Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Happier than a Pig in Mud

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Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

Make Katsuji's Authentically Delicious Stuffing

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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

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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

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'Top Chef' Goes to Hog Heaven

Gris Gris Boucherie Ya Ya

Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

Happier than a Pig in Mud

Bravotv.com's Editor talks about this week's challenge and her meal at Ash's restaurant.

Welcome back for another week my little, um, pigs and pinots? Sorry -- maybe that was offensive. Before I begin, want to address a couple of comments/questions from my blog last week: Roberto, I'm sure you're not the only one who thought it was odd I didn't quite know what umami meant. It's embarrassing, but I'm not too proud to admit my shortcomings, and, well, if it educates some readers in the process, all the better! The list of things about food I should know that I probably don't is pretty long, which is a good reason I have no effect on the outcome of the show! PeachPie, I read ALL the comments on my blog, both good and bad, even the late-comers. And Mary, thank you for your feedback about our semi-new design. We're always trying to improve user experience, and your comments are welcome and helpful. Trust that we listen and are continuing to make navigating between content as easy on you guys as possible.

OK, onto the episode: We start with a riveting look at Robin's pilates regime. I swear, before this episode I don't think I realized how jacked Robin is! All I have to say to the chefs starting with her is, "Watch out!" She could probably beat you up!

The chefs arrive in the kitchen to see Padma standing with Charlie Palmer, American icon and former boss to both Bryan and Michael Voltaggio. I found it really interesting to hear both Bryan and Michael's opinions of their time with Chef Palmer and their respective relationships with the chef. Basically, Bryan's the "good son," and Michael seems like a bit of a bad boy. I asked both of them more about Charlie in our Burning Questions blog, and you can see both of their answers HERE. The chefs had to create dishes to pair with Alexia crunchy snacks. I had never heard about these things until the show, but I was walking in D'Agostino's last week and what do I see for the first time ever? Alexia crunchy snacks! I'm pretty tempted to make a purchase, especially since the chefs actually seemed to like them. (Update since I first wrote this: I bought the onion strips, and their similarity to actual fried onions is kind of uncanny, aaand I think I ate too many. Oof.) In the bottom of the Quickfire, we had Ash, Robin, and Jennifer Caroll with an overcooked pork chop. In the top were the Southern boys and Bryan. Eli wins. Oh, and we find out Eli lives with his mom. So, there's that. I guess I have no comment because I still have friends who live with their parents, and I did for quite some time to save money, but for some reason, I think this explains a lot.

For the Elimination, the chefs had the opportunity to create dishes for Charlie Palmer's annual event, Pigs and Pinot. Sideways is my favorite movie, which is probably where I learned the most about Pinot and how delicate the grapes are, but as I've just start getting into reds (I'll admit it, I'm a sucker for sweet, German Rieslings), this challenge excited me. Also, although I didn't grow up eating much pork at all, I've grown to love it. The chefs seemed genuinely excited when they started drawing knives and seeing what the challenge actually was. They were then taken to Aureole to meet with Charlie's Master Sommelier and select the wine they would pair with their pig dishes. I don't know enough about Pinot to know who made good choices, but I guess we found out later. Kevin, the Voltaggios, and Jenn found themselves on the top, all creating not only tasty dishes but good pairings. I was so impressed that Kevin knew so much about the vineyard in which his wine originated. Alas, in the bottom were Ash, Robin, and Laurine for very different reasons. Some of the chefs talked about the judges "making the right decision," i.e. sending Robin home. It's kind of interesting to see the chefs uttering the same sentiments of so many of our viewers, but the woman's still there. And until she has the worst dish, she'll continue to be there. In the end, it was Ash's time to go, but not before making me laugh ridiculously hard. In response to Padma's somewhat harsh comments about his dish, Ash returns to the Stew Room and says, "I forgot flavor!" like that hadn't occurred to him before. Oh, Ash, you will be missed.

I had the pleasure of dining at Ash's restaurant, Trestle on Tenth, last Friday. Although Ash wasn't there (he got called in for breakfast that morning), I enjoyed my meal. The service was excellent, and guess what? I tried duck necks! Tasted like chicken. Just kidding. They were kind of like wings. And although I'm not a big fan of fennel, the side they offer is excellent. After dinner there, I headed over to City Winery for DailyCandy's Midnight Music and Munchies as part of the NYC Wine & Food Festival. I ate superb finger foods, had some good drinks, and busted a move. I saw Joey Campanaro, Johnny Iuzzini, and others, and was finally able to meet Bobby Flay and his lovely wife, Stephanie March, Tyler Florence, and Govind Armstrong (who is pretty dreamy in real life.) It was a wonderful time.

Anyway, that's enough for this week. Next week is NO JOKE. It's Restaurant Wars!

Until then ...