi or sweetbreads. I'm learning a thing or two this season for sure. I can't wait for Puerto Rico.

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!