Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

My Dinner at VOLT

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Hugh: Where There's a Will There's a Fenway

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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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Hugh: Enough With the Mexican Food Hate

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Emeril: Nick's Choice Is Part of the Game

Nick's License to Immune

Hugh's Sitting on the Dock of the Bay

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Brian and Travis' Dud Spuds

My Dinner at VOLT

Bravotv.com's Editor talks about her love of levers ... and her memorable dinner at VOLT.

We'll get to my dinner at VOLT soon, but first ...

Welcome back my little Culinary Council members! As I could see from the comments below my last blog entry, you guys were not very happy about the re-run last week. Is it wrong to say I was? I got a week off. So sue me. Anyway, I'm pretty happy we're back though because I missed you guys.

The tension last week surrounding Robin is now palpable in the house. This clip we have as part of our cool "Stir Crazy in Sin City" Webisode series shows how really real it was:



All Robin wants is a damn taco! Give her the taco!

Anyway, we'll come back to this in a moment. First things first ... the Quickfire: What I found semi-amusing about it was that we made the chefs pull a lever on a slot machine. Anyone who's been to Vegas in the last several years knows that most machines have buttons now, but they do still have levers! And you know what? I still use them because it's half the fun of playing slots! And, frankly, it slows you down so you don't go through your money as quickly. Which is probably why the buttons were installed in the first place.

The chefs all played for combinations powered by Cookstr.com, which also powers our fabulous Recipe Finder. A lot of them got "umami" as one of their descriptive words, which I gotta be honest, I didn't know what it meant when Mark Peel used it to describe some of the dishes he was served a couple episodes ago. According to dictionary.com, umami is "a taste that is characteristic of monosodium glutamate and is associated with meats and other high-protein foods. It is sometimes considered to be a fifth basic taste along with sweet, sour, salty, and bitter." Why does that sound so gross to me? Maybe the same reason I don't like mushrooms. Harold explains this fifth taste a bit more in his blog this week, which will be up shortly. Anyway, most of the chefs fared pretty well with their dishes and with Tyler Florence, who I could seriously listen to giggle all day. What a jovial guy.

Kevin won with his Asian dish even though he's not familiar with those flavors. And, he took the $15K instead of immunity. Padma looked very excited about this. Jennifer Carroll found herself alongside Robin at the bottom, but she was feeling all sorts of "blech." I thought you guys would be upset she was cooking while sick, but I'm gonna venture to say it happens all the time, and, unless my eyes are failing me, she was actually wearing gloves during the challenge.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs paired up to create dishes based on ingredients chosen by some members of the Macy's Culinary Council. If you want to learn more about the six members featured in the episode, you can check out some videos with them HERE. The most suspect pair was obviously Robin and Michael. Michael really reached an all-time low this week barely acknowledging that he even had a partner. Whether it was talking to Tom or the entire table, he kept saying "I" rather than "we." Oy. Poor Robin. In the end though they seemed to pull it out. As did Jennifer and Kevin, who worked very well together and won. (I would kill for a $10K gift card to Macy's!) Two teams that didn't fare as well were Michael V. and Ash and Ashley and Eli. First, let's talk about Ash's little moment at the Judges' Table, comparing Michael Voltaggio to Picasso. This was just ... Wow. Ash really put his foot in his mouth with that one, but I almost think at this point all of the chefs want to see the Voltaggio brothers duke it out at the end. Thankfuly this didn't get him sent home and Michael was spared too. I'm actually dining at Ash's restaurant this Friday, so I'll let you know how it is next week.

I have to say I was pretty bummed to see Ashley go. I had kind of a crush on her. I would say girl-crush, but that's lame. Her voice was oddly soothing and she was just so nice and super-talented. I don't think she went as far as she could have, but I bet this experience will definitely benefit her. I know a lot of people on Team Ashley, including our friends over at AfterEllen.com. While I don't know that it was Eli's time to go home either, it did seem like he was equally at fault for their dish and its oversalting, if not completely responsible. Oh well. That's the way the gnocchi crumbles.


I also just want to call out my favorite moments from the episode, a couple true moments of brotherly love. First, Bryan asks Michael what was wrong with his dish, and Michael tells him. Then, when the other chefs interrogate Bryan about it in the Stew Room, Bryan refuses to sell out his brother. I think this moment was really telling about what a protective older brother Bryan is. Having an older brother and sister myself, I find their sibling relationship extremely relatable and touching. Also, I can promise (having peeked at next week's episode), you'll learn even more about their relationship in the week to come.

OK, so now I can tell you about my wonderful dinner at VOLT. Seriously, guys, it was one of the best meals I've ever had. My friend and I did the Chef's Dinning Room Tasting Menu (Kitchen Menu) with wine pairings. You can check out the menu HERE. Every course was just so beautiful to look at and eat. My favorite course was probably the lamb loin because it was just so deliciously salty. The restaurant was also beautiful -- masculine and modern. We were fortunate enough to have Chef Voltaggio give us a tour of the restaurant, which is actually a 19th Century home. As we walked into the main dining room, people obviously looked up and gawked. It had been a long time since I'd been with a chef in his restaurant while his/her season was still on the air, so I forgot how funny it is to see people's looks of recognition. I asked Bryan if it was weird and he said he was already used to it. He is, for back of a better idiom, cool as a cucumber. He is also insanely gracious. Sure, VOLT is a bit of schlep from D.C, but it's worth it. And I promise the next time I'm in D.C. I will definitely be stopping at Zaytinya to try out Mike Isabella's food.

In other news, I also just found out that Chef Hung Hunyh is now chef at Anja Bar, formerly Buddha Bar in NYC, and my fellow editors and I will hopefully be eating there in November. So go check him out! And finally, in case you've missed any of the first six episodes, check out this video one of my colleagues, Courtney Pollard, and I worked on:

 

Now you know what I "sound" like in print and aurally, but you don't know what I look like! Weird.

Anyway, until next week.