Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Antonia's Dish: Not French

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

Antonia's Dish: Not French

Resident Frenchman, Eric Ripert, discusses his issue with the Quickfire, and why Fabio is wrong about the winning dish.


Full transcript after the jump

I  am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin commenting on Top Chef episode 8 New York Season All-Stars.

I was surprised with the Quickfire. I was very happy, actually, to see Isaac Mizrahi because Isaac has a lot of passion for great food. Actually he has a video blog that hosts very often some very good chefs, and demystifies some recipes from those chefs. He's a foodie. He actually, also is coming to Le Bernardin very often as well, and is definitely the proper person to judge a food challenge.

I have a problem a little bit with this challenge because to me food is about, ultimately about, flavor. And presentation comes really, in the least of priorities, much further, firstly the quality of the ingredients, then the flavor that you get for your recipes, then finally the presentation. I have a problem that it was only about presentation, and they didn't have to cook the food. Because to me cooking is, at it's best, and especially in competition like that, it's about combining the great flavors and the presentation, and it's too bad that they didn't have to make their food edible.

However, it was very entertaining. I loved Isaac's remarks. I thought they were really hilarious actually, and congratulations to the winner!

Actually Richard's dish was very appealing to me. It looked like it could be a very good dish and I think he had a good vision about creating, in his mind, the right flavors and then a presentation that was striking.

Some of the dishes looked really appealing and exciting to watch.

Angelo's dish, it was a rough comment from Fabio saying it "looked like vomit in a bag". It really did look like vomit in a bag, I'm sorry Angelo. Isaac didn't like also the fact that he wrote crocodile on the table. I kind of agree with that.

Dale did a dish that really looked like someone ate and didn't even like his food and left the leftover in the plate. So that was not really a successful combination.

But you know art is very subjective, and presentation obviously is very subjective as well, so.

I think Richard deserved to win, it could have been maybe someone else.

I don't think Angelo and Dale would have won that challenge for sure.

I am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin commenting on Top Chef episode 8 New York Season: All-Stars.

The elimination challenge is at Rao's, and Rao's is a fantastic place. It's a legendary restaurant in New York. And as they explain in the show, you cannot really call and get a table. The tables are bought for life through generations, and every Wednesday of every month, you can go to Rao's. Or every, or if you go every week, it's every week. If you want to eat everyday it's everyday. You have to honor your word and go to the place, if not you lose the privilege of eating at Rao's.

I have been invited to Rao’s. It's really an experience. I think as Lorraine Bracco says you never forget your first experience at Rao's. I totally agree. It's something very very unique and special. It's one of those rare moments that you enjoy when you are there. So the contestants are very lucky to be welcome at Rao's.

I'm a French chef so what do I know about Italian food? However, actually, my grandmother is Italian, and I have been sharing many meals with my Italian side of the family. But I think, Italian food is about great quality ingredients, prepared in a simple manner, with some love. And it’s very homey and rewarding in terms of flavors. When you eat Italian, it's simple but it has this great effect on you, like it makes you happy.

It's perfect cooking for entertaining good friends, for having a family reunion, and the challenge was about that actually.

Mike Isabella despite the fact that he put a lot of effort in making his own pasta, served it raw. And that puts you in the bottom. And I think in his mind he was thinking "I'm going home and shame on me because I'm American Italian". He got lucky that some dishes were worse than his.

Dale didn't really impress anyone, and like Lorraine said, to make pancetta bland in terms of flavor, it's really hard to do that. So Dale could have been the one going home.

And then Tre did that risotto, didn’t really take care of his risotto. On top of it, lost the idea of making a risotto. And a risotto is paying homage to the rice. He had all those vegetables on top of it. It looked like the rice was not cooked properly from what I understood. With something like that, with those mistakes, you deserve to go home as well. And in this case, it was Tre going home.

So Fabio, being Italian, couldn't let anyone win this challenge. He had to beat this challenge. I think he was already selling himself to Mr. Pellegrino, in the beginning, by explaining what he was going to do, and relating to Rao's in some aspect, and they they had this long discussion, and the other contestants stopped the discussion.

And then he went into the chicken cachetorie, and did it. I think he did a good dish. Unfortunately for Fabio, Antonia seems to have done something better than his dish. And therefore Antonia ended up winning the challenge with something that looks simple.

And in the stew room, where they are waiting and discussing, some of the contestants don't really understand what is Italian food. It's about great simple ingredients, cooked simply but with love that have great flavors. And Antonia really did a good job, and she won so. Fabio was maybe very close, but too bad Fabio.

So Tiffany made a polenta terrine, which seems to be original, and looking at it from the viewer point of view, it looks very appealing and I would love to try. And then the minestrone was also a great idea that Carla cooked. I love minestrone. She could have been very well competing at the very top with Antonia. I think maybe it was a close up. Anyway Antonia is the winner this time.

So Fabio thinks that Mussels and white wine is a French dish. You know in France we would have probably put some crème fraiche in it, and have made it a French dish. But Italy, you can eat mussels and white wine is definitely part of the Italian cooking. Actually even crème fraiche and butter is part of Italian cooking when you eat in the Northern party of Italy. It's not only olive oil and garlic. Italy has a lot of different regions, and I think it was an unfair comment from Fabio.

