Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

"She Should Just Go Home"

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

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

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

"She Should Just Go Home"

Eric Ripert explains why he thinks Jamie should go home.

Full transcript after the jump.I am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin New York City commenting on episode four of Top Chef New York All-Stars.

So they in this episode, they have to create a stuffing, and I have my own favorite stuffing. And I would have loved to be in that challenge and compete with them and make the stuffing of Grandma. I don’t know if I would have found the ingredients because it’s a very expensive stuffing that my grandmother was making only once a year, either way for New Year’s Eve or for Christmas. But yeah, inside it had some foie gras, some black truffles, some porcini mushroom. So I think I would have had a hard time to find those ingredients but I would have definitely tried to find ingredients that can bring more or less the same flavors in the stuffing.

Definitely challenging to do a stuffing with absolutely no kitchen tools, and I’m very impressed with their creativity. They are basically using everything they can possibly use in that kitchen that is not necessarily a kitchen tool to grate cheese, to slice, chop, cut. It’s very interesting to see how fast they can evolve in the challenge and how fast they can create that stuffing, basically with bare hands and not using their teeth.

I like Marcel’s stuffing a lot. I also like the fact that he stuffed the squab. I always like to stuff the bird when I do the stuffing. I think it brings flavor to the bird and some moisture, and also the bird and the juice of the bird comes into the stuffing and it’s an osmosis of flavors which is very successful. It looks great, so I thought maybe Marcel was going to win that contest.

However, Tre came up with a Southwestern-influenced stuffing, spicy but supposedly very exciting in terms of flavor and seasoning. And Tre won the challenge and he’s actually in good shape because he has immunity for the next step, which is the elimination challenge.

So Carla tried to do stuffing with quinoa, and she doesn’t have time to cook the quinoa, and therefore she’s basically serving raw grain to the judge. That’s not obviously what she’s supposed to do, and she’s in the bottom. But I like her spirit. She has a lot of humor. She knows, she knows she clearly lost. She’s laughing about it, and she’s moving no matter what to the next challenge.

So they are going to the US Open and they are cooking for supposedly a tennis man or an athlete. And what an athlete likes to eat, I think, in my opinion, they need a lot of protein, maybe not so much fat, because they don't want it to be too heavy. They want some energy, so I think if they have the opportunity to bring something that has some sugar content but can be savory, it's a good idea. Vegetables probably are very welcome. But at the end of the day what they are really looking for is protein, pure protein.

So Spike with is team decided to have a strategy. The idea is to serve the worst dish at the beginning and end up very strong. I think it's a good idea, because they are at the US Open and it's like playing a game of tennis. Obviously when those guys play a game they have a strategy. So I like the idea of Spike being playful like that. It's a little insulting for the one who has the worst dish in the group to know that you're going first. However, if it's going to make the group win, why not? Unfortunately for Spike, not only did his group lose, but he ends up going home. His strategy clearly didn't work. Jamie didn't want to play the game, and therefore suddenly everything fell apart.

Spike is not happy to go home, and it looks like it's not the dish he envisioned at all. So Angelo was putting in some yuzu gelee, everybody was contributing to his dish, and he is upset. It's nothing to be upset at, because you're clearly in control of your dish. If you don't want anyone to touch what you are cooking, it's your dish. At the end of the day you're the one who goes home or stays and wins. I think his mistake is to have let companions help him and then maybe they didn't really understand his vision and that's why the dish was not successful. I don't think anyone on his team tried to sabotage him, and I think they really tried to help and win for the team and themselves. Unfortunately it didn't work.

So Jamie, for some reason, doesn't cook for two times in a row and is still in the competition. I think a lot of the viewers are frustrated with that. I myself am very surprised that she's still in the game. I think she should go home, but not necessarily by being sent home, I think she should just go home on her own, because she seems to be absolutely miserable. She doesn't like anything, she's not a good teammate, she doesn't show any good cooking skills. I think she is very overwhelmed by the season, and I must say I really feel bad for her. And when we look at her on our TV screens, it's really painful to see someone so miserable like that. The team started to be after her obviously because they are frustrated to see someone who doesn't cook go to the next step and someone who cooks go home. It's not fair for everyone, I think she feels it also. I don't know what to say, I don't picture her going to far in the competition. Although we'll see what happens, she may just wake up or have a different state of mind, but as of now it's very, very painful to watch her showing no skills of leadership. So therefore, if you cannot be a leader, you cannot be a chef. She has no good technique or skills, so she cannot be a cook. So what are you doing on Top Chef?

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Gail schools us on the science of innovative cooking and explains why George Pagonis' octopus didn't have any legs to stand on. Let's talk about the Elimination Challenge, which was to create an innovative dish that pushed culinary boundaries.

