Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

<i>Top Chef</i> At Grand Central And Sweetbreads!

Gail: Mei's Menu Was Almost Flawless

Make Top Chef Mei Lin's Winning Dessert!

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

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Hugh: Mei's a Chef's Chef

Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Make Mei's Sushi Style Guac!

Gail: I Wasn't Surprised Doug Stayed on Top

Get Doug's Masterpiece Brisket Recipe

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

Make Melissa's Mom's Egg Custard

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Make Mei's Inspired Duck a l'Orange

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

<i>Top Chef</i> At Grand Central And Sweetbreads!

Old favorites and new chef'testants gather at Grand Central to celebrate Top Chef: New York.

Hello again! Before I dive into this week's entry, I first want to respond to some of the comments from my last entry. First, a lot of you have been asking when the new season was starting. Wednesday, November 12th at 10/9c!!! I've seen the first episode, and I gotta say it's looking good. In my blog from last season, I compared Top Chef: Chicago to Season 1 (San Francisco for those who have forgotten) because it took awhile to get into the characters and have favorites. I think this season is more like Season 2 where the characters were really strong from the beginning. Let me know if you agree or disagree after you see the premiere. Anyway, Travis, I will find out where the Season 2 finale was set and get back to you. And to respond to my biggest detractor so far this season (It will be my mission to make you love me), "tdl1501," I did write my blog under a pseudonym last season, but fully disclosed that I worked on the editorial team here at Bravotv.com. So, integrity is in tact in my book.


OK -- so this past Monday our fabulous marketing department held Taste of the 5 Buroughs, a tasting event held at Vanderbilt Hall in Grand Central Station to benefit City Harvest. I get to cover most of our events and I have to say this was probably one of the most fun. Before the main event, a VIP lounge at Charlie Palmer's Metrazur was held for radio winners and others to mingle with the new chefs. It was so great to see favorite like Spike, Andrew, Harold, Lee Anne, and others again as well. I had finally met Richard Blais a few days before at the last stop of the Top Chef tour bus in Union Square, so it was good to see him again. And, guess what? I finally met Lisa! And I gotta say, she was perfectly nice to me. Chatty even. You can watch Andy Cohen's interviews live from the VIP lounge.

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After the VIP event, one of our Bravo interns and I went to the main event where the city's best restaurants were offering tastings on one side of the hall while demos were being given on the other side. I had some fabulous food, but i gotta say with all the fancy stuff being offered my favorite was the pulled pork sandwich from Dinosaur BBQ. It really hit the spot after a long day of shooting. Probably the most amusing part of the whole day was the knife skills demonstration put on by Season 4's Spike and Andrew. I had been joking all week that one of them would hurt themselves, and sure enough Andrew did! He actually cut himself pretty badly, but was a trooper through the whole thing, and everyone was laughing hysterically. It was certainly not a surprise that the majority of the audience was women (sorry ladies, they're both taken.) Anyway, i couldn't tell if Andrew was hamming it up or not,but when i went backstage after the performance, he was still bleeding!! I checked up on him via e-mail a couple days later and he's fine. Phew! Watch video of Andy Cohen's interviews live from the VIP. You can also check out the beautiful photos our photo editor Bo took from the tour bus and the tasting event.

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Did any of you guys get tickets and go? I would love to hear what you thougth of the event. I really thought it a very tasteful (har har) start for what is sure to be a really fun season of Top Chef.

OK, now completely unrelated. I mentioned last season that I'd never had sweetbreads, and i was determined to do something about it. So two Friday nights ago, my friend and I didn't know where to go to dinner. I suggested Perilla and luckily they had a cancelled reservation. I decided to try some new things. So for an appetizer i got the Tai Snapper Crudo (green papaya, cucumber, rice pearls & tom yum broth.) Delish! Very light and clean. Then i got the Pan Roasted Stone Bass :Vitello Tonnato" (wax beans, crispy sweetbreads, cippolini onions & marinated tuna sauce.) Is it wrong that the wax beans sold me? Anyway, it was amazing! The sweetbreads tasted like fried chicken. Everyone I've ever asked about sweetbreads says the same thing, and I'm wondering if I'd like them prepared differently. Whenever I think of someone eating sweetbreads I think of the episode of 90210 (the original) when Brenda and Donna go to France and order what they think is veal at a restaurant. After tasting it and finding the food a bit more mushy than expected, Brenda looks up the french dish in her dictionary, utters "It's brains," and Donna just lets the morsel fall out of her mouth. Anyone else remember that? Just me? OK. Anyway, I think Perilla has become my favorite restaurant in the city, and yes, I'm biased because Harold Dieterle owns it, but honestly the food is consistently good and I love the atmostphere. Next time, I'll give some helpful hints for our new Top Chef Fantasy Game!!! Leave your comments, questions, suggestions below. You know I love to read them.

- 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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