Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Ice Ice Baby (Too Cold, Too Cold)

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

Ice Ice Baby (Too Cold, Too Cold)

Gail Simmons explains why Sarah Grueneberg's dish's flaws didn't get her sent home.

Bravotv.com: Now we are in Vancouver.  
Gail Simmons: The Quickfire was at Bao Bei. We ate there away from the cameras as well, and it was one was one of my favorite meals of the trip. That’s a great place.

Bravotv.com: The chefs seemed to think the “fire and ice” theme was really open to interpretation. 
GS: We said they could leave it open to interpretation, which was fine. Fire can come in many forms -- heat from temperature, heat from spice -- we were totally fine with that. And the cold? It didn’t need to be frozen. We were happy with interpretation. We just wanted to see that there was an effort and an idea behind the two in some way. Did I think that they knocked it out of the park in terms of the fire and ice component? No. But some of the food was really good. 

Bravotv.com: Paul won with his king crab and sunchoke dish. That Paul loves a sunchoke!
GS: The cocktail was great, and it had a little bit of heat in it too. I love chili in a cocktail, and I think it just cuts the alcohol so well and it has such a great, fun flavor. This was also his second time cooking with crab, King crab. He did King crab in that ice block challenge, and he did sunchokes in the mentor challenge, but that’s OK because it was delicious. I mean, the dish was really aromatic as it should be, that lemon snow had a lot of flavor, and it was really smart. That was his ice component. Bravotv.com: Padma commented that it wasn’t hot enough, but they had also gotten him in the Quickfire for putting too much chili in it. 
GS: So he played it down, and that’s a delicate balance obviously. You don’t want to blow peoples' mouths out because heat is not a flavor. Chili has flavor, but it also has power and you need to be very careful because you don’t want it to be so powerful that you can’t actually taste it, and it just kind of dulls everything else and you can’t taste anything in the dish. But the dish was really balanced and it was really lovely as we had hoped.

The circumstances were a lot harder than they seemed from the outside. First of all, it was freezing in that room because they kept all the doors to this event space open, this old salt factory that they were cooking in. We were actually in Olympic Village where all of the Olympians stayed, and now they are converting them to really nice condos. And we were in this old salt factory; it was really cool. But they were cooking in a very makeshift kitchen behind the event space, and most of the people who were at that party were chefs from around town, chefs from Vancouver, as well as people from Canada Tourism, a lot of really well-traveled, well-versed people in food, so it was actually a really good group to cook for. It was just freezing in there, which did not help the contestants when they had to carry the food from across the event space into the party. So that also was sort of a challenge in itself. But I thought what Paul did was smart -- it certainly showed a range of flavor and technique. 

Bravotv.com: Next we have Sarah’s dish. 
GS: Sarah’s dish was really fantastic. The pasta, of course, was, for me, the best part. She’s really a master when she makes fresh pasta. She does it so well; it’s flawless and soft and melted in your mouth. The greens had tons of flavor, it had the chilies, the garlic, but I also wanted to see way more heat. I didn’t really get the fire in this dish. And I actually, of all of us, had the most issue with this dish from Sarah with the frozen sformato. She put it right on top of the pasta, and it was frozen into a block. So when I used my fork to push down into it, to cut it, not only was it very difficult to cut, and so frozen, but it also pushed down on the pasta and squished out all the filling from the pasta which I think actually was a flaw in the conceptual presentation of the dish. That said, once you got the sformato into your mouth, it was so flavorful. It had some spices in it, it had a curry flavor, it was delicious, it was creamy as it should be. It really was more like a semi-freddo than a sformato even though it was partially frozen. And I know there was an ice challenge, but you still have to make it work in terms of how the dish feeds and I don’t think it was totally successful which is why she didn’t win, but her flavors were so strong and the balance of the ingredients was so great and her cocktail was excellent too, so that’s also why she didn’t lose.Bravotv.com: And then we have Lindsay, who did go home, with her halibut.
GS: Lindsay’s dish was sort of interesting to me. It was very complex; there were a lot of elements. When I first started eating it I really enjoyed it, but then when I started looking at it more closely and taking apart the individual components, there seemed to be too much there. Too many layers that didn’t quite go together. And then her cocktail was a little weak. It was a Bloody Mary, which I’m all for, but it was a little watered down, it didn’t have the punch it should have -- we wanted more heat, we wanted more flavor, and a little bit more personality. The other two dishes were very unique -- a Bloody Mary is something that we see everyday at home. 

Bravotv.com: So we have two left. 
GS: It’s the final showdown between Paul and Sarah. Who would ever have known it would come to these two? And the next episode is just straight-up  cooking as they were meant to cook -- we are leaving the fire and the ice and the gondolas and the guns behind us and you will see some pretty extraordinary food from these two chefs. 

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!