Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Girls Gone Wild

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Make Melissa's Mom's Egg Custard

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Make Mei's Inspired Duck a l'Orange

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

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.

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Hugh Acheson wonders about the health of the kids at Emerson College and debates the cost of roasting that much foie gras.

In this, the tenth episode of this 12th season, we open in the kitchen of the chefs super secret lair. Katusji has taken his wit, wisdom and wherewithal back to his Kosher Japanese Cal-Mex empire to work on a masa matzoh ball taco. He is described as "the most loveable dick in the entire world," which seems pretty on point. These remaining five seem saddened because Katsuji provided respite from the drudgery of competition. They mourn as well, because all understood, though it was never talked about, like a solemn vow, that they could all beat Katsuji in this cooking game. He was the San Diego Padres of Top Chef, the team that all the other competition knew would be an easy beat when the time came.

So the quintet of Mei, Gregory, Dougeeeee, Melissa and George remain. They are all have the stuff that could allow them to win the dough, but Mei and Gregory have really shown that if we must have hierarchy then they are the top two contenders.

Quickfire begins with Andy and his college roommate. Andy just told the roommate that those "games" they played late at night in their bunkbeds WILL be talked about in his next book, so Dave, you have some explaining to the wife and kids. Andy, we are told, is "known for his antics." That he is.

Andy exorts the contestants to hook up with each other and I immediately think of Dougie spooning with Georgie. I then have to wash my eyes out with steel wool and bleach to remove the image. This hurts and still the image remains.

Padma gets Andy back on task and she introduces the Quickfire. It is a collegiate showdown of ramen proportions but the catch is that they must use the contents of the fridge of some poor frosh. Out come the stoner, the nerd, the sorority girl, the lady who should have graduated in '05 and one other innocuous soul. Their fridge contents make me worry about a scurvy outbreak at Emerson College.

We are regaled with stories of the craziest things they all did in college. Melissa built a 24-story beer bong. I went to school in Montreal so my craziest times were hanging out at Biftek on St. Laurent and getting drunk playing pool. Oh wait, I DID THAT EVERY NIGHT until I dropped out of college. Luckily I had some cooking skillz.

Gregory concocts a bacon, Doritos, leftover pizza broth, and I am immediately worried about the future of our country. Dougie has made a Cobb salad ramen with a "coconut-pineapple" broth, and I start looking for my Canadian passport. George, who has no idea what ramen is, 'cause Mike Isabella has never let him out before, is cobbling together a version of SpaghettiOs 2.0s. It has a hint of hot dog, but so does Andy, so this may be well liked. Melissa is making a "Crunchy Carbonara Ramen" which is probably already dispensed out of a coin machine in Tokyo and actually sounds pretty tasty. There is hope. Mei makes a smoked tomato miso with upcycled sushi. Sounds okay, so I stow the passport back and the "go bag."

There is no immunity but the winner gets 5K. Not bad for fifteen minutes of work/fame. Bottoms are Mei and Dougie. Tops are Gregory and George with Melissa winning this murky challenge.

They go to the little room of stewage and watch Julia Child. Then Jacques Pepin stops by and everyone gasps in amazement. I do too because if you don’t love Pepin you are not a nice person. He da bomb.

The Elimination Challenge is to come up with a dish inspired from Julia's cooking. Three hours to cook and one hour to finish on site tomorrow. They chat with Jacques for a while to learn the secrets of Julia, other than the fact that she was totally a CIA spy.

Doug is silent because of where he comes from. Texas shrugs as he says, "I grew up in East Texas and here I am meeting Jacques Pepin." Then he follows this ode to the state of Texas with, "I am from Texas so I can't pronounce things very well." C'mon Doug, your state gave us that Rick Perry character! He's fun to watch!

Doug is insistent on making a whole roasted foie gras. George is braising some veal and presenting it with some vegetables and pommes puree. There is some French going on around here. Melissa is challenging herself with shortribs. Mei is making duck a l'orange but you know it will show off some of herself. You can't spell Mei without ME. Gregory is making Coq au Vin. Tom wanders in during cooking to advise them to channel Julia and then they all try to sound like Julia. None of them will ever be known for their impersonation abilities.

We eat. It's outside. It's beautiful. The diners, or the we, are Dana Cowin, Jacques, Alex Prudhomme (related to Julia), Tom, Padma, Boston chefs Barbara Lynch, Joanne Chang, Mary Dumont, and little old me. I am hungry so don't talk much.

The food is really good overall. There were some issues like drier ribs, monotonous veal, raw foie, and maybe some flabby duck skin, but pound-for-pound they did the dishes well. Tops are Gregory and Mei, and the verdict is an interesting one. Gregory nailed a classic, but it was like he channeled Julia too much and did a textbook version, while Mei nailed a riff on a dish with her duck a l'orange. It is arbitrary who should win but Mei pulls it off and wins a just decision.

Not so arbitrary but still close is the bottom trio of Melissa, George, and Doug. Melissa erred in rib cookery. George cooked stunning veg but it was the veal that was a yawn. Alas, Doug bows out with his dish, a dish that he had never done but dreamed about. You don't just do roasted whole lobes of foie at the restaurant you work at, cause the owner chef would probably stab you if you ruined the 300 bucks in product. But this is TV money so he took a chance. The problem is that cooking whole foie is tricky. You can''t sear it too much or you will render away the beauty, and then you need to temper-roast it in a medium heat oven. Then it comes out and you rest it on a wire rack. It is pretty much served just warm. He did all of those steps, but over-seared it and then cooked it a hair hot, and not long enough, resultingin a greasy, yet raw internal. Funny thing is that the rest of the stuff on the plate was awesome. Well Doug, you were a favorite of ours and I wish you much success in Last Chance Kitchen.

And now we are four. Until next time.

For a good time, follow me on Twitter @hughacheson

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