Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Bring the High Hat In

Make Melissa's Seared Duck Breast Dish

Gail on Innovation (and George's Failure to Push It)

Make Melissa's Mom's Egg Custard

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Make Mei's Inspired Duck a l'Orange

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

Bring the High Hat In

Hugh Acheson hopes Lindsay knows that she has a lot to be proud of.

We have whittled down to a triumvirate, but that implies a team and though these chefs seem friendly to one another, they all still want to win this thing. Three Mooseketeers. Three wise women and a man. Three’s Company. Three’s a crowd. 

As the sun sets on Canada, we are treated to an Alpenglow evening in Whistler before they Sienna down the mountain to Vancouver. Makes me think of the Meat Puppets song "Comin’ Down," which is more about coming down off of heroin, but you get my drift. If you have never been to Vancouver, you should go. It is a stunningly beautiful place with great people. You can be looking at the ocean and turn your head to snow capped peaks. Vancouver also has a great food scene. I loved Bao Bei, Meat & Bread, and Vij’s. They were all great. Vancouver also has some kickass coffee culture going on that gets me all excited. Never seen so many Clovers in my life. (To the Google! Clover Coffee Machine).

Sarah is happy that Bev ain’t coming back. How sweet. Not one bit of, “Hey, against all odds, Bev did a pretty great job.” Did she not realize that those were cameras pointed at her, waiting for her to say mean things about Bev? I guess the wait was pretty short. 

Is the name game a degrees of separation game? I am wondering how Barbara Bush and Hillary Swank are connected. I think you would need more than six degrees to link them. Q-Tip comes up in the conversation as Sarah asks whether there is a rapper with that name. That’s like asking if there’s a tennis player named McEnroe. What’s the scenario? They arrive at the Fairmont in Vancouver. I am “hiding” at the hotel bar. “Hiding” is drinking, but I “hide” in plain sight. The chefs go to a Quickfire at the Bao Bei Chinese Brasserie. Badass restaurant. We ate like kings there one night and then the manager approached me as we were leaving to tell me he had just cooked the collard greens from my book for their holiday party, to awesome accolades. Made my year. 

Masters level sous-chefs with Asian food backgrounds come out of the kitchen. They have been living there at Bao Bei for the whole season, so they are happy to finally see the chefs. Anita. Floyd. Takashi. Yes, Paul you are expected to win. If it was a grits battle I would be the favorite too. It has little to do with lineage and more to do with what you cook everyday. 

$20,000 on the line. The Masters start for 10 minutes and then the three Musketeers cook for 10 minutes and then Masters and then the Musketeers finish. Floyd fondly remembers never winning a Quickfire on Masters. Don’t be saddened Floyd -- you won the whole season! 

Paul: Mirugai (Giant clam) with yuzu dashi and a lot of thai chile. “Emeril and I both happen to like a lot of chile, but that’s a lot of chile.”Lindsay: Scallop three ways. Her sauce work was a bit overpowering for the scallop. Whatever, scallops are my nemesis too.

Sarah: Pan seared cod with crab curry and amaranth. Could’ve used more acid. Bam.

Bev: If the Korean gnome suddenly appears she will be making a shortrib street noodle. FTW. And it would win. 

Flo-rah wins. Terlato money is exchanged. The Masters move on. 

Lindsay is mad at Sarah for winning and also at herself, cause that’s how she rolls. Paul is mad at the Scoville scale, himself, and the expectations of most of America that the guy who cooks Japanese food everyday would win the Asian challenge.  

Fire and Ice time. Dinner for 150 people. They have to cook a course and provide a matching cocktail with fire and ice components. 

At the Whole Foods, Paul wants 1000 grams of king crab. Love the man, but learn to speak metric. Didn’t this man deal dope? That’s a kilogram, Paul. Guess he missed those Miami Vice reruns. That’s how I learned metric. If Tubbs is holding 4400 grams of Colombian gold, how much would that be in kilograms? 

How many times can these people throw Bev under the bus? Lindsay is cooking halibut because Bev fucked up her halibut last time. She makes this abundantly clear. In another world Bev is cooking those tender prom queen ribs with a creepy, distant grin. Sarah is cooking a frozen moose over stuffed noodle. Very Canadian. 

Lindsay is roasting whatever is left of Bev’s self-esteem. 

