Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

A Letdown

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

A Letdown

Eric Ripert was disappointed with the chefs' performance after a successful Quickfire Challenge.

Full transcript after the jump

Hello I'm Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin, commenting on Episode 13 of Top Chef in New York, the All-Star Season.

So in that episode, I am in the Bahamas. I was very happy to join the team, and it was a beautiful surrounding. And we started very well with the Quickfire, on this beautiful fort. And I was very impressed with the food that was cooked on that Quickfire.

So they are very surprised to see the winner of the previous season that they compete with, and basically the challenge is to beat their competitor who previously won the challenge against them. And psychologically, I think it's, either way, it's scary for some of them, and for some of the others it's basically a revenge. So it's a good challenge, it's good energy actually in between them, and it's funny to watch.

So Michael Isabella wins against Mike Voltaggio, and I think it's maybe a surprise for a lot of the viewers. I didn't have a preconceived opinion of what would happen. So I just went and test the food. And at the end of the day, despite all the techniques that Mike Voltaggio used, all the technology he's using and everything else, Mike Isabella really has a more tender, and better duck. And therefore he wins.

I was happy to see Tiffany winning, because she needed to have that with her. She hadn't won anything yet, so that was very good for her morale. And she did a great dish. I mean, it was the first bite we had, of the entire challenge, and we were like "Wow, if we're starting like that it's going to be really interesting."

Everybody did great food actually on that challenge.

Richard is the one who won, and by far he was the winner.

It was interesting that in between Tom and Padma and I, we agree immediately at each table who was the winner. It was no controversy. It was, right away, we were together.

Except for Michael Voltaggio, Padma thought his dish was better, but then Tom and I thought the duck of Mike Isabella was much more tender, therefore, better to eat.

So the Elimination Challenge is very misleading, on purpose. And they're supposed to cook for Bahamian royalty, and the idea is to put in their mind that they have to do something sophisticated, or do whatever they want, but we believe they're going to think sophistication, something elaborate and so on. In fact, they're cooking for the king of Carnival. And the restaurant where they cook, it's a tiny restaurant where they have some local food, and it's not really a luxurious place. And I think they are a little bit surprised and confused. And then it's a big fire in the kitchen. They have to stop completely, the production of the dinner they're preparing. They have to start again. I mean, it's really, really difficult for them psychologically to provide a meal to us.

Well, so basically after the fire, they can redo their mise en place, and they can change the dish that they had in mind. I think it's fair, I mean it's, you know you''re starting again, you have more information about where you are and so on. So why not change? And two of the contestants change. Antonia change and Richard change. And the others do not, but it's fair game

So after the Quickfire, we had very high expectations because the food was so delicious. We thought we were going to have something really amazing. And we were kind of let down a little bit. The food was not as good as we expected it. And I think even themselves seems to be disappointed about what they have cooked for us.

Again, it's a very difficult challenge. I mean, just the fire itself, the drama of the fire, it's difficult to digest.

Carla, unfortunately has to go home. And I say unfortunately for any of them who has to go, because at this point we don't want to see them going home. But again it's a competition.

Her pork was undercooked for some of the guest. Mine was perfectly cooked, but I guess I had the one end piece. It was on the sweet side, and it was almost too sweet. And it was rich, it was sweet potato and then the applesauce, and then it was an apple twirl, and the pork on top. So unfortunately because of the mistake of cooking the pork, and the sweetness, her dish is not a winning dish. And we are sad to see her go home.

Mike wins with his chicken, and after deliberating for a long time, we decide that it's the best dish. It's close to some of the other contestants, but at the end of the day, it's the one we prefer. So Mike, congratulations. And actually Richard is also on top and he knows already right away that he's going to the next challenge.

So Antonia completely change her dish. I don't know what would have been the first version of what she wanted to cook for us, which was the lamb. But it's not really successful. She's basically lucky that Carla has a dish that doesn't work because of again the sweetness and the cooking aspect, because it could have been Antonia going home. But she's lucky that Carla is not doing well, so she stays.

So at the restaurant you have on one side Padma and the king, and then it's Tom and Gail and myself on that little booth. It's difficult to move, but it's. . .they're convivial, and we are having fun. We have a good time.

I'm Eric Ripert I was commenting on Episode 13 of Top Chef New York season, the finale in the Bahamas.

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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