Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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.

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Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

Richard Blais explains why Mei Lin won, and why we'll definitely be hearing from Gregory Gourdet soon.

The finale of Top Chef is the one absolute every season. Make the best meal of your life, in a multi-course tasting format for a room of the "who's who" in the culinary industry.

If you get to the finals, it's the type of thing you can prepare for. Every finalist should have a few four to five course menus floating around their heads, including a dessert, and all complete with options and Plan B's transcribed to their moleskins. And although the knowledge of what's coming is helpful, the format does not play to every chef's strengths.

There aren't too many restaurants committed to such meal services. Which means less chefs experienced with how to "write" and execute them. A progressive meal has to have a certain flow about it. And even the stereotypical versions of the "menu degustation" could force a contestant into cooking a dish that's not in their wheelhouse, for instance a straight forward fish course because "it belongs there."

Tonight, Mei Lin has a slight advantage. She cooks in a restaurant every day that showcases a tasting menu. Her food has been the epitome of a modern tasting menu all season. Many previous times, to a fault. Mei's food is small and precise. Beautiful to look at, and intellectually stimulating to discuss. Cold sometimes, every once in a while a shaved radish plated with tweezers heavy. It's not for everyone. It's not for everyday. But it's the type of food that when done well, can win Top Chef. Win James Beard Award noms. Win Best New Chef honors. Win Michelin stars.

Her future could indeed be bright.

What struck me most about Mei's food tonight however, wasn't technique. Technique and presentation often can get in the way of flavor. But tonight Mei delivered a few courses that were deeply satisfying. Soulful, delicious food that also was presented at a high level and cooked with surgeon's precision. That congee though...combined with a simple dessert that took yogurt and granola to another planet, won her the day. Her other two courses were fine, but suffered from the strains of modernity. Overly plated (the duck) and technically overwrought (the fried octopus).

Gregory on the other hand, it's just not his finest work. You can hear it in his voice as he's explaining his food. He's cooking improv, an ode to Mexico. The problem is, this isn't a jam session at a local cantina. This is a studio session where the chefs should be cooking practiced and refined pieces.

His octopus was a highlight and featured the unusual combination of passion fruit and avocado. It was an explosive start. The following two courses unraveled a bit, with the soup being good, but way too unrefined for the moment and technically problematic (the crispy shrimp heads), and the fish course bordering on dessert with the sugary carrot purée.

The mole was authentic and delicious, the rib cooked perfectly, but the dish felt a little incomplete. I believe Gregory had the better ideas, but just needed to think them through a bit more.

His sadness after the fact, I can attest, is profound. Tearful. Absolute emptiness. Close to the feeling of the sudden loss of a loved one. This may shock some of you, because it is indeed just a game. The mere thought of feeling that way over such silliness is well, silly. But not for us. This isn't the Super Bowl where an athlete loses and they can shake it off. Jump in their Bentley and start thinking about next season. There is no next season. There is no guaranteed pay day for the runner-up. The ten wins you had before don't matter. It just ends. Suddenly. And it's rather sad.

The good thing is, this is certainly, 100%, not the last time you will hear from Gregory. I waxed last week about Doug's professionalism, all of which is very true. But Gregory... Gregory is a special talent. His food (and I can say HIS type of food, because it's unique to him), is a study in refined, exotic comfort. What the man can do with a one-pot meal of braised anything, some chilies, sugar, vinegar, herbs, and spices is beyond impressive. Rarely do I taste food that makes me jealous as a cook. Rarely do I taste food that makes me start thinking about a new restaurant concept. The word inspiring in cooking competitions is sort of like the word "love," when it gets used too much, it loses it luster. Gregory's food however. I love it. It is inspiring.

Congrats to Mei and Gregory! Tom was right, I can't wait to one day say I saw you two way back when, in Mexico, in a little kitchen, before the bright lights, fancy kitchens, and big stages that lay ahead for both of you.

See you next season. I hope!

Richard Blais
@RichardBlais - Twitter and Instagram

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