Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Magical Elves' Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz: Band on the Run

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

Magical Elves' Dan Cutforth and Jane Lipsitz: Band on the Run

The production team behind Bravo hits like Top Chef and Work of Art answer our questions about their latest project: Justin Bieber's first film.

Dan Cutforth (l) and Jane Lipsitz with Never Say Never director Jon M. Chu

Monica Reyhani: How was the premiere?
Jane Lipsitz: It was amazing. It was a purple carpet, and it was overwhelming. You know there was so much press, and screaming fans, and I mean it was a huge, huge event. And it was incredibly exciting for us.

Dan Cutforth: It was actually the first time I’ve been back to Nokia since the Emmys.

MR: I can’t even imagine what it’s like being even in his vicinity right now, with all those kids. What is that like?
JL: It’s sort of like the thing that you see in movies. We’ve all seen Hard Day’s Night. You can’t really describe it in words until you’re actually in the midst of it. I was on the road with him for two weeks when we were shooting the film, and it’s a really unique experience, and it’s an incredible moment in time for this teen idol. And I think it’s really kind of refreshing to know that in every generation, there’s still this genuine love of a pop icon. It just felt really innocent and ‘90s, really touching in a way that this is an ongoing tradition or a right of passage for young girls, teenagers.

MR: Did the fan-demonium cause any unexpected either problems or anything during production?
JL: Actually, I think our crew had an amazing time on the road, because if they just walked out, the girls were screaming at them. Our audio guy would walk down the line and just lift his hand in the air and the girls would go nuts. So I think it was a really fun experience for everyone on the road, just because by association everyone sort of became part of that, an extension of that level of fame.

MR: That poor audio guy!
JL: He loved it.

M: So the vibe on set was just really joyous?
JL: Yeah it was. Although, I will say at one point there actually was a moment at Madison Square Garden, and we saw a couple of white-faced producers come running in the door. It reached such a level of pandemonium that I think there was a moment where they were in fear for their well-being.MR: So how did this project come to you guys?
DC:...we just got a call out of the blue from Adam Goodman over at Paramount. He was someone we had known many years ago, because he asked to meet us when he was over at Dreamworks, when we had done Bands on the Run for VH1, which is actually the first show that Jane and I collaborated on. He was a big fan of that show, and so we met with him a couple of times after that. But I think we hadn’t spoken to him in probably eight or nine years, and when this project came up he felt like the sense of the musician’s life on the road that he had seen on Bands on the Run was something that he wanted to bring to this movie.

We just went in. And we were really excited about the opportunity. And we were also very well-placed to make something happen at very short notice, because we have a production company and we have people that we know we can call and get out there who will do a great job. So they had a very tight turnaround and a couple of weeks later we were in Toronto and then Jane was on the road for two weeks with the Bieber Army.

JL: ...when we got the call I was standing in the airport and was literally doing the interview with 10 Paramount executives that at the time I did not know. And I think literally two-and-a-half, three weeks later, I was back in the airport heading to Toronto. So it was quite an amazing turnaround.

MR: I know you did Air Guitar Nation -- is this your second feature?
DC: Yes it is.

MR: Are you guys looking to do more films?
DC: I think that’s something we’re definitely interested in doing more of ... we actually had a great experience doing Air Guitar Nation a few years back. And that movie actually was distributed theatrically both in the U.S. and internationally and got us a great press. We’re still paying for it. So, it was a very different experience from this. But you know, it’s funny, we had the whole kind of indie film experience, and now we’ve had this sort of incredible studio movie experience with you know the big premiere and the whole thing. It’s pretty incredible.

MR: What was it like because this film was also unique in that it's 3D. What was that experience like and do you want to do more of that? Maybe have a Top Chef 3D episode?
JL: It is fun to think about that. Honestly, director Jon Chu was really focused on the 3D elements of it, but we learned a lot from him and the experience, and it is kind of an interesting additional creative challenge to think about what’s meaningful in 3D or what’s fun in 3D versus the 2D experience.

MR: What kind of surprised you guys most about working with Justin Bieber? I’m assuming you went in with some sort of preconceived notions about what it was going to be like.
DC: I will say it: I was surprised by how prodigiously talented he is. And I mean clearly you don’t achieve that kind of success without talent, but I just didn’t know how deep it ran, and I think one of the things that’s really cool in the movie is that you get a sense of that this is a kid who’s been a really talented musician his whole life has been sort of amazing his friends and family and neighbors for years, and now he’s doing it on a global scale.

