Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Malarkey Madness: Power Ranking "Block Party"

Season 3's Brian Malarkey uses his less than scientific methods to gauge who's top taco.

From top to bottom:

First number is current ranking.

Second number is last week's ranking.

1/6 Stephanie - "Women Representing": Nerves seem to be under control and your talents and great smile are shinning bright -- what a delight.... Keep it up! You are out-classing your male counterparts by leap years.... Congratulations on the early victories.

2/4 Richard - "Natural Born Leader": Spike said it right: "Everyone was moving towards you when the teams were decided. You have a great calmness that shows your confidence. The taco was awesome -- congratulations on a great interpretation. One knock: Remember the cameras are always watching -- "Don't double dip." brian_403_05_320x240.jpg

3/1 Mark - "Pass the Joint/The Invisible Man" Dude: What happened to you? Got milk for the cookies? Looking forward to seeing more of you next week ....4/3 Dale - "Speak Up or Get Out": Letting too many people tell you what to do. You have mad skills but if you don't step forward you represent a Top Cook not a Top Chef! brian_403_04_320x240.jpg

5/2 Andrew - "Call Security": You keep telling us all what an entertainer you are but all I'm getting is one of the Three Stooges. You smell success but I say "Malarkey" .... The duck taco sounded reallly good .... Less lip, more action!

6/5 Jennifer - "Stand Alone": Time to realize you're in a solo competition. This is going to be hard enough without packing Zoi.


7/11 Manuel

8/7 - Antonia "Personality?": I think we saw a little this week but not too much. The Casey strategy?


9/8 - Spike "Shut UP!": Bitching about Rick's decision with the tacos and you try and feed it to him twice? Maybe you to should have gravitated towards Richard and the winning team and not been the leader of the whining team. I don't know if Eric was wearing your hat or you were wearing his hat but since it's got the "Pack your knives and go" cures, burn it! brian_403_03_320x240.jpg

10/9 Ryan - "Cook for Your Life": Not good being on the bottom of the Quickfire and the Elimination on the same show. If you were going for it and making some crazy funky food I would say "Rock nn" but blanking the mayo in the Waldorf .... Ouch!

11-13 Zoi, Nikki, and Lisa: Can we have a triple elimination next week ....?
Zoi - "The Follower": Cook not Chef
Nikki - "Bow Tie Luck": Her awful food got hidden on the better team, again. What is a Padma Souffle?
Lisa - "Chewing up the Bottom": Did you make anything for the Elimination? Make sure you mail Stephanie a thank you card for packing you this week. brian_403_08_320x240.jpg

Erik: Did you really tell Rick Bayless to go screw himself because you were unable to comprehend that a taco could be fine dining? You seem like a great guy .... Best of luck to you and your soggy dogs ....

Let me know if you agree or disagree with this week's picks .... I picked Erik out last week. Let's see if one of the ladies goes this week ....

Brian Malarkey

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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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