Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

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!



Richard: "Winning Is Overrated"

Richard Blais congratulates Doug Adams on his admirable run and knows (from experience) this is just the beginning for this talented chef.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef.

Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about. A jumping off point for unrecognized or yet truly discovered talent.

Mr. Adams, yes I'm saying Mister because it pays respect to the man, and also because that's how The New York Times goes about things, came on to this season touting his resume of being a working class sous chef from Portland.

Doug Adams is not Top Chef. Doug Adams is, however, the poster chef for what this competition is all about.

Richard Blais

Sous chefs are on the line everyday (sous chefs from Portland I imagine are also butchering whole animals and foraging for botanicals, buts that's for a different blog). They are hands-on, blue collar grinders and early on Doug uses this statement to separate himself from the contestants who maybe are clipboard surfing, or worse, not even really in a restaurant at this stage of their careers. And although this is a part of his strategy or drive, and a very honest personal understanding and awareness of self, I have news for you...

Doug Adams is no longer a sous chef.

Sure, he may actually, technically still carry the title tonight, I'm not certain to be honest, but by his performance this season on Top Chef, he is now ready for the next stage in his career, and this is what can happen and should happen after Top Chef.

I can't imagine someone not taking a chance with giving Doug the opportunity to run a small restaurant. I can't imagine that someone out there tonight, hearing about Doug's goal of operating a Montana restaurant, connected in some way to hunting and fishing won't contact him. I can't imagine it; because it happened to me... My restaurant Juniper & Ivy in San Diego is a direct connection from my performance on Top Chef, and my gut tells me it had very little to do with "winning."

The fact is, winning is overrated.

Winning is fun. It may get you some cash or secure your ego, yes, but really, six months after this thing runs out on television, we are all just "that guy or girl from Top Chef.

Throughout this season, Doug has demonstrated everything one looks for in a great business partner. He cooks delicious, relatable, soulful food. He does it with a smile on his face. He cooks with a sense of authorship and knowledge of place and time. And perhaps most importantly (no, not his epic beard), most importantly, he communicates with his colleagues professionally and with integrity. I'd guess every cheftestant likes him. I know every judge likes him. He takes risks, like roasting a whole lobe of Foie gras, or say, blending up an aioli of ant eggs. Which, by the way, are you kidding me? Maybe he takes these chances because it's part of the game, but I think more so because Doug is a curious cook, which is a sure tell sign of a chef ready to do their own thing.

Doug, it may seem like I never had anything positive to say about your food, and maybe indeed that's how it played out on television, but it's not the case, Chef.

Congrats on an amazing run, one for all future contestants to take note of. And when rooms become available at your resort in Montana, I'm booking...

@RichardBlais (Instagram & Twitter)

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