Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Go Team?

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

Go Team?

Hugh Acheson comments on the friction among the female chefs competing in Restaurant Wars.

 

If restaurants have a 50% failure rate in the first year, then they have a 98% failure rate when the idea is conceived amongst four tired chefs with five hours to plan, cook, and serve. One will take failure as a time to pack knives and return to the real world. As an aside, I have a real hope that someday a team of chefs will do one of those “dining in the complete dark” restaurants on Top Chef. Chris Jones would be killa at that. 

Alas, we find ourselves at an event space in Austin. Palm Door, evidently named by someone with less time on their creative schedule than the chefs. Herein we find the pitfalls of underseasoning, the pratfalls encountered when you don’t have an expeditor, the illogic of giving your emotionally unstable co-chef both main courses to cook and plate, the perils of not defending yourself when the hordes attack, and the sanctity of pacifism. 

The episode starts out with no Quickfire. Just Beauty and the Beast, and I am not the Beauty. Battle of the sexes, Restaurant Wars-style. 

Ed takes some pokes right off the bat at Sarah, still quietly reeling from Sarah’s need to take a medical break from barbecue cookery and suck down oxygen like Dennis Hopper in Blue Velvet. 911 ain’t no joke in this town. 

Sarah is concerned about Beverly, something really justifiable at this point, as it has become abundantly clear that Beverly comes from a happy place where everyone moves in a slow way, where there is no malevolent force, just clouds shaped like smiley faces, and chirping birds of encouragement. Every time I watch her I wonder how the hell she gets through a day in a professional kitchen, but then again, she often pulls out pretty darn fine dishes out of her dime bag of tricks. The pacifist tortoise may win this race yet, against some eager bunnies.

When we are talking about creating a restaurant on the fly, you have to cover some bases. I would deem getting the food out in a timely manner paramount in that organization. The importance of the expeditor cannot be underestimated in all of this. But the catch 22 is that each team only has four people, with one of them playing the role of maître d’. Crazy times are in store, as both teams leave it to the team of temp waiters to make sure food gets out on time…. Bad move. 

Poor Beverly. Is she the pacifist tortoise in this competition or the ugly duckling? Either way the chefs should watch out cause that duckling may turn out to be a beautiful swan, which pecks out the eyes of the other swans that gave it a hard time, and then eats their babies. The condescension from Lindsay and Sarah is by the platter full in this episode, and it’s all shoveled at Beverly. This girl needs to stop capitulating to these taunts and start fighting back, cobra-style. I have compared Bev to three animals in one paragraph.“We are chefs, we cook.” Ed explains why no rational human wants to be the maitre d’. Don’t worry -- he’s taking the reigns and has brought a suit. 

I really wanted the guys to let Chris Jones name the restaurant The Romulan Rib Shack and have the waiters all dress like Vulcans. Oh well. Instead Paul has an idea: “I have a name. It’s Canteen… it’s a communal place to eat.” True dat, Cracker Jack. 

Beets, beets, beets, beets beets beets. Sarah is making Beverly ride the short bus on the way to Whole Foods and Sur La Table. Beverly, that means “on the table” in French. How Grayson has jumped out to be the most professional and mature chef in the women’s group is not what I expected after her bullfrog song from last week. She is attempting to bring civility to the situation, but not really succeeding. Beverly gets admonished a lot while shopping. They make her use one of the little kid’s carts. 

Chris Jones and the Kobayashi Maru. Am I surprised that he’s crazy for the Star Trek? Not at all. The Kobayashi Maru is a test for cadets to see if they will save the passengers and crew of a ship in enemy territory, risking all out war, or let the ship go and abandon the passengers and crew. I just love the editing with him proudly putting on his fighting uniform, music and all, before going out to make deconstructed Cracker Jack ice cream. Chris abandons the other three chefs to freeze stuff in the corner, failing the test, and the Tribbles take over.  

Canteen is going for a dorm look/mess hall. It actually looks pretty good. Remember, you had more time to style your hair this morning than these chefs had to decorate, cook, serve, clear, etc….

