Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

This Provençal Life

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Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

Gail Simmons Won't Be Pushed Around

Make Doug's Winning Mussels

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Make Doug's Winning Braised Pork!

Gail: We Had a Tough Job This Week

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Hugh: The Demise of Cornwallis and Aaron

Make Gregory's Winning Dumplings

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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

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Gail: We're Taking No Prisoners

Richard Goes From Player to Announcer

Tom Talks Boston

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Gail: The Final Four Are Like Our Children

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Hugh Decides Eight Is Enough

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This Provençal Life

Eric Ripert reveals what he might have cooked for the Ellis Island challenge.

Full transcript after the jump

Hello I am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin commenting on Top Chef, Episode 12, New York, Season All-Star.

The challenge on the boat is definitely not easy. You don't know how long you have to go to Ellis Island. And on top of it, there's a lot this processed food on that boat, and I'm sure it's very challenging to cook with nachos and chips and junk food. However, they are very creative, and they come back with some good ideas. And I was impressed with how quick they react, and by the results as well.

So then judging a challenge like that, I was kind of laughing about it, because Dan has been a supporter of sustainability about farming, about great quality products coming from grovers and farmers and so on, and then he end up judging a Quickfire where they have hot dogs and nachos. And I thought it was funny.

Mike Isabella's bread soup looks really, really bad. It looks like someone has been sick on the boat. So I really feel bad. I mean, it could have been a great idea. At this point, you know, it's almost the end, they're going to the finale, and I really feel bad when I see something like that. At the same time, you know, it's good television, and it makes me laugh.

I really like the idea of Carla, although Richard thought she didn't work enough. Sometimes, and I think Dan Barber would agree with me, when you have great ingredients, beautiful ingredients, of something fresh you, don't have to do that much to make a great recipe. It doesn't have to be necessarily complicated. So Carla win, and I'm glad that she choose to make some so fresh and simple, using a fruit actually.

So when they arrive on the island, they have their relatives and parents, and it's very emotional, and, of course, it's for them very difficult, I'm sure, to deal with that. It's probably a great motivation, at the same time, it's emotionally challenging. And it's probably messing them up a little bit.

I find the idea of looking into their ancestors with their parents very interesting, and the fact that Antonia is a cousin of Mike, very funny too and surprising as well, I mean for them of course, but for us viewers.

So they are to cook something related to their family or their origin. If I would have had to cook something, I think I would have gone Provençal, because part of my family is Italian, part of my family is from Provence. And I would have probably done a stew, with Provençal influence, and that would have been my dish.

So Antonia wins, and she decided to make a stew with a risotto. And until now, on Top Chef it's kind of a curse on risottos. Whoever tried to make it lose, so she's very courageous. And she goes for it, and makes a delicious one. She's the winner. Congratulations Antonia.

So Mike hasn't cooked Italian food since his grandmother actually passed away. And he's very emotional about it, and I can understand that. He decides to make gnocchis . The dish becomes something fantastic and magnificent, and everybody agrees that he has done a great job. So his grandma would be very proud of him.

So Tiffany has the courage also to do something that Tom doesn't necessarily like: okra. And she changed his mind, so she definitely did something really delicious and fantastic as well. And now Tom likes okra.

I would have loved to try Carla’s dish, the pork shoulder, and also with the cheddar biscuits. That sounds really good. Actually I would have loved to try all of those dishes and be there with them.

Well I love the idea that they all are going to the finale. I would have hated to see one of them going home, especially with their family on their side. And you know, they are only five, and we really get attached to them, they have done a fantastic season, they have seen up and downs, and they have conquered, and I was very happy to see them staying and going to the Bahamas.

So I'm very happy that they are all going to the Bahamas. Actually I may, I don't know, see them there. We'll see. That would be a kind of a vacation for me, I don't know if it will be the same for them.

I'm Eric Ripert, from Le Bernadin, commenting on Episode of 12 of Top Chef New York, Season All Star.

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!