Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

She's Crafty, She Gets Around

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

She's Crafty, She Gets Around

The chefs cook in Tom Colicchio's kitchen, and's Editor prefers kosher hot dogs.

There's no meaning behind the title of my entry (Get your heads out of the gutter), other than I could not get this song out of my head during this week's episode, which took place at Craft. But before we get to the abysmal Elimination Challenge, let's talk about the Quickfire. Hot dogs.

I. love. hot dogs. It is one of the few foods that I crave, and while I can't remember the last time -- if ever -- I've had a "dirty water dog," or one out of a cart on the streets in NYC, I do head to Nathan's or Ben's Deli pretty regularly. Although I'm not Kosher, I usually opt for the Hebrew Nationals at Ben's because Kosher dogs tend to have a thicker casing which I love (and they answer to a higher authority!) Frankly, the only chef's hot dog that looked appealing to me was Radhika's. Someone should have made their take on a hush puppy! For those who don't know what that is, it's a hot dog wrapped in potato. Nothing too crazy happened in the Quickfire other than Stefan being in the bottom three. What does that mean? It means he isn't invincible, and one half of the "Euro Duo" may just trip up on those American comfort foods. We'll just have to wait and see. What I will say about Stefan is that he is kind of hilarious. I got to speak to him on the phone this week and he was seriously dying of laughter from the blogs on our site. I love when our talent (insider lingo for the people on our shows) read our blogs, but he was LOVING them. So, be sure to leave some messages on his Burning Questions this week because I can pretty much guarantee he'll see them! For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to create a three-course New American Cuisine menu. I honestly have no idea what New American Cuisine means (and maybe the chefs didn't either), so that's where I urge you to read Tom's Blog to get clued in. The chefs were left to their own devices to break up into the three courses. Thankfully Jeff and his sideburns organized everyone accordingly. What was interesting was that there didn't seem to be a shortage of chefs who wanted to make desserts. Basically, most of the chefs did horribly, which I hate to see. It's not that I care about them so much that I want them to succeed, but rather as a viewer, it's much more entertaining to watch chefs create amazing food. The two biggest standouts for me were obviously Fabio's (the winner) and Jamie's. Jamie's soup reminded me of Ilan's roasted corn dish in the TGI Friday's challenge from Season 2. They're not remotely similar, but I think the judges might like corn almost as much as they like bacon. We'll have to see if that theory holds any water.

Most of the other dishes looked pretty unappetizing, but let's focus on Ariane's and Jill's. Ariane really got saved again -- she needs to start listening to what people tell her BEFORE she serves her food. Padma actually spit out her food! That was supposedly a Top Chef first. And honestly I can't remember when that's happened before, so, yeah, that's pretty bad. And then there was Jill. Oh Jill. Just using an ostrich egg doesn't work if no one knows you used it without reading it on a menu. I wonder if she would've gotten more props for the out-of-the-ordinary ingredient if she had incorporated it into the presentation somehow, but with so many diners, I guess that wouldn't have worked. Honestly, ostriches scare me. And the thought of eating one of their byproducts scares me too. And although I agree with Gail's comments about Jill's defense being lame, she could not have seemed more nervous. Anyway, sweet Jill goes home. She did pretty good work last episode, but although the judges liked her Rastafarian-themed dish, I thought the colors were a bit cheesy. I'm just happy Hosea's poor crab decision didn't get him sent home. He's quickly becoming one of my favorites. (So hands off Leah!) On a non-episode front, I got to spend some time today with some previous Top Chefs -- Stephanie, Hung, Richard, Dale Levitski, Antonia, CJ, and Lee Anne -- at the French Culinary Institute as they prepared for a private dinner tomorrow at the James Beard House. We will have video from the prep kitchen soon where they told me what they've been up to and their plans for Thanksgiving, so check back on the site for that.

I think that's all for now, but leave comments and questions, and I will try to answer as well as I can.

Until next week, Monica A. Reyhani

P.S. If Fabio made that Mario Brothers reference one more time ... (I kid. I kid.) P.P.S. I grew up writing "G-d" because it's what I learned in Hebrew school. It is not a bad word, so feel free to use it at will.

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. 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. 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. 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!