Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Grayson Under Fire

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

Grayson Under Fire

Paul may have won the challenge, but Grayson really won.

Hello, my little meatballs. Don’t worry -- you’re just as original as chicken salad! Or so we learn in this week’s episode. But we’ll get to that in a couple of paragraphs.

Let’s start with this week’s Quickfire where we team up the remaining contestants in a sort of mise en place relay race and then create a dish using those ingredients with the time they have left over. The ingredients were shrimp, corn, and fettucine. And the chefs actually had to make their own fettucine. Even though it would seem that the team with the most time to cook their food -- Lindsay and Sarah -- would probably win, they didn’t. Grayson and Chris did. Sarah thinks it’s because guest judge, Cat Cora, didn't like tarragon, an ingredient in their dish. My only comeback to that would be that if a dish is successful, the diner will enjoy ingredients he/she never thought she liked. While there are obviously exceptions, I have found this to be true.

The only other thing to say about the Quickfire was that Paul was right -- he is a little bit cursed when it comes to pairing up with Edward. He mentioned that every time he teams with Edward they don’t do well. And sure ehough.... This time, Paul pretty much forgot about the shrimp element. Whoops.On to the Elimination Challenge, where Padma reveals that the partners will become enemies -- you know, or something less ominous. The two chefs will have to select a dish and compete against each other. The dishes are prepped for a block party. Whenever I hear block party, I think of Top Chef: Chicago, even though I’m pretty sure we’ve done other similar challenges like it since. The pairs decided on the dishes they’d be creating. Not only did they have to make delicious block party dishes, they had to make them healthy.

It was fairly clear right away which chef of each pair did a better job. Paul’s turkey kalbi beat out Edward’s. Lindsay out-meatballed Sarah, and Grayson’s chicken salad, even with a little mayo -- albeit olive oil mayo -- was tops over Chris’. Although it was actually a little mean, Paul telling diners that his dish was a healthier version of Edward’s cracked me up. Lindsay and Sarah were pretty supportive of each other’s dishes. Grayson and Chris went two pretty different routes on their chicken salads. Chris had a pretty genius idea of using tofu as his binding agent, but he also chose to pre-make his sammies. Grayson chose to serve her sandwiches on the spot, which proved to be the better decision.

 

 

I just want to take a moment to talk about Paul and Sarah’s turkey dishes. Although it may have seemed like a no-brainer to swap the red meat for turkey to make it healther, I actually think it was more of a risk than portrayed. Turkey can dry out really easily, especially if it’s sitting out. Paul’s deicion to use eggplant to keep that sort of unctuous quality of chicken salad was really, really smart. And ultimately led to his win.

 

In the end, the judges weren’t jonesin’ for any more of Chris’ food. (Har har.) Although I was sad to see Chris go, the look on Richie’s face when he was rejoined by his comrade in Last Chance Kitchen is priceless. And, although Paul’s turkey won, Grayson kinda really won. She challenged Tom at the Judges’ Table after he criticized her seemingly "boring" choice of chicken salad, and kinda shut him down. I don’t think we’ve ever seen Tom concede like that, and if anyone were to ever be the one to cause it, it would be Grayson.

 

Sooo, we only have five chefs left! And next week, we have Pee-wee Herman, who actually scared me as a child, which I’ll explain next week. Until then, 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.

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!