Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Conch Artists

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

Conch Artists

Tom Colicchio breaks down the chefs' variations on this week's star ingredient -- conch.

This week’s Elimination Challenge was not an easy one. Fair enough, it’s the finale –- it shouldn’t be easy, right? I’m not referring to the chefs diving for their own conchs from the ocean floor, but cooking them well on the sandy and windy beach and finding a way to feature them for a table comprised largely of Bahamians –- who know the protein quite well –- posed a challenge. Even just getting the conchs out of their shells was difficult. While conch is available in the States, it isn’t available live, so even Richard, who had practiced cooking with the ingredient in preparation for the finale, had not had practice at removing the conch from its shell. The closest we come up in the Northeast is a whelk (looks similar, but they’re different; a whelk’s a carnivore while conches are herbivores, for one thing.)

I love conch. I typically go to the Bahamas once a year to fish, and I always ask the cab driver to stop off on the way to the hotel for conch salad. They mix the conch with peppers, onion, scotch bonnets and what they call sour orange, and let it all marinate. Sometimes some scallions, as well. The only thing that would make it better would be the addition of some olive oil, but they don’t use it. Still, it’s really delicious. I always have the obligatory conch fritters that everyone in the Bahamas makes, as well as cracked conch, in which they slice the conch very thin and grill the whole thing. It’s also quite delicious. I look forward to all three dishes when I come to the Bahamas.

So I was looking forward to a challenge in which conch was the featured protein. All in all, our chefs did a nice job… once they got the things out of their shells. Once you do, the meat can get tough on you pretty quicky, so it’s usually best to marinate conch. I hoped in this challenge to really taste the conch in each chef’s dish -– I wanted the conch to be an integral part of the dish, though we judges still had to take into consideration the whole dish when judging.Mike’s dish not only best featured the conch, it was one of the most successful dishes of the season. Gail couldn’t say enough about the savory pineapple, for good reason –- it was seasoned so well. The banana leaf lent a satisfying smokiness to the dish and gave it a flavor that was hard to put your finger on. The conch vinaigrette was absolutely delicious, and the fish inside the banana leaf was very nicely cooked. All of the components came together beautifully, and as good as each one was, the whole was even greater than the sum of its parts.  It was a terrific dish.Mike was on a high going into the challenge, having won the last one in addition to besting Michael Voltaggio in that Quickfire Challenge. Contrast his mental state with that of Richard, who spoke at length about hating all of his dishes. He called it an “artist’s thing,” this urge to smash his dishes the moment he’s completed them. I disagree. A chef could never put together a menu if s/he hated his/her dishes. I like the dishes I create to greater and larger extents, and put the ones I consider most successful onto my menus. I know that psychologically speaking, people often fluctuate between feelings of inadequacy and grandeur, counterintuitive as that might seem, but if Richard hates all of his dishes, why does he always think he should have won with a dish that he hated? Just asking…

Richard’s dish was solidly good, and that sweet potato pasta even had me fooled –- I thought at first that he’d made homemade pasta on the beach. Had Mike’s dish not been so fantastic, Richard would have won with his. Antonia didn’t feature her conch as well. And, as Tiffany herself stated, Tiffany was outcooked by the other three chefs. Her placing the cold ceviche into the bowl with what was supposed to be a warm chowder was a strange choice. Chefs have made soups where one spoonful is hot followed by another that’s cold, but that was not what Tiffany did here –- the whole dish was just lukewarm. Further, the dish was not as well seasoned and the flavors not as well developed, and the overall dish was a bit sweet in a way it should not have been.Not that Tiffany should feel bad for a moment. Tiffany is young and doesn’t have a strong resume or a lot of experience. She makes up for that by doing her style of cooking well, and she came a long way in this competition on that strength. Having made it to fourth place in the company of eighteen accomplished chefs is a reason for her to hold her head up high. She is opening a restaurant in Dallas soon. When I’m down in Dallas, I’d love to come by and eat some of her food.  It’ll be a treat to do so in her own place, as opposed to on our show, where she was comporting with and conforming to our various challenges.

There are three contestants left, with two episodes to go. It’s anyone’s game at this point.

Make George's Cravable Breakfast Sausage

George decided the best way to satisfy New England Patriot tight end Rob Gronkowski  was with a hearty breakfast. Make it for yourself at home.

Pork and Veal Sausage Patty With Sunny-Side Up Egg and Potato Hash

 

Ingredients
3 lbs pork butt
1 lbs veal
4 garlic cloves
1 Tbsp cumin
1 Tbsp coriander
2 Tbsp smoked paprika
1 bunch chives
1 bunch parsley
1 Tbsp fennel seed
Pepper (to taste)

 

Directions
1. Grind prok and veal using medium dye, reserve and keep cold

2. Toast cumin, coriander, and fennel seed in a sauté pan until aroma is released. Grind in spice grinder, reserve

3. Chop parsley and chives fine, reserved

4. Chop garlic super fine, reserve

5. Mix meat with spices, smoked paprika, herbs, garlic, salt, and pepper

6. Test a small batch in fryer. Taste and adjust seasoning

7. Form into patties, place on grill, then finish in oven