Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Chicken and Caviar

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

Chicken and Caviar

Richard Blais assures the chefs that everyone can be a winner (in a much less corny way).

In the year 2000, (insert Conan O’Brien intro) I was working at Restaurant Daniel in Manhattan and applied for the Gilbert Le Coze James Beard Scholarship. The winner received a one year apprenticeship at a tiny little restaurant called Alain Ducasse, in Monaco. The applicants got widdled down and the finalists’ last interview was lunch at Le Bernardin, with of course Eric Ripert. Not with Eric Ripert cooking, but with him sitting right next to you dining. I was one of the two finalists. In what I’m sure will be a shock to you all, I was the runner-up.

I am, quite honestly, much more of a seafood guy than Hosea. I completed a fellowship at my alma mater, the CIA, in the fish kitchen. I’ve put to rest and cooked thousands of lobsters. I’ve filleted just as many salmon. And yes, I’ve pinned down eel, and cut everything from Opah to Shad. My first chef position was at a restaurant that had a fish tank where a poisonous blowfish resided. When that fish passed away, I cut it. Just to know I’d done it.

All of that being said, my meal that afternoon at Le Bernardin is one of, if not, THE most memorable meal of my life. And I eat a lot. I remember a raw dish of mackerel like the first time I kissed my wife. And I had the same physical reaction probably. I was just stumped. I thought it was a trick. It had to be hamachi I thought. Mackerel is strong. A bloody, stinky, pig of a fish, best left for a smokey grill. At Le Bernardin, mackerel is Miss America (who I met this weekend BTW).

The chefs get a chance to experience Le Bernardin themselves. They are all in awe, as they should be. Except for Jamie, who gives us that Top Chef cliche line, “It’s just not my kind of food.” This carries some weight when the challenge is flipping eggs at a greasy spoon or making an appetizer from a vending machine. It’s just silly when you’re at a three-Michelin star legendary restaurant. I’m shocked again at the “I’ve nevers”..Never filleted sardines. Never used za’atar spice. Never poached in oil. The I’ve Nevers from a Top Chef cast should be: I’ve never cooked a dish start from scratch in 20 minutes, I’ve never lived in a dorm with 16 people, I’ve never had a woman as pretty as Padma that close to me, etc.

The challenge was also reminiscent of the Le Cirque challenge from Season 3. The difference being that these dishes were more challenging, with the exception of Stefan’s choice. Lobster with asparagus and hollandaise might as well be a culinary school dish. Of course, that's the shear beauty of Ripert’s cuisine. It’s so simple that it gets you mad some times. But I’d agree with Hosea. Stefan is on a tremendous run. One of, if not the best, the show has ever seen. It’s not cumulative, as we always hear, but have a little more fun, you’re a chef, there’s matsutake mushrooms over there! We are watching a diver, who has a few great scores under his belt, do a straight dive on his third attempt. A basketball player in a dunk contest doing a lay-up.

And while Stefan is taking his foot off the gas, Carla is pushing into fifth gear. She has something to prove and I love it. You can just see determination sometimes. Carla and Hosea have it. They might not be the best, but they aren’t going to quit. Leah wants to pull off the road. And while everyone is piling on her, I’ll still remind people now that this is a grueling competition. In real time, they are approaching two months in. Besides giving up in the Quickfire, there was an absolute moment of defeat from her while she was prepping at Le Bernardin. She threw her whisk down on the table. To me, that one move is the clincher. Game over.

What the contestants don’t realize is what’s about to happen. And I don’t mean in next week’s episode. After the show is airing some of them will start getting phone calls and e-mails. The offers will range from chef positions to speaking engagements. And more television work, from special guest appearances to pitching your own treatments. But not as much for those who personally presented themselves poorly. The ones who rant in the stew room or shave people's heads. The ones who disrespect the distinguished guest judges or bad-mouth the hosts in People magazine. The ones who quit and toss their equipment may not get those new opportunities.

There are two rewards you get from being on Top Chef. One is an egg. It’s a $100,000 egg.  One chef gets it each season. The other is a chicken. And some of these chefs don’t realize that chickens make eggs.

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

George decided the best way to satisfy New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski  was with a hearty breakfast. Make it for yourself at home.

Pork and Veal Sausage Patty With Sunny-Side Up Egg and Potato Hash

 

Ingredients
3 lbs pork butt
1 lbs veal
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 bunch chives
1 bunch parsley
1 Tbsp fennel seed
Pepper (to taste)

 

Directions
1. Grind prok and veal using medium dye, reserve and keep cold

2. Toast cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in a sauté pan until aroma is released. Grind in spice grinder, reserve

3. Chop parsley and chives fine, reserved

4. Chop garlic super fine, reserve

5. Mix meat with spices, smoked paprika, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper

6. Test a small batch in fryer. Taste and adjust seasoning

7. Form into patties, place on grill, then finish in oven