Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Straight Up Yummy

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

Straight Up Yummy

Bravotv.com's Senior Editor explains why this week's episode was a treat for a NYC foodie like herself.

Hello, my little eggheads. I can tell from your comments that you're all still pretty revved up about last week's elimination, but, well, I don't know what else to say on that topic.

I have a lot to say about this week's episode, however, which I thought was one of the most relatable and relevant episodes we've ever done, at least for a self-proclaimed NYC foodie like myself. Before we get to my reasons for thinking so, let's start with the rousing Quickfire Relay, a Top Chef classic.

As Eric Ripert says in his vlog this week, I too was slightly confused by the change to this season's race until the first team got to start cooking. That being said, I get confused easily. Like, I never understand the rules of The Challenge on MTV. Anyway, usually, each team goes head-to-head to see who can finish one task at a time first. This time, each team had to do a bunch of tasks at a time, and the time in which they finished their mise en place determined how long they would get to cook a dish made from those ingredients. Although Angelo's team finished first, their dish was on the bottom. Who didn't see that one coming? I think Marcel's team's dish could've gone either way. The didn't finish early, but they were smart about making a carpaccio and almost got the win. Too bad Richard's team's dish was better -- they had me at "Artichoke cooked three ways." This reminded me of a dish Bryan Voltaggio made his season, on which I'm totally blanking (I think it was his Bocuse d'Or dish, though) where Tom commented on the fact that although the dish looked simple, the amount of technique that went into it was incredible. So, kudos to the team!OK, now I can sink my teeth into the Elimination. See, one might say the best episode of Top Chef: Miami, was the chefs' trip to New York, starting with a Quickfire at Le Cirque, and then a legendary challenge at the FCI. The skill level at that point was high, and the chefs were in (arguably, of course) their most esteemed company that episode. But the thing is, no New Yorkers I know goes to Le Cirque on a regular basis (or at least I don't.) I'd like to think that place is reserved for special occasions. And some could certainly argue that this week's restaurants are expensive and fall in the same category, but as someone who spends the majority of her paycheck on food, well, it's different. Marea, Townhouse, Ma Peche, and wd~50 are foodie havens ... all the time. All the chefs, especially Quickfire guest judge David Chang are foodie gods in New York, and so this episode actually felt the most New York to me so far. Now, I don't want to sound too much like Stephen, offering unwanted commentary, and the truth is, I only offer food advice if asked (usually), but I can still remember my tasting menu at wd~50, which I did almost two and a half years ago. Not only can I remember it, but I still have the menu, which arrives at the table in an envelope (or it did -- not sure what they do now.) It has actually been sitting on my work desk this whole time. (Please excuse my appearance -- this is the morning after the Bravo Holiday Party.)


 

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I remember my favorite course being the "Eggs benedict." It was so whimsical and delicious, which makes total sense, knowing, as Dale Talde did, that Wylie is an egghead. Although I have yet to make it to Marea or Townhouse, I have been to David Chang's Ssam Bar and frequest his Milk Bar more than I care to mention, and can't wait to finally make it to Ma Peche. (Plans to dine there have always fallen through.) So, this week's episode was comfortable and personal. We'll start at Marea: Poor Stephen. The guy is a sweetheart, and although I'm sad for him, I think he knew as well as we did it was his time to go. I'm going to assume he actually got farther than he thought he might, considering he's never really in the kitchen anymore. It was nice to read in Bourdain's blog that Stephen's technique is still in tact, cooking a perfect salmon, albeit a losing one. Although Stephen came off as a bit pretentious the last couple episodes, I think his heart was in the right place, sharing his knowledge of Marea with Tre. It's so funny -- what annoyed Tre is exactly what always drives my sister nuts -- when people say, "Try this, you'll like it." Well, they might not. And although I can say with almost complete certainty that my sister is surely less adventurous with her food than Tre, it is equally as annoying for them. This is all moot of course since Tre's dish won his group.

On to Ma Peche, where Fabio certainly seemed to be the most out of his element. On the flip side, Angelo was totally in his element. And while the judges seemed wowed by his use of white chocolate with fish, and I don't want to take anything away from that, we've seen it before. Richard Blais and Dale Talde. Season 4. Salmon. 'Member?!

Over at David Burke's Townhouse, Dale Levitski seemed to be the front-runner, but his lack of editing was his downfall this time, and he went home. I kinda knew Antonia would win her heat -- if you will -- because her "peas and carrots" premise just sounded so inspired. Her peas cooked perfectly this time.

And finally over at wd~50, I really, really wanted Marcel to win this, but I knew it wasn't meant to be. Dale cooked what he knew, but did get inspired by Wylie Dufresne's aesthetic. I would have loved to have tried that egg dumpling -- maybe it will end up on the Buddakan menu one day. I was worried for Tiffani, but I didn't feel like it was her time to go home yet, and for some reason I think the judges felt good about her recognizing what she did wrong, and how she would correct it next time.

Can we go back to Marcel for one sec? I know most of you don't understand why I like him, and if this episode didn't change your mind, nothing will, but he is just so passionate about cooking, and it's such a pleasure to watch. As opposed to some of the other chefs who complain about everything, I cracked up when he said how much fun he was having during the Relay Race challenge. He just loves being in a kitchen, loves the challenges, and loves the competition, and I think it's so refreshing. So, no matter what you might think of him, he loves what he does. And I love that.

I've already peeped next week's episode, and it's kind of awesome, but first, tell me what you think about this week's! And, as always, 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!