Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

What a S--t Show!

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

What a S--t Show!

Eric Ripert commends Tom Colicchio and breaks down the disastrous Elimination Challenge.

Full transcript after the jump.

Hi I'm Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin, commenting on Episode 5 of 'Top Chef All-Stars' New York. 

I was very impressed with the Quickfire and seeing Tom. I think it was a big surprise for everyone to see Tom come in and embrace the challenge, which was to cook something delicious in a very, very fast pace, a very timely manner. Tom, he can still kick ass. He's very precise as you can see on the show. And when we look at it, he's very fast, he's very organized, he's very focused, and at the end he created a dish in 8 minutes and 37 seconds which is very, very fast paced. It's exactly like being a line cook. Actually it's more challenging than being a line cook during service, because he had to filet his fish, he had to open his clams, so he had to do a lot of extra work compared to a line cook. And obviously he is the winner of the Quickfire.

Angelo, Jamie, and Dale are in the bottom of the challenge. Angelo, despite what Tom said about not doing raw fish, decided to do raw fish, which is kind of taking it easy on the challenge because 8 minutes to do a raw fish is really easy going. 

Jamie was challenged by the timing, and basically what she can provide is one clam. And the clam doesn't look too happy. It's a sad dish, so she's in the bottom unfortunately. 

Dale was ambitious and tried to make his own pasta, but unfortunately his dish looks really terrible. It's actually one noodle with kind of a strange color sauce, which doesn't seem to taste too good. He's actually embarrassed himself. And at the end of the day they are all at the bottom. 

On the top we can see Mike, Marcel, and Richard. Marcel was very clever by going to Tom's station and picking up his fish while everyone is fighting by the fridge. That saved him a lot of time I think. And to make a good dashi in such a short period of time is an accomplishment, and I think the dish looks good. The judges were pretty happy, Padma and Tom were pretty happy about it. 

The foie gras looked very good as well, and I'm sure it was delicious. Richard made a sauce with his foie gras, he had time to do that. He presented it well. It was very nicely made.

And then Mike made a bronzino with capers and olives. It looks like in terms or harmony of flavors, combinations of colors, and presentation, and so on, and even technique, he deserved the prize. So he's going home with a Toyota Prius. 

So the Elimination Challenge is a sh-t show. And seriously, it's a tough challenge for the contestants, and they are obviously a bit lost. But it's really tough. They have to expedite, they have to present the food to the tables, and they still have to cook downstairs the food for themselves and for the guys upstairs. It's very difficult to do that, especially with food that you are not necessarily familiar with. Dale is familiar with that kind of food, but when you look at Fabio he has no idea what Chinese food is about. So that challenge is probably the toughest of the season so far from what I see.

So Casey is very adventurous, and I admire her courage to take chicken feet and decide to make them delicious. And she goes and discovers that she has to cut the nails, and she spends hours cutting nails of the chicken giving them a manicure. And not only that, but she volunteered to be upstairs pushing the cart, so someone else is going to execute her dish. At the end of the day, chicken feet are already challenging for a lot of people to eat. So she didn't choose an easy ingredient, and she was very courageous. I think she's leaving the competition of 'Top Chef' with a lot of glory actually on her way out. I congratulate her for being such a courageous chef. 

So Jamie's paired with Antonia, she would love to cook some scallops for the dim sum. They are going to do some string beans together. And it turns out that the scallop dish is not really a winner. The string beans are very greasy, or they look very greasy. Supposedly the taste is not right either. And even Jamie is disappointed with her dish, and so she thinks that she's going home. But Jamie is safe, because I think her dish, even mediocre, is better than the chicken feet. So she's going to the next challenge. 

So Angelo and Dale are familiar with Asian food, so I'm not surprised to see them at the top and for Dale to win the challenge. Dale knows how to cook rice for sure, and he found a very original way to present it and to give flavor to his sticky rice. 

Angelo is having fun with making a shrimp spring roll, and it looks like it was delicious. All the judges are happy with the dish. The surprise is actually Fabio, who actually surprised himself. He was happy because he made a great, tasty dish although he was very scared with the ovens not being perfect for what he wanted to do. He could have even maybe won that challenge, which would have been quite an accomplishment for an Italian to win a Chinese challenge. 

So Susur Lee is a great chef, highly respected in our industry, and he definitely knows Chinese food. He has been very famous for having a great restaurant in Toronto in the past and one in New York. He is very familiar with Hong Kong and Chinese cooking. And I think his comments are –- they are very, very short but they are very constructive and very technical at the same time. So for the viewer it is definitely a big advantage to have him commenting on the dishes. 

I am Eric Ripert, chef of Le Bernardin, commenting on Episode 5 of 'Top Chef All-Stars' in New York City.

 

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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

 

Bravotv.com: 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.

 

Bravotv.com: 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!