Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Heather's Attitude Issues

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

Heather's Attitude Issues's Senior Editor tries to understand Heather's behavior.

Hello, my little doe-eyed deer. Just to address some of your comments from last week about Heather winning using Edward's recipe. It doesn't matter -- he gave her the recipe. And Tom brought up a good point in his blog that had Ed made the cake, which he could have, he might not have executed it as well. So, Heather won the Venza. I'm not sure how I feel about Heather's attitude in the kitchen, but we'll get to that in a moment because it's really interesting to dissect.

So, this week's Quickfire was all about tequila! Padma also introduced this week's guest judge, Tim Love. As I may be so bold and inappropriate to say this, Chef Love is, well, really good-looking in real life. OK, hopefully that'll be my only 14-year-old girl moment of the blog. Now, onto the Quickfire! This challenge actually reminded me of another handsome chef -- Eric Ripert. Eric loooves tequila. And good tequila. He's not a shot-doer, he drinks it like you're supposed to and as Chef Love reiterated -- by sipping it. As I get older, I appreciate tequila more and more. Someone once told me it's the only non-depressant alcohol, so I like to spread that fun fact (or fallacy -- who knows!) far and wide. But I can't sit there drinking tequila, unless it's in a cocktail or done as a shot. This challenge was about bringing out the flavors of the various types of tequila. Like Chris Crary, I would've selected blanco as well. (I'm really making myself sound like a lush, huh?) I have to be honest and say that, although they were successful, I'm not a huge oyster fan (blasphemous I know), and the thought of pairing an oyster with tequila amost made me vomit in my mouth. As did many of the seafood preparations. Maybe I need to get out more! Even though Heather's didn't work out, the first dish that came to my mind was shrimp too. There used to be this amazing tequila shrimp dish at Eatery in NYC. (Just looking on their website, and I'm not sure it's on the menu anymore -- sorry about that!) Anyway, I'm curious if Chef Love or Padma got drunk from this challenge because it looked like they were finishing all their pairings! Do you know how much tequila that is?! Anyway, Ty-Lor wins this one with his clams. What a nice redemption after his lackluster steak last week and a fairly bad injury.

Onto the Elimination! Chef Love invited his chef friends as the diners for the challenge. They were all impressive, but I was especially excited to see Top Chef Master Anita Lo (if you haven't eaten at Annisa, go!) And the awesome guys from Animal. On my trip to L.A. a couple months ago, I made sure I ate at specific restaurants, and Animal was one of them. It was ridiculous! I can't express enough what an enjoyable low-key meal you can have there. Here are a couple pics from that meal...

poutine, oxtail gravy, cheddar


sticky toffee pudding, mascarpone, orange 

Anyway, the theme of this meal was game. The chefs' experience with game ranged from people who said they've actually hunted their own food, like Nyesha, to people who felt slightly uncomfortable working with game. And perhaps some chefs were just uncomfortable working with their partners! I thought this episode was especially revelatory about which chefs feel compromising with a partner is the best route (and I don't mean Heather's use of the word "compromise," which means to just use her idea) and which chefs felt like they could trust their partners enough to simply go with their ideas.

Perhaps Edward and Ty-Lor won because they worked well together. Not that the judges know anything about what happens int he kitchen, but working well together should produce good results. Also, they used sorghum. I had never heard of sorghum till my friend was looking for it for her boyfriend a couple weeks ago, and then Hugh Acheson mentioned it on his latest appearance on The Nate Berkus Show. Looks like sorghum is the new black!

OK, now onto Heather and Beverly. Oof.  

I'm really torn on this one. I think it's really easy to say that Heather is too tough on Beverly. And you know what? She kind of is. That flower in your hair isn't fooling anyone, Heather! Ha! But, I'm admittedly a very assertive person (OK, maybe aggressive), so I try to put myself in Heather's shoes, to see how I would react to Beverly's personality, and you know what? I'd probably get a little saucy too. That certainly doesn't excuse Heather, though. The problem is that a good manager knows how to get the best work out of people, and Beverly does not respond well to aggression. So, Heather needs to try another tactic. Beverly has more than proven that she's an excellent chef, so Heather needs to start trusting her more. Heather isn't necessarily wrong about her ideas. She was worried about the rendering of the duck fat, and you know what? The judges didn't think it was crispy enough. But how do you do your best work when your "partner" is watching over you, forcing you to hide your cooking style?

Heather brought up that their dish sounded too Asian. While this statement left a bad taste in my mouth, I think I understood what she meant... sort of. Whenever you put labels on dishes, the judges have expectations. Right, Chris Jones? I don't think Heather wanted to get caught in her own sweet potato fence. But the thing is, she needs to express this sentiment better. Why should Beverly tone down her style, when she has to "compromise" on your rustic one?

Heather at Judges' Table was, well, bizarre. She obviously had some things she thought she needed to get off her chest about the last challenge! Enough about the shrimp already, Heather! It's irrelevant -- the judges don't care. And more importantly, as Grayson pointed out (who I'm loving more and more with every episode), you're shooting yourself in the foot! Is it worth it to throw Beverly under the bus just to be right?! Grayson (who seems to be having her own issues with Heather) did the right thing by telling Chris to stop demeaning their dish. Heather could have taken that advice. When in a team, you're not just making your teammate look bad, you're making yourself look bad.Phew. OK. Glad I got that off my chest. Looking forward to seeing all of your arguments over this one in the Comments section below.

Unlike Heather and Beverly, I think Paul and Sarah had a great dynamic. Paul had more faith in Sarah than she had in herself, and knew that even if Sarah wasn't happy with her sausage she would figure it out. They were yin and yang, and it worked. Unfortunately, Sarah cried, though. But, don't worry, Sarah. Beverly says its OK to cry.

P.S. Is Paul Qui the most adorable thing ever? I think i have a Season 9 crush on him. That little knit hat in his interviews! Sigh. Also, he seems so mild-mannered, but he's like a silent killer. 

Grayson and Chris were close to going home. Grayson walked a fine line of trying to steer Chris in the right direction -- away from a failed sweet potato fence, and not taking the reins when she saw her partner was in trouble. I'm not a trained chef, but I felt for Chris. I don't think sweet potatoes have ever come out the way I want to. They're just so temperamental. I'll let you know how my sweet potato latkes come out this year, though!

Oh, I almost forgot the twist! The chefs had to pick the bottom groups. I think they were all pretty constructive in their comments. Even Heather was dishing out compliments! It got a little dicey when they actually had to vote for the bottom three groups, but it seemed that everyone agreed on the final decision.

Utimately, Dakota and Nyesha are sent to the Last Chance Kitchen. So, watch to find out who will move on to next week's challenge.

And until next 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!