Things are going a little rough for the guys. Warm wine, whiny invited guests, grumpy judges (not me -- I was wearing my white bucks, which give me a honey badger attitude in life). Here comes the food:

Ham and Eggs, Paul. It is like a rillette. It was good, but the toast was greasy. The whole thing needed something. Nice presentation though.

Thai crab cup with caramel sauce, Ty-Lor. Flatness. Needed lime. It was boring, absolutely no pun intended. It failed to evoke really anything Thai. It could have been a Minnesota crab cup for all intents and purposes. 

Salmon, TyLor and Paul. Needs salt. Why has Paul taken on three dishes with Chris Jones taking on just one? The salmon looks great, but lacked cohesion… and mushrooms. Ty-Lor kind of flubbed pickup.

Roasted Pork Belly, Paul. It’s a pretty simple pork belly. Tasty but lacking something to push it over the top. Not Paul’s best day. But his worst day is still better than most people’s. His worst days put him in the middle of the pack. 

Cracker Jack, Moto Chris. I thought it was a mess, but Tom and Padma kind of liked it. Each to their own. Chris does not feel as I do, and says “This is what we do: prep, serve, kick ass and go home.” His Vulcan logic is on that green tinged planet where everyday is opposite day and thus cannot realize the complete shit-show of a service that has just occurred. 

Almond Joy, Ed. It had a minute coconut component, which makes the name an issue. But Ed ran the floor pretty well. Chefragette City time. 

Lindsay is building Half Bushel. We do not know yet if its half-empty or half-full philosophy. Her décor looks good. Lindsay chooses to explain her dish to Beverly in the fastest speech ever seen. Beverly understands none of it. Beverly begins to fight back at Sarah and then says, “I’m sorry,” like a sad puppy. 

We really did spend some time waiting at the front door, which would confuse you at most restaurants, but was a real lapse in the Bushel. I wasn’t irritated though, but then again, I was not in my White Bucks Honey Badger positive place. Luckily, the women chefs did not have an exposed kitchen because the sight of them screaming at each other would have made for many poor Yelp reviews. Sarah is freaking out. Lindsay is calling Bev “f--king retarded.” This is getting restless. 

“She f--ked my fish.” “You were f--king up my dish.” Yikes. I have to have a mental break and wash my brain out with soap. 

Peach and Bacon vinaigrette, Grayson. Nice. Really clean and good. Could have been killed by the bacon vin, but it was great. 

Risotto balls. Arancini. I was not a fan of the pureed caponata. Tom was. I did like the risotto. Great stuff overall. 

Bev, Shortribs with Red Curry. Plate of the night. It’s about the food, people. Grilled Halibut, Spanish-style, Lindsay. Dry. Overdone. Pickup was a disaster because both mains were on Bev. I know, I know, but it really did rock.

Chaum torte, Grayson. Also very good, but lacked a bit for me versus all; the other judges. A solid shout-out to her family roots in food though. She is a really good chef. Rock on, Bullfrog. 

Italian Doughnuts. Rich. Leaden. Not my thing. 

Chris Jones is voting for the girls. “This is the nicest dinner we have had since we’ve been here.” Then he realizes that sounds bad and recants. Edward demotes him to swabbing the decks of the USS Canteen. 

Half Bushel wins the best of the much-maligned restaurants in the wars. Beverly stuns with the win. No matter what you think the key was to present a better restaurant and then individually present the best food for your dish, Bev did that while being chewed up with insults. Does she work in a way that I think is correct in the world of restaurants? Hell no. She’s a strange bird, but she really can cook. And she’s plodded past the majority to get this far. If you asked me to wager on her longevity at the beginning, I would have said, “No way she lasts.” But her food pushes her through. 

She wins a trip to Napa and a bigass bottle of wine. Sarah openly tells the chefs that Lindsay deserves a win more. Go team. 

Alas, Ty-Lor goes home. He was never boring. He will be missed.

 

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.

Bravotv.com: 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.

 

Bravotv.com: 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.

 

Bravotv.com: 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!