Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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O Canada!

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

O Canada!

Gail Simmons breaks down the dishes offered by the final four in the first Canada challenges.

 

Bravotv.com: So, we’re in Canada!
Gail Simmons: Welcome to Canada everybody! My home country. It’s really f---ing cold here. In my 12 years of living in the United States of America, I have grown soft. It’s so pathetic; I mean Vancouver is even warmer than most of the rest of Canada, but Whistler was blustery cold. And windy as you saw from the fur on Padma’s hood…

Bravotv.com: The final four arrive and head to Whistler.
GS: Whistler’s magnificent. And we put them through three excruciating challenges in our culinary games episode. I felt guilty the whole way through because these were the hardest physical challenges we’ve ever made them do. Each one was more ridiculous and difficult than the next. And many of them have a fear of heights or get motion sickness, or both.

Bravotv.com: Sarah kind of made a declaration that she came back ‘nice?’
GS: By the end of this episode I think she warmed to Beverly because, even though the ending of the episode is the way it is, Beverly proved herself like no one else has. You cannot say that Beverly did not kick a little butt. In last week’s episode, and then again in this episode. She she came in second place in the gondola challenge, second place in the ice box challenge, and first place in the physical part of the biathlon.Bravotv.com: Let’s break down the challenges.
GS: It was crazy business that gondola, it was really scary-looking and the fact that they had to cook in it was sort of outrageous, but they all did really well. I wasn’t sure they were going to give us anything at the end of 22 minutes, which really goes by in the blink of an eye. And they all gave us good food. Paul’s meat was unevenly cooked and a bit grey, it did not sear the way he wanted. He came in last -- I think it’s the first time he’s lost a challenge. C’mon Paul -- get it together! Lindsay’s dish had the most flavor, and it was very creative. All things considered, if you think about what they were up against, they all produced great food.  

I just want to commend the company we found to make us those ice blocks for the ice block challenge. It was so beautiful and so mean all at once. I felt like Cruella de Vil in the challenge mostly because I don’t think the producers realized how hard it was going to be to get the food out of the ice with just those little ice picks. It takes brute strength, which only Paul really has and thank god he helped his fellow cheftestants. Beverly went Silence of the Lambs on her block and she still couldn’t get anything out of it. We all were worried for our lives watching her take to that ice block. Unfortunately Sarah’s soup was broken and not very flavorful. Bev’s seared scallop was not so bad, I was impressed with it. But Paul’s brown butter poached king crab with mango chutney was just beautiful, it was such a great idea. Although the mangoes that he cooked with were still a bit frozen, but it’s not like we were eating raw meat. So Lindsay leaves, and then Paul leaves, and then we decide to give Beverly and Sarah guns. First they have to ski around a course which took about a half hour. They are strong chefs, but they are not strong athletes. The most amazing part was that they were doing this in front of actual Olympians in each of the challenges. Cammi was a really great sport. In fact, all three of our guests on this episode were amazing. We talked to each of them about competing in the Olympics and winning their medals, that is just a whole other kind of remarkable skill. Cammi’s in the Hockey Hall of Fame -- she was the first woman ever inducted. She is bad-ass, but she’s also super soft-spoken, and beautiful, and kind, and really into food! She was so excited and nervous to judge the food but she did a really great job I thought. Watching the chefs with their rifles was really frightening. Let me just say Beverly has a good shot. She got like five bullseyes! She killed it literally and figuratively. Word to the wise: Do not mess with Bev and a gun. 

The two final dishes were both really strong and as Tom said several times in this episode, it was a very difficult decision. The flavors and combination of ingredients that they managed to shoot and use was excellent from both sides. Bev’s celery root, truffle, fennel, Arctic Char, and beets were all really lovely, earthy, and perfect with the fish. Except that they were very strong flavors and the fish was slightly overcooked and overpowered, which is why ultimately Beverly went home. Sarah’s dish was very hearty. The rabbit leg and heart, cherries, cabbage, hazelnut were all so great, that kraut she made and then pureed gave it a strong tang that cut some of the fattiness in the rest of the dish. It was inspired and felt so appropriate to that location, to that wintery night. In the end, Sarah won the episode. The other thing you didn’t see, is that Beverly had cooked her Arctic Char over lemons, and she -- by complete accident -- put one of the lemons with the Arctic Char on the dish that I got. So there was this inedible big slice of lemon under my Arctic Char. It wasn’t what made her lose, but it was a moment of carelessness in her plating. Otherwise, I’m really proud of both chefs. They fought hard and most importantly, I think Sarah came out of it with an appreciation for Beverly and the knowledge that you cannot underestimate her. I’m sad that Bev’s leaving us, for the second time. 

On to Vancouver! Where I ate a lot of great Chinese food.

P.S. Did you know that Taylor Kitsch, from Friday Night Lights and the new John Carter movie is Canadian? Just an awesome little piece of trivia I wanted to share. 

 

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!