Paul is looking for essential oils. And special vitamins that make you unbeatable. Warning: if the unbeatable feeling lasts longer than eight hours, go and see your medical practitioner.  

Sarah dropped out of high school to pursue chefdom. Somewhere along the line, perhaps in the hazing stage, she was carried through kitchens by men with high hats. High hat is an interesting term, meaning disdain, and she learned it well. Now, at this point in her career, she is giving the high hat to Bev.  

Sarah bring the high hat in
Sarah bring the high hat in
Sarah bring the high hat in
Sarah bring it

(To the Google my people! Search Tyler, the Creator and high hat)

Paul is forecasting a shitshow. So are the teasers. I don’t think its going to flounder that badly. 

To the train depot. Paul is pulling the claws off live lobsters. This will make the animal rights people really happy. He is finally letting his emotions show. Lindsay is grating tomatoes, and Sarah thinks Lindsay’s playing it safe. The high hat is still in effect. 

The Anti Griddle is coming into play. I think the same one was on the set of Masters and it was the one piece of equipment nobody touched the entire season. Not the most useful piece of kitchen gadgetry. 

The Canadian in the camelhair overcoat likes a stiff drink. Vikram Vij! Cool. VV is the awe-inspiring chef of Vij’s, specializing in modern Indian fare. I had cricket pizza there. It was pretty fly. 

Time to hang out on the stew train. "Crazy Train" may be an apt song right now. They all  have tickets, but only two wil go all the way to the final throwdown, which both America and I hope is not a dinner that they have to cook for 200 people while dangling from a cliff over the ocean. Paul is worst-casing the whole thing. That’s how he rolls. They look tired, and I have written that about twenty times this season.  

The loved Paul’s lobster. Tom hates the arugula in Paul’s dish. Afterthought is a key word, but I really do think this is picky picky. I think the dish was smart and luxurious and his drink looked pretty interesting. 

They loved Sarah’s cannelloni. But Gail assailed the frozenness of the sformato. She knew the ice cold mousse was a mistake, but she owned up. Her chile use may have been a little light, but Emeril loved the cocktail. They loved the pairing of Lindsay’s dish. Lindsay hates everything right now, but still wants to excel in the competition. Her halibut was cooked perfectly. The drink pairing worked well and she showed pretty strong. Chin up, young Lindsay!

They make Sarah the first called, but it's vague as to whether this is positive or an offing. She thinks she lost, but no… she is in! Lindsay is out. Lindsay leaves with class. She has no regrets, and none should she have. Paul wins this contest and moves on to the final. 

Somewhere there is a wall being punched by a prom queen turned very successful chef. And I think it's in Vancouver. Lindsay, you should be very proud of what you did. You rocked it. See you in Miami, where I am right now. Time to put on the banana hammock and head to the beach!

Yes I am on the next episode. Playing third fiddle is never easy. I just keep getting typecast as the monobrowed, sardonic chef. Eat well. Be swell.

Follow me on twitter @hughacheson

 

Hugh Worries About Scurvy and Foie Gras

Hugh Acheson wonders about the health of the kids at Emerson College and debates the cost of roasting that much foie gras.

In this, the tenth episode of this 12th season, we open in the kitchen of the chefs super secret lair. Katusji has taken his wit, wisdom and wherewithal back to his Kosher Japanese Cal-Mex empire to work on a masa matzoh ball taco. He is described as "the most loveable dick in the entire world," which seems pretty on point. These remaining five seem saddened because Katsuji provided respite from the drudgery of competition. They mourn as well, because all understood, though it was never talked about, like a solemn vow, that they could all beat Katsuji in this cooking game. He was the San Diego Padres of Top Chef, the team that all the other competition knew would be an easy beat when the time came.

So the quintet of Mei, Gregory, Dougeeeee, Melissa and George remain. They are all have the stuff that could allow them to win the dough, but Mei and Gregory have really shown that if we must have hierarchy then they are the top two contenders.

Quickfire begins with Andy and his college roommate. Andy just told the roommate that those "games" they played late at night in their bunkbeds WILL be talked about in his next book, so Dave, you have some explaining to the wife and kids. Andy, we are told, is "known for his antics." That he is.

Andy exorts the contestants to hook up with each other and I immediately think of Dougie spooning with Georgie. I then have to wash my eyes out with steel wool and bleach to remove the image. This hurts and still the image remains.

