Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Ming. Sigh.

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

Ming. Sigh.

Bravotv.com's Editor isn't shy about her feelings for guest judge Ming Tsai.

Hi, again! First, I want to start by saying that you guys are amazing. I've been sharing your culinary film suggestions with the office all week. I have to say the Silence of the Lambs was my favorite, albeit a bit creepy. Forrest Gump gets runner-up.

To "mary cusma," saying:

"The outside of the plate is surrounded with colorful veggies...whipped potatoes with a drop of beet juice(pink) whipped cauliflower(white) baby carrots(orange) etc. "stuck in the middle" is seared pork with a blood orange reduction. Guess the movie:)"

And dammit -- I have no idea! Babe? Someone help me out! The sad part is I was a film major.

Also, thanks "d" for the catch -- "Dale" has been changed to "Spike" in last week's entry.

OK, onto this week's challenge. I'm a total sucker for the non-cooking Quickfire Challenges. My favorite from last year was the technique challenge -- I could literally watch Hung break down that chicken all day. This week, the chefs had to show what their palates are made of, and honestly, it was pretty revealing. Every chef I've spoken to has said how important having a good palate is. So this challenge kind of revealed some of the chefs' weaknesses and the chefs' strengths. I've mentioned Antonia as being on my radar before, but her Quickfire win made her even more intriguing. It also put Ryan in a somewhat better light -- maybe his palate will help him out in the competition. I was shocked that Stephanie didn't do better. But let's also remember, that Season 3's Dale Levitski had a self-admitted poor sense of smell, which definitely affects the palate, and made it to the final two. So, we'll see.
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The Elimination Challenge brought another team challenge, and while we've had what seems like nothing but team challenges so far, I think actually they're kind of helpful. With so many chefs still on the show, it's easier to give all the chefs the same amount of attention if they're in groups. I'm not saying that's why it's done, because frankly i have no idea, but i can appreciate it. This week, the chefs had to create first courses for a Meals on Wheels event with guest judge Ming Tsai. For those who remember, Ming Tsai was Guest Judge in Season 2 and told Josie what was what when she couldn't pronounce "pho," and I haven't forgotten how to pronounce it. So, thanks Ming! And, again, he's dreamy.

Let's break down the groups. First there was Fire. I couldn't understand why the chefs didn't create something hot from the get-go. I know it's a first course, but that seemed kind of obvious to me. Lisa has single-handedly proven that you will be rewarded for speaking up. Kudos on the win. That bacon sounded gooood. I also want to point out that Stephanie was a very good mediator between Lisa and Dale.
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Team Air didn't get much attention, but they kind of messed up with their duck by not rendering the fat correctly. I've been ordering duck a lot lately (had an excellent duck at Harold Dieterle's restaurant Perilla), and I can't even imagine how unappetizing the fat must be without being rendered correctly. The team also decided to make a little drink on the side, which seemed like an after-thought.

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Team Water. Oy. I've already mentioned that I don't like salmon, but as Ted points out in his blog, you could see the impressions from the plastic bag on the fish! Also, Andrew, you know I love you, but the faux caviar is over. I really think if he makes it one more time this season, he could go for it. I just want to see what else he's got up his sleeve. rate_405_earth_elim.jpg

And finally Team Earth. I do love beef carpaccio, but not a fan of the mushrooms. And so it came down to seasoning. Antonia got some flack for having immunity and still steering the team, but honestly, I thought that was commendable. While a soup could have been impressive (Elia did win for a stellar mushroom soup in Season 2), it didn't sound too wow-worthy. So, Zoi went home for not seasoning her food.

Aaand, the fight. Whoa!! It seemed like everyone had a bit of aggression built up, and it showed. Honestly, I could barely follow what the fight was even about, but everyone was yelling and probably made some enemies. If I may be so bold as to say I kinda think they all just need a little action .... But I digress. Dale vs.Lisa continues next week, so stay tuned!And now the fun parts of the show, the non-food parts! A few things:
1) Richard may think his charm has worn off on Tom, but it hasn't. Richard was crazy awkward trying to make jokes when Tom did his walk-through, but I thought it was adorable.

2) Antonia seems like a big Top Chef fan saying how much she loves the taste test Quickfires, and i kinda love her for it.

On a sidenote, a few of us had the opportunity to attend Food & Wine's Best New Chef Awards last week -- an event that the lovely Ms. Gail Simmons puts on. And I was in chef heaven. I was such a groupie, it was disgusting. I basically attacked Wylie Dufresne (I kid, I kid), and he couldn't have been, well, less overtly scared. (I was too nervous to do the same to Daniel Boulud.) Celebrating it's 20th anniversary, previous winners of the awards "hosted" little tables where people could sample their food, and Hung represented Top Chef and his current place of employment, Solo -- a kosher restaurant! Hung prepared a fabulous snapper ceviche with mango pearls, that was actually my personal favorite. It was somewhat of a Bravo/Top Chef reunion with Marcel, Hung, Harold, Tom, Rocco, and Gail all in attendance. So, big shout out to Gail for throwing such a great event.Also, just want to draw your attention to the fact that Tom's Blog is back this week! I know some of you were getting antsy, but the man is super-busy, and this week's blog is pretty exceptional, so enjoy.

Be sure to check out our new show Step it Up & Dance tomorrow. It's hosted by Elizabeth Berkley. And FYI, my nickname in high school was Jesse Spano, so tune in! I will be.

Anyway, comment away! Tell me what you thought of Ming, the fighting, the breakup of our first couple, and really, anything you want.

"See" you next week,
"superfan"

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!