Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Richard: Here Comes The Chef

Richard opens up about Wedding Wars.

Bravotv.com: First the Quickfire -- how excited were you to do the speed challenge -- a favorite from last season?
I was very excited to do the relay. I personally never saw that episode last season but the other contestants talked about it often, so when I realized what was going on I was excited.

Bravotv.com: Your win let you choose which person to cook for (bride or groom) -- what made you choose bride?
I just thought that it made sense. It's her day, and I also thought that the meat and potatoes theme left little to misinterpret.

Bravotv.com: You mentioned that wedding food is usually horrible, I'm sure people might be curious to know how the food was at your wedding?
We decided that for our wedding we wanted interactive stations that represented the foods we liked, so we had some local chefs help out and do sushi, NYC deli sandwiches, a tapas bar, etc. I think wedding food gets bad when it's a formal sit-down, or buffet. It should be reflective of the couple, and let's be honest, there is a lot of room for creativity in the catering world. By the way, I've already gotten a few requests to cater weddings since last Wednesday ....

Bravotv.com: It seems like you guys just took the bride's suggestions and ran with it, did you ever have any hesitation about her theme?
No hesitation. It just seemed fairly simple; it was all about the meat.

Bravotv.com: There was some concern about Andrew's chicken dish, did anyone actually say that he shouldn't make it though?
I don't think so. I think Andrew made that same dish the week prior and it was killer. We also had a kitchen near the buffet line, so that was the plan to cook more at the moment and bring fresh crispy orders to the line.

Bravotv.com: You look surprised that Andrew didn't like the spinach after you added something to it -- did he express that before Judges' Table? What did you add to give that "funny taste?" (or however the judges put it)
Tom liked the spinach. There was a guest who didn't care for it. I suggested star anise in the kitchen and we went with it. I put it in my spinach every day; it's great. I never added the star anise to the spinach, I suggested it ...


Bravotv.com: You gave your win to Stephanie -- a top chef first! -- why did you do that?
I took the win and gave Stephanie the prize. It was a team effort, and she provided an element that was crucial to the win, something that no one else on our team could have delivered.

Bravotv.com: Did you taste the other team's dishes? What did you think?
No -- there was so much going on that I never got a chance to taste their stuff.

Bravotv.com: You said you would never have made the cake -- have you ever had to make one for anything?
Not a wedding cake; no way. I do a red velvet "tartare," which is basically a crumbled cake with cream cheese sorbet. I usually joke that I do it as a tartare because I'm a bad baker!


Bravotv.com: You just opened your restaurant Home! Can you tell us about it yet?
HOME, is a restaurant in Buckhead Atlanta that I opened a few weeks ago. It is a Southern-inspired modern menu, focusing on farm to table. We try to do everything local, and of course also feature some neat toys in the kitchen.

People can make reservations on OpenTable.com and mention this blog when they reserve so I make sure to say "Hello!" This past Friday I had the pleasure to meet and cook for Harold from Season 1 which totally freaked out my dining room, as most of them were popping springs and circuits (does not compute!, does not compute!) when they realized two Top Chef[testant]s from different seasons were in the same space ...

You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet

Hugh: Mei's a Chef's Chef

Hugh Acheson weighs in on the finale showdown between Mei Lin and Gregory Gourdet.

There is always a Top Chef winner but obviously some seasons have a less experienced assemblage of chefs, while others have veritable US Olympic-caliber culinary practitioners. (Congrats to Team USA in the Bocuse d’Or competition by the way! Silver! Silver!)

This particular season of Top Chef could have been a contest of mediocrity, but it bloomed into something very skilled and mature, which is good for judging, but makes writing a blog with poop jokes and rap humor very difficult. I have to say, I was a little worried at the beginning that the whole chef squadron was a little shaky. But early retreats by chefs with bigger egos than culinary skillsets allowed the true talent to rise without being malevolent fools. And that talent really was there. By mid season we were eating their visions on the plate, while watching them battle it out over the food and just the food.

The two most successful chefs of the season made it to the end, and they are ready to rumble in the most respective way they know how. One will plate most of their food on the side of the plate, incorporating Korean flavors and modern technique into the vittles, while the other will weave a more classic story and put food more in the center of the plate like regular people. Should be a good show no matter what, because at the end of the day, it’s just hard not to be really enamored with both of them. They are good people.

