Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Apps, 'Tre 'Tres, and 'Serts

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

Apps, 'Tre 'Tres, and 'Serts

Three houses, three courses, too few winning dishes.

Hello my little deputies. I shall start this week by explaining my title. Well, just Google "Tom Haverford food slang." You're welcome. I almost titled this blog "Jonesin' for Chris" as an ode to Chris Jones, not Crary. Not because I don't like Crary, but because there is a reference to Chris Jones as the "Ugly Chris" in the episode, and that is simply not true. You're beautiful just the way you are, Chris! Keep wearing your ponytails and sunglasses!

On to the episode! The chefs pack up their stuff in San Antonio and head to Dallas, Texas. We learn several things in the car ride. The two nuggets I came away with were: 1) Dakota may have a warrant out for her arrest in Texas. Whoops! 2) Chris Crary lost 70 pounds. Wow. Note to self to ask him how he did that. 

The first nugget wouldn't be that big of a deal if, say, the chefs weren't pulled over by law enforcement, but psych! It's just a Quickfire Challenge. Instead of arrest, the chefs face dreamboats Padma and John Besh. If you're in new Orleans and can afford a fine dining experience, you must visit August. The food is insane.

The chefs are tasked with creating dishes using survival kit ingredients. I have to say the only dish that actually looked like a dish to me was Edward's, so I was  little bummed when he didn't win. He also pulled that one out with a bad back. That must have been painful. I remember Anthony Bourdain saying in one of his books that you shouldn't become a chef if you already have a bad back since it puts so much strain on it. I actually don't think my back could take it! Guess I'll have to stick to homecooking for now. Ultimately, Lindsay's homage to her father's love of Vienna Sausage won. 

The chefs go from rags (survival kits in the middle of a muddy field) to riches (mansions in one of the wealthiest neighborhoods in Dallas.) The chefs are told that for their Elimination Challenge they will be catering a progressive party. I had never heard of a progressive party, but seems like something fun if you like your neighbors. My apartment neighbors are elderly yentah, so I don't know if I'd want to get into it with them like that. The chefs are split up into three courses/groups: apps, 'tre 'tres, and 'serts. I wasn't blown away by many of the dishes, I have to say. Although maybe i was too focused on the adorable jokes Gail was making with her over-the-top hosts, or the grumpy looks on Tom's face which cracked me up.

The appetizers seemed to be the strongest course. In fact, Paul won with his Brussels sprouts appetizer. I'm glad Paul won. He is just so adorable and tries so damn hard. And, i love Brussels sprouts. The entrees were all kind of meh, but I did enjoy watching Ty-Lor and Heather cheer each other on. Maybe we referenced their friendship in the premiere, but I couldn't remember. I was excited to learn that they're such good friends. 

The desserts kind of cracked me up. To the chefs' credit they were given direction to think like a fat kid, and, um, with the exception of Edward Lee they did. In fact, Ed's facial expression when given that instruction was so priceless I want dot make a .gif of it. And still might! I'll keep you posted if i get that done. As I said to Gail, the desserts reminded me a lot of Stefan Richter's finale dish and Ilan Hall's gluttony-inspired dish from Season 2. They just made no sense to me. It was sweet upon sweet upon sweet with little balance. I actually had high hopes for Edward's dish, even though he didn't' quite listen to the hosts, but apparently it wasn't executed well. 

And so amongst a bunch of lackluster dishes, Chuy goes home with his salmon and cheese dish. I ddn't make the connection to lox and cream cheese till Gail said it, but for some reason they seem so differen to me. Admittedly, I hate hot salmon (and goat cheese isn't my favorite), but the thought of eating hot fish with goat cheese grossed me out. I was, however, shocked to see Chuy go, in that I thought he'd go much farther in the competiion. Luckily for him, he gets another shot in Last Chance Kitcheb. We'll see how he does.

Until nxt week, Have a Nosh!


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. 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. 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. 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!