Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Meltdowns on the NY Horizon

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

Meltdowns on the NY Horizon

Season 3 cheftestant Brian Malarkey handicaps the competition in his power ranking.

With four shows down, it looks like Top Chef: New York has all the makings of being the most exciting season ever. The challenges are unique, fresh and star-studded, which makes for some dynamic television.

I was traveling last week with my family on the Oregon coast and didn't get a chance to give my thoughts on the Thanksgiving Foo Fighter Fiest. A popularity contest was on full display with Leah taking the Top Chef: The Cookbook Quickfire challenge by preparing Hung's White Asparagus dish. The dish translated into a great soup that Grant and Padma loved. It's always tough when the contestants have to pick who they like and want to work with, but it's also very telling of who has the respect in the house. I would have swapped Melissa for Jeff in a New York minute and I have always enjoyed Eugene "aloha" vibe of over Radhika's casual vibe. All in all, the Foo's spit on my boy Richard from San Diego and he was sent home with his marshmallows intact, for the most part. I believe we have the second best crying exit in this episode, second only to Joey's "Pickles" breakdown on my season. Daniel dodged an al dente potato bomb with those spuds (what are party underwear?) On the up swing: Ariane is no longer the turkey, Eugene kills it with his home made grill, the Italian Stallion kicks it with a pumpkin tiramisu and Jeff's cuisine crashes, but again, he shows great leadership skills.

All caught up and full steam ahead ... Thoughts on the Today Show episode with guest Chef Rocco Dispirto:

No matter what happens to any of the contestants on this show, no matter how much Richard and Alex cry, no matter how many dishes are spit out on national TV, no matter how outlandish the chefs are portrayed, they, like the rest of us, will never know the embarrassment Rocco has put himself through. I like Rocco and I think he's a great chef . Years ago Rocco and Marcus Samuelsson made one of the best meals I've ever eaten in my life. Rocco made me laugh all the way to the top of the mountain in Aspen after I had was kicked off on the cowboy episode. (We played a game of who would you f***, fight or kill given three choices of former contestants. He picked Howie, Marcel and Stephen, but my answers will forever be a secret to everyone except Michelle Bernstein and Todd English, who were also on the gondola with us. I gave him much better choices - Sam, Lei Ann and Frankie the Bull.)

Anywho, our game was nowhere near as embarrassing as Rocco's outfits and his hip-slapping farewell on Dancing with the Stars. Rocco, what the hell was that? If you didn't see it you have to check it out on YouTube. Hilarious!

This episode is one of those episodes that really has nothing to do with what it take to be "Top Chef," even with the ever changing challenge criteria that Tom and the guest chefs seem to make up on the fly. This episode had little to do with the food, it was more focused on showmanship (which, of course, I LOVED!)  Rankings

Fabio: I like him more with every episode, he is hilarious and has mad chops in the kitchen and he is not scared to ask to butcher his own Tuna. I loved the fact that he stayed away from the "Bullshit Eggs' and made something very familiar to his country, unfortunately Rocco "not a real Italian" didn't get it. Fabio understood the challenge and knew the importance of making something "my mom" could and want to make at home. Line of the week also goes to Fabio with "Fresh out of the Boat"

Stefan: What is that egg thingy called? I don't know, you don't know and Rocco doesn't know - does anyone know?

Leah: I was wrong, we do have a couple great girls on the show this season, and Leah is the front-runner. Two Quickfire wins in a row! The "Chef of Family" kept it real with the one-bite quail egg. I can't believe more of the chefs didn't go for the quail egg.

Hosea: Not much from Hosea this week, but he has a great energy and shows streaks of ability. Plus Leah likes him and she seems to know how to pick winners.

Jeff: The Amuse was confused, but the babaganushish dish was well liked by everyone except Kathy Lee and let's face it, who likes Kathy Lee?

Jamie: The solo Rainbow survivor cracked with duck egg and obviously hates the camera, but has the tats to compete with the best of them.

Eugene: Great Grill! Eugene is hanging in there, but blew the answer to the sushi question.

Daniel: Loud and proud. Tom didn't like Daniel's shtick, but the ladies did and I thought it was hilarious. Cornflake catastrophe and soy ablaze! Better get cooking …

Radhika: Radhika is consistent and very quiet, could easily stick around a lot longer then some of these guys who go for it and bomb. Ariane: Ariane has a huge comeback and she did a great job in front of the camera, but I don't think she has the "cougar" strength to survive much longer with this crew.

Melissa and Carla: I foresee major meltdowns on the New York horizon. Farwell to Alex and all my best to you and your wife. Cheers!

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!