Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Good To Be Back

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

Good To Be Back

Casey shares her thoughts on Wedding Wars.

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Hey everyone!

Again, it's good to be chatting with you regarding the latest shows!

This season is just starting to get good. The contestants are starting to show some real talent! I still have my predictions: Richard, Stephanie, and Antonia are my pics so far. No one else really stands out.

I must say I was sad to see Mark go. I really thought he had some solid tricks up his sleeve, but his cards were never shown. I still think he is a solid chef with solid talents. Can't wait to see what you have in store for the future, Mark!

On to this week's happenings ... WEDDING WARS! OH LORDY -- that's crazy town! Weddings are the death wish for caterers AND the bride and groom are involved! And, they had to really marry someone off! That's hysterical! Restaurant Wars can't really harm anyone. Well, I guess someone could get sick, but we are talking a lifetime of memories here! Thank goodness, as a contestant, you are so worried about doing everything perfectly for the judges, they really didn't have time to worry about screwing things up for the bride and groom! The positive aspect here is that the two teams only had to take care of half of the menu each! If one team sucked horribly, the other team could save the wedding dining experience!


Quickfire: My favorite. I have to thank Stephanie for the five-hour comment. True, true. I will be the first to admit that dull knives have no place in the kitchen! Thanks for the comment though!

I must admit, even I tossed my pillow at the television! And boy, that girl can make some mayonnaise, can't she? Turning artichokes, cleaning monk fish, and turning artichokes are all skills that basic good chefs should know. They all did very well. This is a great challenge. And winning allows the team to pick the bride or groom to cook for. In this case, the winning team decides on the bride. Good choice. Praise Mary the other team did not win -- the bride would have been in tears with the outcome!!! This is the bride's day, and usually the groom is much more lenient when it comes to the details of it all.

And I will say, Dale really made Chef Colicchio want to reconsider his team to win by punching a locker. Way to go, Dale! You are the real winner! The bride likes meat and potatoes. LUCKY! How great is that!? You wouldn't even have to produce a vegetable side and she would still be in marital bliss!

Right out of the gate, the menu is designed and the plan is laid out. Shop and work all night. RRRrrrrr>>> record scratch -- what did Padma just say? There are cots lined up??? Aww s#@*! Ha! Boy, Bravo couldn't WAIT to use this one!

I knew there was going to be trouble from the start just looking at the teams! But, you know these teams are picked totally randomly! There is no funny business in the knife pull. Groom's team: had no chance. These are the four left that do not play well with others, blame things on others, and make excuses for their own dishes. The bride's team we have seen work together already. They listen to each other and put out consistent good food. The "dream team" I will call it.


Team "no chance" immediately hears "Italian" out of the groom's mouth and all eyes are on Nikki like the clouds had opened up and there were sun rays shining on her. Her eyelashes were golden from the rays as she bats them with understanding like the groom himself is speaking Italian -- kind of an unheard love song.

The blame game begins. The dishes decided upon were primarily Italian in nature. The rest of the team stood by with their hands in the air and a blank look on their face. A familiar look of submission, a look that said, "She's the Italian one that knows Italian!" Oh no. Beware sista friend. When you stick your neck out there and then try to pull it back in, the outcome is usually not good! Nikki went from "I know exactly what the groom's vision is" to "I don't want to be the ONLY one making decisions".

At that moment, all her other teammates had to do was make a semi-homemade meal and they would STILL be safe. Pack you bags lady! And when the clock begins the countdown, the team is divided and this is never good.

First of all, the cake is the major issue here. The cake must be completed by the end, no ifs, ands, or buts about it. This is going to require the most capable person to provide all attention to the cake. One person down. That leaves three to carry the rest of the work load.

But, Nikki decides she is going to make homemade tortellini and take herself out of the workload! Two people down! That leaves two people to prepare the rest of the dishes. Not a good plan. A better plan of action might have been, divide up the workload -- maybe Nikki makes the pasta dough, but does not roll them out all by herself. Anyone can learn to assemble the pasta; this could have been a team effort.

Instead, the team is left with only two people to knock out the bulk of the many projects because two of the team members are completely tied up making cakes and pastas! The other dishes suffered! It appeared to me that none of the other projects were completed to the standards of the majority, but who else was left to monitor these things? And if the team is not talking to each other, of course the bruschetta will be hard and dry if that was not even Dale's idea! If the bread was not cut to snuff, who was there to check the width?!

Things are spiraling out of control and all of a sudden, Nikki wants nothing to do with leading the team, Dale is acting like a hard-ass and the other two are doing nothing but complaining. The was NO CHANCE this team was going to pull out on top!!


On the marital bliss side of the kitchen, the "dream team" has come up with a plan, tackled it, asked questions and prevailed. Andrew is tackling his chicken strips (albeit, I would have never served crispy anything on a buffet either), and spinach.

Richard is braising, making sauces, and monitoring progress from team members (a little nutmeg is actually good in creamed spinach -- too much is too much).

Antonia is working on pizza dough and poor Stephanie is busting out a six-tier brides cake! Ha! WTF? All in all, everyone is working together and it appears thus far, they have got their shit together.

The wedding begins, Richard is overjoyed because he loves weddings and Antonia is taken aback at the site of the wedding gown. I must admit, I even get a little weepy at these things, but if I were team "no chance" I wouldn't be weeping over the wedding, just the food the guests were about to have to eat.

The Italian buffet was not a hit, not even with the groom. Things were too hard, too "uninspired", and just plain not good. In the end, Nikki gets the ax. But, we knew this was going to happen, right? Hasn't anyone figured this challenge out yet? Let's give her the benefit of the doubt, maybe she never watched the last season. Maybe she didn't know that when you stick your neck out there and it ends up sucking, you WILL BE ELIMINATED! Her teammates certainly watched last season because they knew that you stand behind the team's front person, and when the ship goes down, you will still be afloat! Oh, well. Maybe next season. Claiming that you could not argue your position because you are exhausted is valid! I would have been standing there asleep. No wonder in her exit interview she said she was ready to get some sleep! Ha!


Does this really define the chef? I'm not a wedding caterer either. Come on. I certainly know that there are things that CAN define you such as your behavior with others. Also, the kind of product you put out -- and EVEN how well you run a restaurant! Catering a wedding? I'm sorry -- I do not feel this defines you as a chef.

Just put out the most simple, perfect dishes you can execute and dishes that you know will hold up well on a buffet line. That is all you can do in a situation like that! I think that the Top Chef competition should exist on Friday and Saturday nights in different kitchens around the globe. You should be doing prep, execution, and clean up. Judge that! Im in!!! Sorry, Nikki. Keep your head up.

But, I must admit that I really never thought you were going to make it from the beginning. I was surprised you made it thus far. Congrats to the winner -- Until next time folks! Get out there and eat! It's good to be back!

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!