Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Hootie Who?

Bravotv.com's Editor thought Gail's bridal shower was the funniest episode so far, and counts down her favorite funny moments.

Hello my little bacon bits (You're welcome, "Caulder.") This week's episode was quite a doozy. There were several hilarious moments, which I will point out later, and what I think was kind of a shocking elimination.

First things first: what I think was the most exciting Quickfire maybe ever. Honestly, at first I was kind of confused with the whole calling each other's bluff thing, but when I finally understood I literally was on the edge of my seat. Although I'm sure they all have excellent palates, I'm also guessing they figured out what kind of sauce it was and knew what ingredients go into that sauce and named them (or they should have). Was I the only one that thought it was kinda hot when Stefan and Hosea knew eight plus ingredients? And not like "salt" and "pepper," but the hard ones? I know -- I have problems. And to "michelle" who suggested I hate Stefan because I never mention him, I think I actually overcompensate for my adoration for him by not mentioning him at all! Stefan and Fabio are my faves and I think they balance each other out nicely.

I loved this Quickfire so much that I think we're going to try to get more video of the next season's chefs doing a simliar March Madness-style taste test for the Web. Would you guys watch? Onto the Elimination Challenge, which I thought was really cute in that the chefs had to create dishes for Gail's bridal shower in the themes of "something old, something new, something borrowed, and something blue." Sometimes these challenges are so frustrating to watch for me as a writer. All day my fellow editors and I have to think of fun play on words for the site to engage you guys. So when presented with having to make something "blue," we were all yelling at the TV. Um blueberries?! (Sorry Tom -- I think they're blue enough) Chicken cordon bleu? Food that you eat when you're blue? (upscale comfort food). I gotta say sometimes I'm shocked at how unimaginative the chefs are. I think one of the members of Team Old (Hosea maybe) mentioned the fun play on words of heirloom and old. But then every other time the team members tried to justify using the heirloom tomatoes they kept mentioning the old seed and old vine and not the play on words!!! Half of me thought they didn't get the relationship between old and "heirloom," but I will give them the benefit of the doubt ... sort of. So yeah, Team Blue totally should have done a meat, perhaps duck, with greens and a blueberry sauce. And since I have no idea wht I"m talking about, they should definitely heed my advice.

The New team confused the hell out of me. Sushi is new? Cooked sushi is new? Wrong on both accounts. What they wanted to create actually sounded like a roll I mentioned in last season's Team Top Chef Blog, the Dinosaur BBQ roll served up at Cali Rollin' in Rochester,NY (I'm not obsessed with the city I swear), but basically is a tempura roll with Dinosaur BBQ sauce on it. It's delicious ... and has been done for years. When Gene so adamantly told Stefan "It's a deconstructed sushi roll," I got really annoyed. If I saw seaweed paper on my plate and wasn't told what to do with it, i'd be totally grossed out, especially because i don't like seaweed, UNLESS someone rolls it up for me. What's that called again? Oh yes -- sushi! Really any one of those chefs could have gone home. Gene for masterminding the debacle. Carla, lovable Carla, for not speaking up. Or Danny for going along with it all so enthusiastically. I had a special place in my heart for Danny being from Long Island, but he really bugged me this week. So much for Strong Island. And then there was Team Borrowed. Honestly I don't know that Ariane should have necessarily won this week, but based on what the judges saw they made the right decision. And if we were giving points on attitude alone, then I would give it to Radhika. I was really unimpressed with Jamie's and Ariane's attitudes. Jamie's soreness aside, Ariane seemed so intimidated by Jamie in the kitchen, which really turned me off.

OK, onto the things that literally had me in stitches:

1. Danny's use of the world "splooge". I don't know about you but I don't want Danny's splooge or spluge anywhere on or around my dish!

2. Danny asking to try the sorbet in Whole Foods. I didn't realize till later in the episode that this may have helped with the preparation of the yuzu sorbet in his dish, but I literally thought he was just stopping for a snack. We didn't show it, but he stopped by the loose candy section right after. (OK -- that's not true; there's no loose candy section in Whole Foods.)

3. Carla's mating call: "Hootie Hoo." Not only was this just funny on its own, but Carla's detailed explanation of it cracked me up. In case you thought this was a one-part call you are wrong. It's two-part. I know that now. Carla told me.

4. Carla's reaction to Stefan's advances on Jamie. Don't get me started on this. I will say, Stefan is quite the flirt, and this whole scene didn't surprise me one bit. I'm glad Jamie stayed strong. 5. Carla again! "Are pickles new?" in response to Danny's suggestion of using pickles in their dish.

6. Fabio's wedding pictures. OK -- they wren't funny at all. They were FREAKIN' ADORABLE! I think that's it for this week. Let me know if I'm mistaken on anything or forgot something important. Until next week when we get a visit from Martha Stewart!!!

- Monica A. Reyhani

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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