I am Eric Ripert, I was commenting on Top Chef Season 8 in New York, All-Stars.

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

So she's going to take more time shopping at Whole Foods -- and ask for the best of Melissa's basket and Adam's shrimp. Let's dive right in. How did it feel to go shopping?
Gail Simmons: Shopping at Whole Foods was fantastic and hilarious. It made us realize that you need to be strategic, which was the point of the exercise for us. They gave us 30 minutes, but we took a little longer. We didn't let the producers push us around! We’re not contestants and we weren't going to stand for it! So, you realize how little time you have, and how big Whole Foods can be. You spend a lot of time running around.


My strategy with my pantry was to get a lot of fresh, delicious food that you can cook in lots of different ways. A good balance of proteins, fish, fruits, vegetables, spices, fresh herbs, grains. But I didn't want to get too much. Everyone has different strategies; Padma got a ton of different ingredients. Tom's pantry was very pared down. Richard and I were somewhere in the middle. Let's start by talking about the two dishes that came from your pantry?
GS: Katsuji and Melissa. They used the same protein, but their dishes were very different. They both used shrimp which one of the proteins that I bought. I bought something else too, something that I know has given people trouble in the past (which is why I specifically chose it) -- chicken wings. And I really wanted people to use them. Instead, they chose the easy way out because shrimps cook quickly.

Melissa's used a lot of fresh vegetables, which I was hoping she would: dill, mint, artichoke. I was so excited about all of it. I think it was beautifully done, a lovely salad with that little shrimp on top with spiced yogurt. But it was just a salad with a quick-cooking seafood. It was so similar to what she had done in Restaurant Wars when she made a scallop with grapefruit salad. I believe she could have done so much more. Melissa keeps saying she wanted to focus on her knife skills, and, of course, your knife skills have to be precise. But I need to see more than just knife skills. I want to see cooking skills, I want to see roasting skills, braising skills. I want to see her hands get a little dirtier and her dishes not be as superficial. It was a light, lovely dish. I was happy to eat it for lunch. But when you're competing against six other really talented chefs, we all want to see a little more depth. Katsuji on the other hand went big. He used his ingredients in a really powerful way. The potato salad, the poached shrimp had bold seasoning and I loved how they went together. It was a great dish. It may not have been the best of the day, but I was actually really happy with what he chose to make. So for the rest, let's talk about who was on top and who was on bottom.

GS: At the top there was Gregory who really was going for Padma's heart there. He did great with his coconut milk curry. A really balanced, powerful dish. But it's something we’ve seen from Gregory many times in the past. In fact, in the first challenge he made a similar spicy curry dish with chicken. As much as we thought it was a delicious bowl of food, it was so typical of what we expect from Gregory. George's food was really exciting for us. This was my first time tasting his food and meeting him on Top Chef. He did a great job. The kebab was moist, seasoned really well, and the lentils were beautiful too. My only small issue with the dish is I couldn't understand why he separated the lentils from the kebab in two separate dishes. Why not put lentils on the plate and the kebab right on top, with a dollop of the yogurt? It seemed a little bit disconnected to me. But all-in-all, a really strong dish. Doug had the winning dish of the night. He used Richard's crazy pantry in a way that I thought was smart, clear-cut, and creative. The chorizo and mussels and peppers, just how Tom said, go together well, as do the cauliflower and the garlic. There was sweetness, there was spice, it was light and fresh but had a soulful, rustic flavor we all loved. You could see use of technique. On the bottom were dishes that tried to stretch and didn’t come through. Mei did a great job overall, except her lamb was undercooked. You want lamb medium, medium rare, but the center of that meat was raw to the point where the texture was chewy and almost cold. It would have been better if she had been able to cook it five minutes longer. We talked about Melissa's mistakes already, which also landed her on the bottom. I totally applaud Adam for trying to make a quick-flash marinade. He's been in the middle for so long and he thought "I gotta go big or I gotta go home." He tried to go big and unfortunately, he went home because of that technique. I get the idea of what he was doing, I don't doubt that it could've been successful if it were perhaps done in a different setting, with a little more control. But the flash marinade of his shrimp did not cook it as needed. It was still grey, it was still raw, and the texture of raw shrimp is not appealing. It's squeaky, it's squishy, and it becomes sort of mushy. We wanted it firm and cooked through. It's not like fish that you can eat sashimi-style Unfortunately Adam's hard work, his big risk sent him home.

I will miss him. I think he's an incredibly articulate, clever chef. I think he has an extraordinary career ahead of him. I'm excited to see him back in New York City. I can't wait to eat his food again. Also I want to say of this entire episode that was it was thrilling to see our superfans in the kitchen. We've never let people come into the kitchen in that way before, even though people ask us all the time. It brought so much good energy to have basically a live audience with us for the day. Everyone was so psyched. It was amazing to be around people who really love the show, to let them eat food from our talented chefs. SO much fun!