Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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What The Chef?!

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

What The Chef?!

Casey Thompson knows the way to Sam Talbot's heart.


So, in the Top Chef house, everyone is tired. Up for 40 hours, with little rest, and back to the grind. Sounds like my schedule in the first kitchen I worked in! They had fun though -- isn't that the point? So, what do we have today in the Top chef kitchen? Padma, vegetables, and Sam Talbot. This is a first. An actual past competitor to have the chance to tell the chefs the very same things that he probably once heard. This could get interesting. I will have to give Sam a call after this and get the gory behind-the-scenes details. But, what's up with all of the vegetables? Salad. Wow. Sam's instructions are to "put sexy back" into making a salad. Wait a minute ... was Justin Timberlake a sponsor on this season too? It wouldn't surprise me!

45 minutes to make a salad. Spike is ready to make a salad that is gonna make people want to have sex after eating. Andrew already woke up this morning ready to stab someone. What in the world is going on here!?

Look, I know that the competition makes you crazy after a while, but let's all keep our eye on the prize. "Sexy" -- I'm immediately thinking about what I would do. I see spice, poached eggs, bacon, citrus. Many of the same things that the chefs also saw in their visions. Stephanie goes for a duet of fall flavors, pears, mushrooms, artichokes, with a hint of boring. Missed the duet part. Dale is thinking poached chicken and Nori paste. Lisa goes with a "sexy banana" salad and throws in luscious lobster with a yuzu vinaigrette. I like having only seven chefs left. We can actually see everyone's food and their style is showing more in their dishes. We are actually getting to see some food! Sam tastes each dish and gives us his first thought on the flavor components. Andrew's Thai salad has "good flavor." Antonia's poached egg and bacon salad had "great flavor. Richards' must not have had flavor at all because Sam didn't even comment! Oh, that's the worst. In the end, Richard's ceviche did not have enough citrus and Stephanie's salad was lacking. Lisa only had banana in her salad apparently and that landed her on the bottom.

How come they never say whose dish was the worst??? I want to know! But, the award for the sexiest salad in the end goes to Spike. Curry, radish, and skirt steak turns Sam on. There you go ladies. The way to Sam Talbot's heart!

Congratulations to Spike. You win. And you have an advantage coming your way, AND piercing death stares from all of your fellow contestants. But what do we have in the hands of Padma and Sam?? Trays of a bunch of fast food packages and brown bags. Wait, this isn't your Elimination Challenge, it's your lunch! They tricked ya! Oh, I'm wrong ... it really is your challenge! The trays of fast food for dinner will come later. Be patient. We all know how much we looked forward to meal time! The challenge: to create box lunches in a healthier way and to also make them diabetic-friendly. Another doozy.

What the hell??? Is anyone else friggin' bored with these challenges?? Box lunches? Zzz ... Come on! Let's really cook here! I really want to see these chefs in a restaurant kitchen rockin' it out! Screw all of this police academy stuff! "Use one ingredient from each category. Whole grains, lean protein, fruit, and vegetable are the items that your dish must contain. Spike has the advantage. He is allowed to pick one item from each category and no one else may use it. It was not his choices that disgusted me, it was the ha-ha-nanny-nanny-poo-poo attitude that he possessed in the grocery store that was so gross. Even Stephanie comments that "Spike would love to f#@* everyone over." Sounds like he is kind of a little shit around the house. So, that would mean with his 10 minute head start that his dish better be pretty cool. He also took bread, tomatoes, and chicken away from everyone else. His dish should rock. Stand by. Andrew tells us that he has a background in nutrition, so his will rock too because he "knows how to cook healthy."

Lisa is doing stir fry and brown rice. When the cooking begins, most of the chefs feel good about their dishes. Spike's dish does a very common chicken salad containing grapes, jicama, olive, and raw veggies. It barely gets a "pedestrian" comment from Padma. Better luck next time Spikers! I especially liked your strategy with hiding the containers to make it appear yours is really good. Appearance is not a flavor though. And you contemplated not using the tomatoes? Nice.

Stephanie is working harder after the QF on a hearty barley soup with a butternut squash puree(?) and yogurt. The judges found this to be seasoned well though, and from the sound of it, seasoning was lacking everywhere else. Texturally ... I don't know about the puree and soup. Sounds like it worked.

Richard is the candidate on the "Do you like burritos?" campaign. That was really funny. I was laughing every time he said it! Though it didn't look great, I agree with the judges, the flavor components appeared to be there.

I have NO IDEA what Andrew was doing. Four pieces of sushi that was made with parsnip and pine nuts. Aww hell. He went through this long explanation of EVERYTHING he was putting in this sushi roll and I did not hear one single grain. Trouble is on the horizon! Listen up everybody: You could make PB&J with lite peanut butter (though not ideal) and still not get sent home!

Dale is doing a bison lettuce cup with an herb salad. The judges like this one and the only comment is that they would have liked to have a little heat in the dish. But, overall, it sounds positive for Dale. Good, not too much moaning out of him this show. I think after punching the locker last challenge, he decided to play it cool this time around. And Antonia pulls out a nice one -- curried beef filet with jasmine brown rice. At first when I saw the bare berries, I was worried. Then she pulls out the Concord grape syrup and I was on board! Looked good, tasted good, and tender.

Last but not least (or close to least) was Lisa. When she described this dish in the beginning, I was like, buzzzzz, and we have the biggest loser! Stir fried veg, and "a little shrimp?" She could remember what the challenge exactly was -- low cholesterol or low fat? So, she just put "a little." Hmmm ... then the pineapple salsa? And the sabotaged brown rice? By the way, let's stop right here and talk about this. Dale is right -- it does happen in the kitchen all of the time. No body wants it to happen -- it just does. Do you ever accidentally ever turn on the wrong burner at home and then keep turning the knobs until you find the right one? Well, try it with 16 burners! It happens. No one was trying to sabotage anyone. Everyone is so busy anyway. IT HAPPENS. In this situation, you come up with something else. Barley cooks up really fast. I'm just sayin'. Ummm, I think we have found our bottoms!

Back in the "stew room," no one knows really who they think will be on the top, nor the bottom. Usually after the general gabby conversation dwindles, everyone starts talking about the challenge again. While discussing the challenge and what everyone had used in their categories ... Andrew discovers his mistake. Ughh. That must be the worst feeling. I don't think that ever in the history of TC has anyone gone home because their dish was so much worse than the person that will fail on a technicality.

So, Lisa and Andrew will duke it out. Lisa's dish just sucked. Andrew's sucked, but did not also complete the challenge correctly. We all know Andrew is going home -- did Lisa really have to call him out for the technicality though? I really do think that is cheap and just plain wrong.

Man, how must one feel when in defense of your own sad work, you point out someone else's inefficiencies? I wouldn't feel good. I guess that is how I was raised. In the end, congrats to Dale for winning the challenge. And Andrew, you had a good run ... Take the punches and roll.

On to RESTAURANT WARS! Yea! Finally some real cooking. Get off your computers and cook. Get out there and EAT! Go on ... go! Turn it off ... Much love!!!

'Til next week! PEACE!

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!