Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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What The Chef?!

Get Doug's Masterpiece Brisket Recipe

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

What The Chef?!

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

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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!

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.

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