Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

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

My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy

Bravotv.com's Senior Editor is a little too excited about the new season.

Yes my little blog all-stars, this season is truly my beautiful dark twisted fantasy. (And I must confess that I'm also listening to Kanye's new album while I write this.) I can't describe the feeling I got when I first heard this season's theme. I got chills. My eyes got wide, and I lost it. For a Top Chef fanatic like myself, there's really nothing more exciting than an all-star season, so it is with great pride and a general 14-year-old-girl zeal that I write my first blog of the season.

I love all these chefs, but I have to admit I was most excited to hear that Marcel was coming back. I didn't watch Season 1 until the finale, but would race home to watch Season 2, and it was because of Marcel. I can fairly say that he is the reason I'm obsessed with the show, which is the reason I'm obsessed with Bravo, which is the reason I applied for a job here. So, I guess you can thank/blame Marcel for that. While many viewers and even some all-stars think Marcel's immature, I've always thought he was misunderstood. But, hey, Pete Campbell is also my favorite character on Mad Men -- are you recognizing a pattern?!

At the start, the chefs all meet at their home-away-from-home and we learn a few things:
1. Fabio's new 'do will probably be polarizing, but I'm on Team Long Hair!
2. Tre is lookin' goooood. (I saw him at the shoot for the new season, and I can confirm he looks as good in real life.)
3. Antonia and Spike may get into it.
4. Marcel and Fabio may get into it.
5. "Interesting? That's the kiss of death." I love Carla. Hootie-hoo!
5. Fabio will probably have the best lines of the season. Here's a quick taste so far:
    - "We're going up, but it feels like we're going to hell."
    - "I'm like the underdog. Italian dog ... good one."
    - "I squashed my balls on Season 5, and that's not going to happen."

Well, I probably could've done without that last bit, but I'll take it. Also, is it just me or does Fabio seem a little more sarcastic this time around? I just want to give him a hug.

So, after all the not-so-pleasantries, the chefs get down to work in their Quickfire Challenge, where they work in teams based on their season, making foods inspired by where their season was filmed. There were only two dishes that gave me pause: 1. Richard's mustard ice cream could've gone either way. While I obviously have all the faith in the world in Mr. Blais, Tom likes simple food, and he could've thought there was no added value in the molecular gastronomy. Luckily for Richard, Tom liked it enough to not only give his team the win, but to call out Richard's component for praise. The New York team didn't fare so well. Their dish sounded sketchy from the start in that the challenge was a team challenge, and the chefs didn't work together at all. I love Jamie, but i was a little disappointed to hear how down she was on her fellow chefs. Oh well -- I guess that's how you win shows! And considering Tom called her element of their dish out specifically as the best part, I guess her instincts are good. I wonder, though, if they had all worked togheter, how much better their overall dish would have been.

Onto the Elimination, which i'm going to assume was difficult for most of the chefs -- literally staring their failures in the face and remaking the dish that sent them home. For some of them, the dish that literally cost them the title of "Top Chef." The twist? The chefs didn't know but they'd be cooking for each other. AND the chefs would be able to hear the other chefs' comments. Yikes! While most of the chefs took it in stride, Fabio and Elia seemed to have particular trouble with the critiques. Elia couldn't even watch it. Apparently Elia knew something we didn't, because her dish was not received well, and she was the first of the chefs to go home. Although she felt embarrassed going home first, I would say to her that it's probably better to be on the bottom of the very best, if that makes any sense. It didn't? Oh well. Fabio landed on the bottom with Elia with a dish Anthony Bourdain found particularly offensive.

I would like to take this moment to talk about Anthony Bourdain for one second. When it was mentioned on an early conference call about the new season that Bourdain might be joining, I nearly had a coronary. The man could probably just go by one name, "Bourdain" -- he's that awesome. Men love him. Women love him. I'm sure most of the animal kingdom loves him too. As a young and naive editor at Bravotv.com it was my privilege to receive his blogs each week for posting. Unless I'm re-writing history I think his blog may have been my idea. I figured, hey, I'm a fan and I want to hear more from him, I bet others do too. I am so excited that he's back blogging for the site! Say what you will about his food, which I've unfortunately never had the pleasure of eating, but the man can write. So, welcome, Anthony -- or, as everyone else calls him, "Tony"!
Tony certainly has a way with words. It's entertaining, it's colorful, and usually exactly what you're thinking. But, apparently Fabio didn't appreciate it this week, and spoke back to Anthony at Judges' Table. I don't know that I've ever seen Fabio that pissed. Anthony talks about the confrontation in his blog, and even says he feels bad about it! Read on... I didn't really get the whole pasta on paper thing either, but I actually kinda like crunchy greens, especially spinach. But apparently Fabio's greens were greasy.

Stephen also found himself in the bottom. Stephen cracks me up, and although I felt bad for his problems in the kitchen this week, I found it amusing. He's a little rusty, and just trying to find his bearings in the kitchen. I guess we'll find out if it ever happens for him!

Angelo won the first challenge, which is a big deal on Top Chef. As longtime fans know, many of the winners of the first challenge go on to win the whole thing. I guess we'll see if he can be a part of that legacy.

Jamie also did well, recreating a dish she hated making in the first place. Shooting Eric Ripert's vlog was particularly interesting this week because he had a few choice words for Jamie. Watch:

Remind me to tell Eric how much I love braised celery next time I see him!
Richard was also in the top, but because of those pesky rules, he was disqualified for the win. Eh, seems fair.

And then there was Spike and his frozen scallops. If I never have to hear about the frozen scallops again it will be too soon. It was a bit of a nightmare at the time, and besides, this is Top Chef, not Top Scallop!

I feel like that were a lot of hilarious things that happened in this episode because I remember giggling like a jackass when I watched it the first time, but I'm blanking! Help me out! Also, help me out by leaving comments -- reading them really makes my day.

I hope you're all as excited about this season as I am -- that "On this season of Top Chef..." was certainly intense enough.

Until next week, Happy Noshing!

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!