Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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Wolf(gang) Pack

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

Wolf(gang) Pack

Richard Blais vividly remembers the first few days as a cheftestant.

It happens relatively quickly. You get a phone call. Then, in a few hours, a list of things you can bring. Followed by a longer list of things you can’t. And then a few hundred papers to sign. You receive flight information and contact info for people you’ve never met. They will be “handling you,” whatever that means. In a few days, you’re off to be a contestant on Top Chef. At the time you don’t know it, but that Wired magazine with Brad Pitt on the cover and that pretty awful hot dog at the airport will be your last taste of freedom for a while.

Upon arrival, you will be stripped of your belongings. Your Red Sox cap, gone — it’s branded.  (Why do you think you see so many home-printed t-shirts?) Cell phone, wallet, money, ID, notebook with recipes. Gone. Even that magazine. Confiscated, for six weeks, you can hope at least. At this point, I’m sure they are checking toothpaste tubes for illegally transported methyl cellulose. It’s serious.

There is a part to the first few days of being on Top Chef that's like prison, I expect. There’s bad food, blood being spilled, and alliances being made. For as long as you’re filming, you will never even go to the bathroom alone. You won’t need a shank of course, unless it's lamb. 

You get to meet your fellow competitors now. At a house that I’m guessing is a good upgrade from where most of the cast usually resides. I remember our house in Chicago had a toilet seat warmer. That was nice. There will be a scramble for bunk beds (not sure why). And there’s so much chatter and name-dropping going on that the prison-like atmosphere becomes more summer camp-ish, or since there’s alcohol in abundance, maybe college.

I’ve worked for him, or her. I’ve got this nomination, or this award. I’ve been on that TV show. At my restaurant this, at my restaurant that. My style is this. I grow my own food, etc. etc. This casual social mixer seems harmless and fun. Hair starts to come down. Neckerchiefs start to loosen. 

But in an hour’s time, half of the pack will have been virtually eliminated.

That is a bold statement but one I can make with certainty. Of course there is maybe one contestant each year who finishes way beyond everyone’s expectations. But the first true accomplishment during the competition is getting half-way through. The contestants can lay odds (see what I did there?) on who will be in the game very easily. All it takes is this first gathering.

It’s a wolf pack. And the strong are going to show their teeth before they even put on a jacket. Whether it’s by discussing their pedigree, boasting of their restaurant’s stars, or clearly defining their style in a sentence. It’s game time, way before the first set of challenges.

I wouldn’t be worried about the guy who gets rip roaring drunk on the first night. He won’t have the stamina for the grind. Nor would I be concerned about the two girls who consistently just say they are “happy to be here.” Thats a tail between the legs. The blond who just started cooking dinner for all of us, she has guts and she’ll do well. That guy’s knives are serious. And homeboy at the other bunk just unpacked an ingredient I’ve never heard of. They’ll be here for a bit. Guy deciding what colored scarf to wear tomorrow ... Adios!

The first episode is always hard to blog without recapping. My first swing through this blog was four pages long. But after rewatching the episode, I found it obvious, the body language, comments, and clues that we were shown, that reveal to the viewer who could go far this season.

So, who do you think will be unpacking their knives for a long stay with this season’s wolf pack in the dessert?

Special note: I know all three Atlanta-based contestants well. And Eli Kirshtein on a personal and professional level (he was the best man at my wedding, and my sous-chef for years) .

Keep up with me at www.richardblais.net or read about my most recent challenge in my column in Creative Loafing, “Knife’s Edge.” Follow me on Twitter @RichardBlais

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