Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Falling From Grace

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

Falling From Grace

Bravotv.com's Senior Editor finds Casey's elimination sort of amusing.

Hello my little chicken feet! Before I dive in to this week's episode, just want to thank all of my faithful readers for defending me in the Comments section after my last blog. Your coming to my defense warmed my heart, but we can cut CuriousCook some slack. As a writer, I always strive to improve my skills, and realize not everyone will be down with my style. I"m obviously very casual in this blog, and appreciate readers' criticism as much as their praise.

Now, most of you probably won't understand the reference in my blog title this week to Fay Ann Lee's 2006 film, Falling for Grace, which I rented very recently. Why did I see this movie? Because Gale Harold is in it, and I was obsessed with Queer as Folk. The film deals with Chinese assimilation, and Fay Ann Lee, who is also the female lead, Grace, portrays the daughter of a restaurant owner in Chinatown. And so, the film talks a lot about food, obviously Chinese food specifically, and one of the featured dishes is chicken feet! So, Casey's dish choice struck a chord with me.

Let's start at the beginning, though -- a very good place to start. Every season we gets tons of comments and e-mails asking for Tom to compete. And he never has... until now. (Wasn't that dramatic?) Tom created a seemingly simple, yet apparently flavor-complex dish in eight minutes and 37 seconds, which is not a lot of time at all. Tom's time determined the chefs' time for creating their own dishes. I have to say I was happily surprised with most of the chefs' dishes. Dale's and Jamie's seemed like the only real failures to me. I really don't know what Dale was thinking trying to make noodles in that amount of time, but I applaud his ballsiness. I really, really wanted Marcel to win this one. He got a nice compliment from Tom about his dashi, but, alas, Mike Isabella's dish just tasted better. Marcel won in my eyes though. Not only did he show great tenacity in grabbing Tom's fish to work with, which was truly badass (and I never use that word because I hate it.) But he also won me over, once again, with comments that literally had me busting out laughing. His "Jersey accent" literally made me guffaw. And I don't guffaw easily. (OK, that's not true -- I laugh at everything, and it freaks out my fellow editors while I'm watching the episode in our shared office.)The Quickfire may have seemed tough, but it was apparently a piece of cake compared to the chefs' Elimination Challenge -- dim sum service at Grand Harmony restaurant in Chinatown. I'm embarrassed to admit that I've never done proper dim sum, so this was a fairly enlightening challenge for me. Richard called it pretty early on that the whole thing would be a disaster, and boy was he right. Mike Isabella was expediting because he had immunity, but others needed to help him eventually becuase the diners were getting cranky. Poor Tom even had to enter the kitchen to tell the chefs what was what. There was so much chaos in the kitchen, and the thing that honestly pissed me off was how much kvetching was going on, instead of cooking. This is probably one of my biggest pet peeves when working in groups -- when people complain about mistakes being made before the task is complete. I always say, "Solve now, blame later!" Did I just quote myself? Ew. 

Time to break down the dishes: Not surprisingly, Angelo and Dale were on top. As Dale said, this was his challenge to lose. Tiffany Derry rocked it out with a pork bun. Just looking at the "marshmallow-y" ouside made me want a pork bun immediately. Although David Chang's are "the best," I have always preferred Hung Huynh's. They're a little more pulled pork, a little less pork belly, which means less fat in my mouth. Fabio also rocked it out with short ribs. It seems he finally got out of his own head, stepped out of his comfort zone, and succeeded. He got a nice compliment from Susur Lee, which is nothing to sneeze at.

One more quick note about Fabio: The sight of him walking his pet turtle was adorable. I had the opportunity to try turtle soup at Brennan's in New Orleans, and although I usually try to order exotic items as often as possible, I just couldn't do it. I was hungover hungry, and wanted something I knew I could/would eat. Have any of you ever had turtle soup? If so, what's it like?

Fabio's classic "Top Scallop" line was also revived this episode. Now, I know I'll get a barage of comments that Jamie, once again, should have gone home. She even admitted she thought she would. But Tom used the word "inedible" when referring to Casey's dish. Once he said that, I knew Casey was dead in the water. As soon as Casey got cut, I had visions of a "black widow" montage for Jamie at the reunion, Antonia Season 4-style. She just keeps sending people home! Carla's roll was beautiful, but apprently too noodle-y, and Antonia's shrimp toast was good, but she contributed to the poor long beans, so she found herself in the bottom. Casey, obvoiously, lost control of her dish. I don't quite get what happened in telling the others where/how to cook them (in a wok vs. a deep fryer), but it sounds like she didn't give specific instructions and that was her downfall. It's actually kind of hilarious when you think about it. Although I, Carla, and all of you have hopefully now realized that Casey wasn't responsible for Carla's Season 5 finale loss, Carla was sent home for letting someone else have too much say over her dish. Ultimately, Casey was sent home for the same thing. I will miss Casey's insightful comments this season -- she was very good about recognizing other people's weaknesses and commenting on them.

Next week, the chefs travel to my hometown of Long Island for some fishing. This should be interesting.

Oh, before I forget! I had a request from commenter Jantina to see what I ate at Blue Hill the other week. Good news: I saved my tasting menu! It's after the jump. And, I am finally dining at Ma Peche this Saturdy night, and I'll be sure to share -- in detail -- what I eat. Until then, Happy Noshing!top-chef-all-stars-team-top-chef-blog-80

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!