Padma gets Andy back on task and she introduces the Quickfire. It is a collegiate showdown of ramen proportions but the catch is that they must use the contents of the fridge of some poor frosh. Out come the stoner, the nerd, the sorority girl, the lady who should have graduated in '05 and one other innocuous soul. Their fridge contents make me worry about a scurvy outbreak at Emerson College.

We are regaled with stories of the craziest things they all did in college. Melissa built a 24-story beer bong. I went to school in Montreal so my craziest times were hanging out at Biftek on St. Laurent and getting drunk playing pool. Oh wait, I DID THAT EVERY NIGHT until I dropped out of college. Luckily I had some cooking skillz.

Gregory concocts a bacon, Doritos, leftover pizza broth, and I am immediately worried about the future of our country. Dougie has made a Cobb salad ramen with a "coconut-pineapple" broth, and I start looking for my Canadian passport. George, who has no idea what ramen is, 'cause Mike Isabella has never let him out before, is cobbling together a version of SpaghettiOs 2.0s. It has a hint of hot dog, but so does Andy, so this may be well liked. Melissa is making a "Crunchy Carbonara Ramen" which is probably already dispensed out of a coin machine in Tokyo and actually sounds pretty tasty. There is hope. Mei makes a smoked tomato miso with upcycled sushi. Sounds okay, so I stow the passport back and the "go bag."

There is no immunity but the winner gets 5K. Not bad for fifteen minutes of work/fame. Bottoms are Mei and Dougie. Tops are Gregory and George with Melissa winning this murky challenge.

They go to the little room of stewage and watch Julia Child. Then Jacques Pepin stops by and everyone gasps in amazement. I do too because if you don’t love Pepin you are not a nice person. He da bomb.

The Elimination Challenge is to come up with a dish inspired from Julia's cooking. Three hours to cook and one hour to finish on site tomorrow. They chat with Jacques for a while to learn the secrets of Julia, other than the fact that she was totally a CIA spy.

Doug is silent because of where he comes from. Texas shrugs as he says, "I grew up in East Texas and here I am meeting Jacques Pepin." Then he follows this ode to the state of Texas with, "I am from Texas so I can't pronounce things very well." C'mon Doug, your state gave us that Rick Perry character! He's fun to watch!

Doug is insistent on making a whole roasted foie gras. George is braising some veal and presenting it with some vegetables and pommes puree. There is some French going on around here. Melissa is challenging herself with shortribs. Mei is making duck a l'orange but you know it will show off some of herself. You can't spell Mei without ME. Gregory is making Coq au Vin. Tom wanders in during cooking to advise them to channel Julia and then they all try to sound like Julia. None of them will ever be known for their impersonation abilities.

We eat. It's outside. It's beautiful. The diners, or the we, are Dana Cowin, Jacques, Alex Prudhomme (related to Julia), Tom, Padma, Boston chefs Barbara Lynch, Joanne Chang, Mary Dumont, and little old me. I am hungry so don't talk much.

The food is really good overall. There were some issues like drier ribs, monotonous veal, raw foie, and maybe some flabby duck skin, but pound-for-pound they did the dishes well. Tops are Gregory and Mei, and the verdict is an interesting one. Gregory nailed a classic, but it was like he channeled Julia too much and did a textbook version, while Mei nailed a riff on a dish with her duck a l'orange. It is arbitrary who should win but Mei pulls it off and wins a just decision.

Not so arbitrary but still close is the bottom trio of Melissa, George, and Doug. Melissa erred in rib cookery. George cooked stunning veg but it was the veal that was a yawn. Alas, Doug bows out with his dish, a dish that he had never done but dreamed about. You don't just do roasted whole lobes of foie at the restaurant you work at, cause the owner chef would probably stab you if you ruined the 300 bucks in product. But this is TV money so he took a chance. The problem is that cooking whole foie is tricky. You can''t sear it too much or you will render away the beauty, and then you need to temper-roast it in a medium heat oven. Then it comes out and you rest it on a wire rack. It is pretty much served just warm. He did all of those steps, but over-seared it and then cooked it a hair hot, and not long enough, resultingin a greasy, yet raw internal. Funny thing is that the rest of the stuff on the plate was awesome. Well Doug, you were a favorite of ours and I wish you much success in Last Chance Kitchen.

And now we are four. Until next time.

For a good time, follow me on Twitter @hughacheson

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