Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Going To The Kitchen And We're Gonna Get Buried

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

Going To The Kitchen And We're Gonna Get Buried

Lee Anne reveals the ingredients to the sauces in the taste test Quickfire challenge.

Our challenge was to reinvent the taste test challenge in some new way. "Taste what's in the sauce" was our reinvention from last year. This is always sort of a crapshoot with the contestants. Remember Season 3's overconfident spelling bee style match? The producers are always tell me to get more ingredients, "What if there's a tie breaker???" Yeah right.

First of all, my sauces are f*cking great. I love making sauce. There's an infinite art and time consuming caring that goes into making a truly great sauce, from the time it takes to make a proper stock, to all of the multiple times a sauce will get strained and refined as it reduces and builds flavors. I made seven sauces for the producers to choose from including a sea urchin beurre blanc which was to be the tie-breaker, and a coffee and red wine demi glace, a sauce chasseur, and even a sausage gravy. Every sauce had at least twenty ingredients.Here's the list of ingredients for the sauces they tasted:

The Bouillabase: olive oil, chicken bones, lobster bodies, shrimp, carrot, yellow onion, celery, leeks, garlic, shallots, fennel, tomato, parsley, thyme, coriander seed, dried red chile, black pepper, white pepper, salt, sugar, bay leaf, juniper berries, orange peel, saffron, brandy, white wine, Pernod, sherry vinegar, heavy cream, lemon juice

The Green Curry: vegetable oil, chicken bones, yellow onion, carrot, celery, Thai green chilies, ginger, garlic, galangal, lemongrass, kaffir lime leaves, turmeric, thyme, bay leaf, cilantro, Thai basil, shrimp paste, fish sauce, coconut milk, rice vinegar, salt, black pepper, granulated sugar, brown sugar The Mole: Vegetable oil, chicken bones, yellow onion, celery, carrot, garlic, ginger, jalapeno peppers, serrano peppers, dried pasilla chilies, dried guajillo chilies, tomatoes, orange zest, lime zest, epazote, cilantro, thyme, black and white sesame seeds, dried oregano, cloves, coriander, cumin, allspice, cinnamon, salt, black pepper, bay leaf, brown sugar, vanilla bean, Mexican chocolate, peanuts, almonds, pumpkin seed, golden and red raisins

So you see, naming three out of 30 someodd ingredients is kinda lame. They were even allowed to name the "gimme" ingredients, like salt, pepper, and oil. And once you know it's a Thai green curry, or a bouillabase, I mean, use your head, what traditionally goes in those sauces?

We are starting to see very interesting personality traits from some of our contestants. Jamie in particular this episode is upset that Stefan has beaten her in the Quickfire, but she handed him the opportunity rather than try to name more ingredients herself. And apparently there is an "I" in team as you see it later at Judges' Table when clearly it was Ariane's responsibility for the perfectly cooked lamb, and Jamie wanted to take credit for the entire working of the team's success. She's a very capable, very confident cook, who reminds me of someone else....

Stefan on the other hand is giving Team Euro a bad name with his annoying behavior in and out of the kitchen. Not entirely sure I'd want to work with him either. Add in the Hosea and Leah affair and doesn't this season entirely remind you of summer camp? Gail's bridal shower was the most straightforward challenge we'd given them since the first episode. Create a dish based around the chosen theme and then execute it. How hard could it be? They devised their menus and were allowed to prep the night before. During that time I take their rental orders, in terms of plates and silverware they want to serve their course with, so we can put the order in that evening and have the stuff on-site the next day. Gail's bridal shower party included a table full of food enthusiasts and professionals as most of the guests worked with Gail at Food & Wine magazine, so our chefs had to really knock this one out of the park. Besides it being an important event for ANY bride, this was Gail we were talking about.

24 Fifth Ave is a beautiful event space with an ample kitchen for them to cook and plate in. They all entered the kitchen space at the same time, so every now and then we have a challenge where the last team to go has infinitely more time to get their dish ready. Something old, something new, something borrowed, something blue. So when you hear "something blue" and you think last course why on earth would you not think of blueberries? A blueberry tasting or dessert of some kind would've been perfectly appropriate and probably more exciting than the fish dish which followed the meat course (they weren't judged on this factor but somewhere in my mind I held it against them as a non-creative cop-out).

The heirloom tomato trio was fine and made total sense. There wasn't anything terribly exciting on the plate but I agree with the judges that Jeff's tomato sorbet had the most flavor (eat THAT Stefan). And for the record, shot glasses on the plate are never a good idea, especially if you have to serve 40 plates. New style sushi was a new style disaster. It reminds me of my doomed Asian appetizer trio for my wedding challenge. Actually, I think I mentioned this to Tom as he was trying the dish and he almost spit out his food he laughed so hard. First of all, you NEVER make the sushi rice the day before. And it's not like he ran out; we keep it in the pantry. Gene screwed up the rice the day before but never thought to make fresh sushi rice the day of. When they arrived at the kitchen they fried the shrimp right away (bad idea NO. 2). In fact, most everything on that plate was a mess. The fact that they left the shrimp and beef on a skewer and then expected the ladies to pick everything up with their hands and eat it was completely inappropriate and required a serious lack of judgement. Unless you plan on passing a tray of handiwipes afterwards then this is probably not the setting where guests want to get handsy with their food. Before I continue, we gave them a budget of $800 so they could buy really rich and extravagant things, like caviar and lobster, none of which any team opted to do. Thank god no one did scallops.

OK, so back to the Jamie show. Poor Radhika doesn't want to corner herself as knowing only how to cook Indian food but she makes herself cliche in the fact that it's really all she's cooked since she's been here. But remember, it's Jamie's secret spice and Jamie's ideas and Jamie's heart and soul on the line and Ariane's already screwed up so many times so she better just stick to the lamb ... yeah (*sigh*). (Plating 10 minutes out equals cold lamb by the way). I chuckle because their dish was overwhelmingly delicious, the lamb definitely being the centerpiece. If anything Radhika should've won for making the lamb marinade and tangy raita. I honestly think they should go back to not giving prizes out so the contestants can stop the winner's envy, though I know it's more about the glory until you get to the episode where they start giving cars away. Team Borrowed won due to the talent of all three ladies on the team, and the fact that none of them are going home is what's important.

The blue corn encrusted seabass was uninspired, a stretch in terms of the "blue" theme, and really just mediocre. The fact that the team relied on Fabio's accent rather than their own cooking abilities leads me to believe they phoned in the challenge. Blue mush vs. new wave BS? Daniel's delusional defense at Judges' Table is what got him sent home. Even Eugene had the presence of mind to admit his mistakes. I suppose the other thing admirable about Danny (other than that lovely geometric chin strap of his) is that he stood by his team mates and his food, even if it was misguided. I saw Danny also at the beginning of this season. Happy-go-lucky guy that he is, he is doing well and continues his gig at the Babylon Carriage House on Long Island. I'm sure I'll see him soon.

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!