Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

CSI: Enchanted Forest

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

CSI: Enchanted Forest

Hugh Acheson wishes he had enjoyed one of the show's greatest meals with Charlize Theron and Eric Ripert.

Sorry this is a bit late. It was finished at midnight at the airport in Salt Lake City after I missed a connection. Rock on SLC -- it was a great 7 hours.

Back to San Antonio we go, land of the Alamo and a fine bar called the Esquire. Google it and go; it’s a fun place to imbibe. 

Sarah starts off the show with the Strange Logic II: the Hatred of Beverly Returns. She laments that Lindsay should have won the previous Restaurant Wars but it lacks Vulcan sensibility and I wish our resident Trekkie would chime in. Bev won the war, oddly enough cooking her own dish as the best and the other dish she was in charge of pickup on, as worst. Strange days here we come.  

Alas, I still stand beside the decision. The other decision that was made was the one to send Ty-Lor packing which was a sad one for all of us. He is a good soul and a talented chef throughout the competition and also a darn fine bartender when he guested on the episode of What What Happens: Live that I was on last week with the esteemed Andy Cohen and the wonderful fly girl, Rosie Perez. The show was definitely live and full of craziness. Amirite?

All the driving scenes this season have had a play-within-a-play mentality. Let’s call them Sienna Scenes, and this is a very uncomfortable ride for the winning ladies. C'mon people, act like winners, not wieners! Bev, the champion, has the others wanting her to be a reluctant champion. I suggest Beverly regale the others with a rousing rendition of “Cry me a River.”  You have to get past yesterday and onto today, people. Don’t stop thinking about tomorrow, yesterday’s gone… it shouldn’t just be the mantra of a Clinton-Gore campaign.Paul is cooking up some breakfast in the Top Chef luxo-bungalow. It’s breakfast pizza pockets, a snack perfected to counter the munchies back in his pot dealing/dog poop-strewn apartment daze. It’s gonna be dope. 

And off to the Quickfire we go. Immunity for the winner. We see a conveyor belt and I am hoping for a sushi challenge where the winner is the person whose food was most consumed. That would rock. Elves… make this happen. I am gleeful though when the challenge is explained that foodstuffs will appear on the belt, and if you grab ‘em, you gotta use them. This is awesome. 

Chef Eric Ripert is in the house. Eric is a god to those of us who cook food for a living. He is also reportedly (we do not know each other) a complete sweetheart, who is very kind and calm. I do suggest that Grayson not sing her frog song just in case it gets misconstrued. Franco-American relations are in jeopardy if that happens. 

Chris Jones is being taunted by a circling crustacean which is playing hard to get. Chris is so Easy Teasy. It is a hilarious man vs. conveyor belt moment. He goes on a profanity-laced tirade. This is killer TV. Finally he gets a hold of one of those lobsters and he is not letting go. He is now going to make this lobster pay for this embarrassment by boiling it and cooking it with foie gras. 

Time is up, and it looks like Beverly is having one of her minimalist brain activity days: she has forgotten to put on one of her necessary elements, yet gets a pretty nice-looking plate composed. Curried rice krispies sounded pretty fly, so I am saddened. Luckily she has not somehow ruined Lindsay’s food in the Quickfire, or we would never hear the end of it. 

The food:

Edward Lee: Sauerkraut Soup with shrimp, shaved truffle and Macadamia nuts. Good looking. 

Chris Jones: Butter Poached Lobster with foie gras. Traditional haute cooking without liquid nitrogen appliqué. In this competition, Chris has left Planet Moto for a simpler place known as Earth. Welcome back, dude. He is seen trying to open a jar with a spatula. Wrong tool Chris, wrong tool!

Grayson: Butter poached fluke with rosemary Goldfish crumble. Sounding weird but this may have solved how to use all those Goldfish one finds crammed in the backseat when you have a toddler. I have two who are past the Goldfish addiction stage but we are still finding Goldfish in the back seats.  

Paul Q: Mussels with broth of bitter melon and saffron. Bitter melon is tough love to use and may bitter him, I mean bite him, in the ass. 

Sarah: Softshell crab with artichokes, cottage cheese, and saltines. This sounds like a CSI episode looking into a drunk Italian fisherman’s death. Or it could rock. We’re about to find out. 

Lindsay: Bouillabaisse of grouper, clams, fennel, and tomato. She’s a little worried about cooking something so French for Eric. I feel for her. I’d be freaking out. I love how they start to subtitle Eric.

Beverly: Glazed sockeye salmon with black eyed peas, tofu, and thoughts of curried rice crispies. This is where Chris Jones is very jealous. She just thinks the rice crispies onto the plate. 

So Beverly’s dish would have won “by a mile” if she hadn’t been floating above the crowds in a euphoric daze, which puts a footnote next to Lindsay's win, much like the Montreal Expos best record in baseball in 1994-1995. Lindsay takes the news with her new cloudy disposition. She’s tired, people. They all are. It’s been a long road this far and as much as they all want to finish this with a win, they all also want a nap. 

Charlize Theron is the Queen of this quasi-medieval honky tonk and you really couldn’t ask for someone to get more into it. She’s great. It is utterly unfair that I am not there. Heads will roll. 

The contestants must cook food cooked in a style worthy of an evil queen -- macabre and over the top. If Chris Jones had a gastronomic wet dream this would be it. He wants to capture this like a lobster on a conveyor belt, which proved to be more elusive than you would believe. 

Beverly is running into Whole Foods like the women chefs are trying to kill her, and this may well be the case. She begins to pop up like a Korean gnome around Whole Foods scaring the other chefs. The girl is an odd bird. 

Cooking has begun. Macabre is the theme of the night. I love lamb heart, so I’m excited for Sarah’s dish. She is really, really skilled. I have not had black chicken ever, so Grayson’s dish is beyond my experience. Chris Jones is doing the crazy apple thing. Paul Q. is making something without cocoa nibs. Fast forward to the feast. 

Tartare from Ed. Tom is looking quite serious, but he’s really happy to have the lovely Charlize there. Eric loves it. The sauce interplay is loved. Tom gets the line of the night, “When you put good and evil together you get a politician.”Paul is doing a Body Glove wetsuit plate. They love it too. It looks pretty cool. He’s making time from that Quickfire stuff he messed around with. 

Beverly has made Snow White into a fish, but I think that’s the Little Mermaid. She’s confused but the plate looks good and is well-received. Fish is cooked perfectly, rice is killa. 

Lindsay has made a Witches' Stew of seared scallop with shortrib and dragon beans. Looks great. The stewed beans are adored. Fine chef she is. Boil, boil, toil, and trouble. I like how she’s seen Bev make headway with shortribs, and she’s going to run with it too. 

Sarah is Italian (a play on English is Italian, a resto by Todd English). Lamb heart over Amarone risotto. Me hungry now. I would eat that right now, but it is not available at the SLC airport. 

Grayson is putting together a crazy plate and bumps bellies with Pebbles in celebration. Nutty plate. Love the egg. They love it too. 

Chris J. and the wacky apple. Poison apple. Looks whack. His use of LN in this is smart and is adored. Look, I wasn’t there, but Tom really said to me that it was some of the best food ever on Top Chef. Ever. And that was all of them. Way to go, chefs. You rocked it and the Queen was happy. 

Slaphappy band time. Bev plays one minute past the point of it being cool. 

Paul wins. Kills it with the Enchanted Forest. 

Beverly is gone, but certainly not forgotten. Who can ever forget her?

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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