Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Edward Kafka

Get Doug's Masterpiece Brisket Recipe

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

Edward Kafka

Hugh Acheson analyzes Edward Lee's psyche.

Texas is still big but the Top Chef population has shrunk after the first cuts. This episode is titled “The Heat is On.” This summer in Texas was hot. Real hot. And in full drought, but still sweaty, not dry like you’d think. 110 F pretty much everyday. The heat will take its toll this season. You can be sure of that. 

Onwards to the episode:  

The Bubble Room is already an anxious lot, with Edward leading witty repartee, comparing the room to a prison cell. Edward, thinking the whole thing is a ruse, also imagines a dismal scenario, one in which they are being held in the room but there are no spots left. This Kafkaesque drama is shortly proven to not be the case. But listen up, Magical Elves, I think that may be another reality show….

If Chris McCrary succumbed to the beauty of Padma in the first episode, with some unsettling hyperbole, then Chaz decides to play wingman. Chaz goes so far as to tell us that he had a picture of her up in his locker at school. The creep war for Padma is on.

We meet all the players in the third grouping before we get to see the Bubble Group do battle. The Bubble Group is getting restless, with Edward talking about how he’s going to have to kill everyone in the room to get a blue chef coat. I try to send him happy thoughts and remind him that he could really just buy one at chefcoat.com.

Austin Andrew gets mushrooms and looks in-control. But he is speaking authoritatively to his poached eggs… “Aw, you bitch.” Conversations with food often reveal the lunatic in the room. 

Paul Q gets cooking with trout. He seems confident when I approach and is creating smart, simpler food, arguably the most difficult food to pull off.  

Kim gets lamb, which she is treating with a simple Italianesque preparation. She looks like Dexter’s sister. 

Paul gets the coat. Much deserved. The street cart overlord from Austin has massive skills. Good job, Paul. Andrew bubbles through to the next challenge, unless Edward has his way and kills everyone in the Bubble Room. Kim overcooks the lamb and is done. She leaves with honor. 

Berenice gets short ribs which is another doozy. Tough muscle. Her dish was fine but one-dimensional. She is honorable in defeat. 

Jonathan has Brussels sprouts. I love Brussels sprouts. Jonathan says Tom and I are “lurking around.” I admit it. It’s my job. I skulk too.

Fatty Crab Chaz is doing risotto. I remark to him that risotto has brought down many, many chefs on TC. He doesn’t want to hear this, but the writing may be on the wall. He says that Italians make risotto, “all night.” Twenty minutes seems more accurate, but if you have to caress each rice kernel like they were miniature Padmas, then yes, it may take a while.  He also says something like, “Am I a Navy Seal or a GI Joe?” We hope you are just a person cooking risotto. Don’t aim too high.  Laurent arrived via France in L.A. and has stayed for good. I can’t quite figure him out. Lots going on at his station. Maybe too much, but who knows. He’s an odd bird. 

Chaz strikes out and has nothing. He must face the C.O.B.R.A. Commander, played by Tom. GI Joe loses. Jonathan is out with his Brussels. They failed to sing. Laurent somehow finds himself on the Bubble. Berenice has no luck with her short ribs. She’s out too.

Lindsay has veal osso buco, and the time is limited so this could be difficult. To save time she is running away from Tom. Lindsay doesn’t know it, but Tom Colicchio is fast. He will catch her. Sometime. She seems not as intent in running from me, but is not the most engaging talker during competition. All business. I will lurk elsewhere else.

Ashley is using oxtail in an homage to the Filipino roots of her husband. Love the idea, but oxtail is like the veal, it likes long cook times, so into the pressure cooker we go. Pressure cookers are great for some foods, but if you have never really used them they can be terrifying to everyone in a 15-foot blast radius. This should be interesting. Ashley is heard saying, “Shit, who can I ask to help me?” Ashley might need to be reminded that one person wins Top Chef

Beverly is trying her hand at octopus. We are shown her scrawled mantra of “I CAN, I MUST, I WILL.” She reminds me of the YouTube toddler: “I like my hair, I like my house, I like my Alisons…," but she rocks the octopus. Good job. It was really, really good. A little tough, but come on… she had one hour. 

Beverly and Lindsay forge through. They rocked it. Ashley doesn’t, but she tried hard to pull off an admirable dish. Oxtail is a hard one. 

Somewhere in this is a brief scene of the Moto Boys being very excited about bunk beds. You have got to love these guys. And Keith… how are you going to fit that man on a kid's bunk bed?Bubble time. Edward decides that because he was unable to kill everyone in the Bubble Room, he will attempt to hack off his own thumb. Lots of blood ensues. Forge on, Edward! You now have seen how important medics are on Top Chef. They rule.

They cook whatever they want, and everyone seems to want to cook shrimp or scallops… except that crafty Edward.

Molly. Overcooked shrimp is noticed by Tom… and by everybody else. I think even Molly knew as soon as she put it on the plate. I ain’t got nothing else to say. She was a great presence. Cruise on. Out.

Andrew cooks mussels with Ric Flair. I mean with flare. Spanish flare. And he does. Sadly he decides to ad a corn panna cotta that just didn’t work. Andrew, you will rock again. But not today. Out.

Laurent. Busy again with lots going on. Scallop ménage a deux. Tartare and seared. Too much weird. Out.Edward. With one thumb. Duck rocks. Great custard. Really fun dish that explains who the guy is in so many ways. Kentucky is in. In.

Janine. SO CLOSE. Atlanta almost rocked through. Her scallop was perfectly cooked which is much better than I can say for my first episode of TC Masters. She was classy and cool in a very close race. Out.

Grayson. Who doesn’t like bacon-wrapped shrimp? In. 

To house. Party time. Word to the wiseL: it's hard to cook hungover. 

Last Chance Kitchen begins… what? Janine and Andrew are given another chance to come through to the end…. 

I need my own drink. 

 

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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