Gail Simmons: I was really happy that Wylie was there for this challenge, of course. But I think the set up was a little anti-climactic in honesty. As a viewer, you didn't get a full explanation of how and why they were given this challenge. It was specifically because there are so many people pushing these boundaries, many of whom are in Boston, and particularly Michael Brenner. He is innovative for a lot of reasons -- he’s a physicist, but what he’s become known for in the culinary space is teaching an in-depth course at Harvard about the science of food and cooking, incorporating people like Wylie and as well as a long list of exceptionally talented and renown chefs from around the world, like Ferran Adrià among others. It is exciting and extraordinary, and having him there allowed us to present our chefs with this challenge. We always think about how the dishes taste and look, whether the meat is cooked well enough or the appearance of knife cuts are appropriate. All of that stuff is in affect science -- cooking is all chemistry and biology, reaction of cells to knives and fire essentially. Everyone has their own definition of innovation, and I think there was a lot of pressure to "innovate" in this challenge. Our chefs did well, but I wish they had been given more time to really push their own personal boundaries more. Let’s start with the winner, Melissa, who had the seared duck breast with farro, walnut miso, and pickled cherries.

GS: Melissa really has stepped up her game and soared in the last two challenges; she won the last challenge (and a spot in the finale in Mexico), and now she’s won this challenge, too. Her duck was beautiful, though not necessarily the most groundbreaking dish I’ve ever seen in my life. But she was innovative enough that we felt her flavors were new, but the dish was at the same time beautiful, delicious. Here’s the tricky thing about being innovative, which I think George touched on when he was talking about the challenge too: is it takes time and practice to truly innovate. I can only assume that someone like Wylie tries a dish fifty times before it goes on his menu as a full formed creative work, that changes how we all perceive food. Innovation takes patience and some serious brain power. To come up with something in a few hours is a tall order when it needs to be totally delicious AND have a level of innovation that surprises and impresses us. Melissa knew her strengths and perhaps was more relaxed then she would’ve been otherwise, so she made that walnut miso pesto and incorporated it in a really creative, unusual way. It made her dish stand out, and by far it was the most delicious. And then we had our runner, Mei, with her duck curry with vadouvan and yuzu yogurt.

GS: There was something about Mei’s dish that made me think it was the most innovative of the day in a number of ways. However it wasn’t the most successful, and that’s why Melissa took the win. Mei’s dish was not only breathtakingly stark and beautiful, looking so modern on the plate, but she also combined several unusual ingredients, which made for a very untraditional, very modern curry. It was innovative and it stayed with us. You could even see in Tom's reaction that it was a dish to think about. When you tasted it, you weren't sure it worked, but there was something enjoyable about it; the dish didn't simply come together in your mind. It wasn't straight forward. You needed to take a pause, then a second bite, and by the third and fourth bite you started to understand all the different parts, which were very exciting. I think with a few more tries, Mei would’ve really nailed that dish. I was proud of her for pushing us all that way. Then in our bottom two we had Gregory and George. Gregory did the salmon in tom kha broth with roasted tomatoes, crispy chicken skin, and crispy salmon skin.

GS: There were a lot of fun, tasty components to Gregory’s dish. If this challenge had been to show us an interesting representation of salmon or Thai flavors, he would’ve gotten it right. The thing with Gregory is that as skilled as he is, we were really hoping that he would come out of his comfort zone. The flavors he used were what we have seen from him previously. We didn’t really see a lot of innovation from him. That doesn’t mean we don’t think he worked hard or didn't do a good job. He gave us something that he felt was different in presentation, but the flavors were definitely in his usual wheelhouse. As he said himself when cooking beans in the Quickfire, he felt uncomfortable because he's more accustomed to using Asian flavors and ingredients. So here he was in the Elimination Challenge using Asian flavors. On the other hand the dish tasted great! We loved it, we just didn’t think he fulfilled the challenge of being innovative like we know he could have. And then there was George. . .  Yes, he had the charred octopus, yellow split pea puree, and green apple harissa.

GS: George also stayed in his comfort zone in some ways -- he's cooked us octopus before, so charring octopus did not feel innovative at all for him, I actually felt disappointed when he told us that's what he had made. However, there were probably twenty other components of that dish that did make it feel somewhat innovative. The green apple harissa was one of them for sure. The fact that he called it harissa may be taking some license, but that's OK. I loved it, it went so well with the octopus, and it was something new that all of us had never seen. That said, the rest of the dish didn’t make sense all together. At least three or four of the garnishes he added didn’t serve a purpose on the plate, rather, they detracted from the dish. He spent his time making too many components. They may have shown technique, and you could tell that he was really pushing himself, but it all still has to be one cohesive plate of food, first and foremost. I think it didn’t work because he let himself get preoccupied with all the other pieces instead of focusing on doing one thing really well in an innovative way.

Charring octopus did not feel innovative at all for him, I actually felt disappointed when he told us that's what he had made.

So George's was the dish we least enjoyed eating and thought was the least successful, that’s why he went home. I think George did a tremendous job. He came back once already, and he could come back from Last Chance Kitchen again. He’s a great cook, has a great attitude, and I think he absolutely gave his best throughout the competition, which made everyone better. I don’t always say that, but I think when he came back, he really changed the game and the whole season was better for it.

Now, onward to Mexico!