Gregory and Mei start out on a hot air balloon ride, because that’s how I like to start every day in Mexico. The country looks beautiful to me even if you are in a basket hoisted hundreds of feet into the air by hot air. The hotel I stayed in was the Casa di Sierra Nevada, which was AWESOME, so if you are looking for a vacation, go there. It's no party town, but it is plenty fun. Great food scene. And to put safety into perspective, I felt safer wandering around St. Miguel than I do my hometown. Anyway, the balloon ride looks like fun and allows for that finale moment of almost tearful reminiscence and contemplation.

So their balloon ride lands in a vineyard, and Tom and Padma are waiting to put a halt to this sentimentality. The task is put forward and the challenge, this final culinary joust, is to create a meal that is the meal of their lives. They pick their two sous chefs per person; Gregory picks Doug and George, while Mei picks Melissa and Rebecca.

They prep their menus after a good night’s sleep. The prep I will not talk about too much, but suffice it to say that each team seems very pro and super on top of things.

Traci des Jardins, Sean Brock, Michael Cimarusti, Gavin Kaysen, and Donnie Masterton are dining with us, all of them amazing chefs. Like amazing amazing. The kid’s table, at which I am the head, is made up of Sean, Traci, Gavin, and Gail. It is a super table. At the table I decide to hold true to the tourist warning of not drinking the water. I thus only drink wine and the phenomenal beauty of Casa Dragones tequila, a concoction that will make me sleep soundly (but probably by dessert) on the table.

Mei hits us with an octopus that I really, really like. It resounds with flavors of coconut, avocado, and fish sauce. It is deep. The only flaw is that maybe it is a bit over done. The over cooking made it kind of crunchy and she could easily have been cooking it to that point on purpose. Second course from her is a congee, with peanuts, carnitas, egg yolk, and hot sauce. It is so f----ing delicious. Like stylized comfort food that you just want to eat all the time. Comfort food, when perfect, is perhaps the hardest food to cook, because it is by definition food you are very familiar with, resulting in people having a lot of preconceived notions about it. This congee would have silenced all critics on congee. It was that good.

Mei is gliding through this meal. She has palpable confidence, but is still a nicely soft-spoken leader. In my years of watching people lead kitchens, I have always been more taken with the allegiance that soft-spoken leaders cultivate in their staffs. Her third course is a duck course, and like the congee, she has cooked duck at least twice this season, but in entirely different ways. This duck has kimchi, braised lettuce, and huitlacoche on the plate. Huitlacoche is corn smut, a term I just yelled in a coffee shop, making everyone uncomfortable. It is a good plate, but my refrain about duck skin continues. It was a bit chewy. All in all, the dish just was texturally challenged. It needed a crunchy texture. But it was good still. Her last is her version of yogurt dippin’ dots with strawberry-lime curd, milk crumble, and stuff. It was blow-you-away amazing. Very complex, but very successful. Tom says it is the best dessert on Top Chef he has ever had, and I definitely concur, though he has tasted many more than I have. The toasted yogurt base was amazing.

Gregory steps up with a brothy octopus with cashew milk, fresh prickly pear, and also xoconostle, which is the dried version of prickly pear, kind of like a prickly pear fruit roll up. It is a strong dish, and may be the winner in the Octopus Olympiad. His second was a strange soup that was redolent with flavor until you choked with a shrimp head lodged in your gullet. Strange and a little unrefined for me, and pretty much everyone else. It was a wanted textural element, but made a rustic soup weird. The whole dish needs to be compared to the comfort food of Mei’s congee, and in that context it is no contest.

Third course from Gregory is a bass with carrot sauce, tomatillo, vegetables, and pineapple. It is a strange dish. I am worried for Gregory at this point. It is not like the dish was bad, but the dish was just not a winner winner. Well, let’s not rest on that notion, because his next and final course is a stone cold stunner. Simple short ribs in mole with sweet potato. It is purity on the plate and equal to the idea of Mei’s congee in nailing comfort food. Kudos. He’s back on track. This is a close contest.

Judges' Table comes and we deliberate. I am not going to mince words and hold off on this: It is really close, but this season’s winner is definitely Mei. Well deserved. Gregory is the consummate pro in placing second and is going to be a force to be reckoned with in this restaurant world. His win versus addiction and his success in cooking shows one tough person with oodles of talent.

Mei. Mei. You rock. You are a chef’s chef. You make food that excites and makes us ponder. You are a leader and a super cool person. You are the winner and will always be a winner. Onwards.

Until next season. I loved this season. Thanks BOSTON. And thanks San Miguel di Allende. You are awesome places to work.

Read more about:

You May Also Like...

Recommended by Zergnet