JL: I think the other thing is just seeing the juxtaposition, going literally from one minute in the arena with hundreds of thousands of screaming fans or being on stage in those huge arenas of stardom, and then stepping off and getting on a Segway and squirting water at his friends. We tried to capture it with the film, which hopefully we did. But it is really incredible -- there aren’t a lot of people in that position.MR: I think that you know something you kind of said Dan, you were sort of surprised by the skill. I think the reason a lot of our viewers watch Top Chef is they want to see really talented people. What do you think a Bravo fan, or a Top Chef fan maybe specifically, would like to see in this film or really get out of seeing this film?
DC: I feel like a lot of the shows that we’ve done have been about people in pursuit of their dreams, people with talent in pursuit of their dreams. And that’s really what this movie is about too. I think that the movie has a lot of heart and has a story to tell as well, and I think that it’s a story probably only partly familiar to a lot of the audience. You would be hard-pressed to find a more cynical group of people than the people we work with, and they literally walked out of the premiere the other night with tears in their eyes. Not even kidding. Our head of production said he cried four times during the movie. I think that people may have the expectation that this movie is sort of a kind of puff piece, or, you know, a sort of promotional tool, but we really did set out to tell a story, and I think that that’s something that I really feel that the Bravo audience will respond to.

We know from testing the movie that a lot of the kids in the test audience obviously came with their moms, primarily, and the movie really resonated with them, with parents. It really did well with them, and people who were not expecting to like the movie, liked it a lot. So, hopefully [it will surprise people], and you kind of get that tone from the reviews, that “Wow, this was actually kind of good.”

JL: I went to the New York premiere and a lot of my friends and family that were there, they all walked out of it saying, “I’m totally converted. I would recommend this movie to my friends with kids and my friends without kids.” And it was a really good feeling because I think that our goal is the same as with Top Chef, that we try to tell good stories, and we hope that that’s what this movie will deliver. And honestly, it’s a feel-good movie, it really is. And you know you can’t help it, his music is so catchy that you love the music as well by the end of the show.

MR: Well I wanted to ask, you know you guys obviously had to listen to a lot of his music. Do you have a favorite song?
JL: I like “One Time” which is his first single, and I also love “Dance with Her?” which is his ballad, which is at the end of the movie, which brings tears to my eyes.

DC: I don’t know why I answer this question truthfully because it makes me sound so lame, but my favorite song is “One Less Lonely Girl.”

MR: There’s no shame in that. If you could give any Top cheftestant, or judge, the Bieber haircut, who would it be?
DC: I have to go Colicchio.

JL: Oh yeah definitely.

DC: Maybe Mike Isabella.MR: Speaking of Top Chef, we’re halfway through All-Stars and the fans are loving it. What do you think of the season so far?
DC:I love it. I mean it’s always sort of hard to say, but I feel like this might be my favorite season of the show ever. Obviously the cast is incredible, but I feel like we’re really proud of the creative that we put together this season, and the challenges that we had them do. And it was funny, so many of the chefs came back and said at the end of this all that this was like boot camp in a great way, that it stretched them in ways that they didn’t think, it stretched them to do things that they didn’t think they were capable of. They absolutely really loved and embraced the challenges. It was just really a fun season on every level. It’s been a really fun season.

JL: I think it’s also nice to have a season that you feel has a lot of energy around it in the public eye. You can feel a positive buzz and a big energy around a particular season.

MR: Do you have any sort of production secrets from the film that you can divulge? That maybe people might not know while they’re watching?
JL: It was pretty down and dirty. We were running. For being a huge studio picture, it was a lot of run and gun, and back to basics. The way it was shot was just as similar, ironically, to Bands on the Run, which is why we were brought in in the first place. It all came full circle.

MR: Did this change anything about the way you might produce things in the future? Anything you learned from this production because it was on a such bigger scale?
JL: Anytime you do something in a different genre, it just makes you think about the way you do storytelling, and thinking about original ways to tell stories or multiple voices. It was a really amazing experience for us. I think we learned a lot from the experience, and we hope we can bring that to our television production as well.

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!