Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Is Beverly Gilly?

Episode 10:'s Senior Editor likens Beverly to SNL's Gilly.

Hello my little Restaurant Warriors! I have so many random things to say about this episode, I'm not quite sure where to start! I actually took a ton of notes so I wouldn't forget them all. Well, thankfully there's no Quickfire Challenge so there's plenty of time. The chefs enter the Palme d'Or Palm Door and are greeted by Hugh and Padma.

Then, a fun twist! The chefs are broken up in to their two teams and are told that the challenge will be a battle of the sexes!! Edward then makes a comment that honestly bugged me. He says, "I definitely think that male chefs have more talent." Oh, c'mon, Edward. SMH. We find out later when -- spoiler alert -- the females win that it doesn't matter what Edward says. Actions speak louder than words. Sarah has not-so-nice things to say too, but about working with Beverly, something she's nervous to do. I think it's been interesting to see how the other chefs react to Beverly, even with Heather gone.

The two teams decide on their concepts and their restaurant names. The men are pretty much agreeable to whatever any of them say. It's kinda funny to watch, honestly. Paul suggests "Canteen," which he explains as "where a community comes to dine." I have a feeling Hugh Acheson who is all about community restaurant digs this. Also, it's a cool name. Ty-Lor says, "Sure." So, they go with it. The girls go with Half Bushel. They started with Bushel, and -- call me immature -- but a group of ladies with a restaurant called Bushel is, well, a bad idea.Next, they work on their menus. While Chris comes up with awesome insults like "Boys rule, girls, er, um, are just gonna lose," Sarah gives Beverly the riot act about her suggestion to do a beet salad. While I do agree that serving beet salads at a farm to table restaurant is like serving water nowadays, she maybe could have been more constructive with criticism. Also, beets are delicious.

Lets start with the boys' restaurant, shall we? They realized quickly that not delineating an expeditor was a big mistake. Although Ed seemed to have a handle on the customers in front of house, the servers were another issue. And because the guys decided to have an open kitchen, the judges could see how many times the men switched the role of expeditor. But we'll discuss that in a second. The single greatest moment in the entire episode in my mind was Paul realizing that mushrooms had been left off his fish dish, and with an adorable smile he says, "F--k, we forgot the mushrooms on the salmon." Maybe I was just tired when I saw this, but I laughed out loud. Then, I had a moment when I realized that most of the stuff I laugh at on this show is absurd, that normal people would never find it funny, but that I'm so invested in these chefs, in the show, and the food they're creating, that I can't help but laugh. Was this just me? Probably.

The women got to sample the men's food, since they'd be cooking second. I don't think this really gave them an advantage at all, but it must have certainly given them some ideas to troubleshoot. Unfortunately, it doesn't look like they did much with that knowledge in terms of how their restaurant would actually run. So, onto Half Bushel!Lindsay was chosen as front of house, but she was so consumed with the job Beverly was doing on her fish in the kitchen that she wasn't on the floor as much as she should have been, which forced not only the judges, but the customers to wait. A great moment was that shot of the older gentleman getting annoyed and complaining to Lindsay about the wait. If that isn't the snapshot of a real restaurant experience, I just don't know what is. The men declared that the ladies' retaurant seemed calmer. Thank G-d for the closed kitchen! If the customers saw what was really going on, they'd have a very different picture of what was happening. The closed kitchen, however, seemed to prevent the servers and Lindsay from knowing when dishes were ready, so I really think the closed/unclosed kitchen debate is a relevant one. They both certainly have their pros and cons, especially in an extreme situation such as this one. Even with the apparent serenity in the dining room, Hugh instinctively knew that "heads are being beaten against a wall in the back. Very astute. There were twinges of Heather-ness coming from Lindsay and Sarah in the kitchen as both kinda hammered Beverly. In fact, Beverly actually referred to Lindsay's actions as "bullying." Sound familiar? And then it hit me, as I heard one exchange between Beverly and Sarah that went like...

Sarah: "Beverlyyy"

Beverly: "Yeah."

Sarah: "Beverlyyy!"

Beverly: "Sorry!"

Bevery is Gilly, one of Kristen Wiig's most polarizing SNL characters. Although Gilly is evil, and I'd like to think the comparison ends there. Beverly did win the challenge in the end with a short rib that Sarah didn't want her to make in the first place. The rest of the ladies -- sans Grayson -- were nice enough to hold their digs until the Stew Room though, where Sarah declared that it was Lindsay, in fact, that contributed the most to the team's win. Ummm. OK. So, all of the ladies lived to fight another day, and Ty-Lor got sent home for two poor dishes. I really liked Ty-Lor, so I was sad to see him go, but he does have a second change in Last Chance Kitchen. And apparently, reigning champ Nyesha has an axe to grind! Sooo, watch what happens.

Next week we have the glorious Charlize Theron!!! Soo, move over ladies, cause there's a real evil witch in town! Until then, Have a Nosh!

P.S. Hugh has agreed to wax his unibrow if we raise $100K for his charity of choice, Wholesome Wave. Get more info HERE, and let's make this happen!

Richard: "Gregory Had the Better Ideas"

Richard Blais explains why Mei Lin won, and why we'll definitely be hearing from Gregory Gourdet soon.

The finale of Top Chef is the one absolute every season. Make the best meal of your life, in a multi-course tasting format for a room of the "who's who" in the culinary industry.

If you get to the finals, it's the type of thing you can prepare for. Every finalist should have a few four to five course menus floating around their heads, including a dessert, and all complete with options and Plan B's transcribed to their moleskins. And although the knowledge of what's coming is helpful, the format does not play to every chef's strengths.

There aren't too many restaurants committed to such meal services. Which means less chefs experienced with how to "write" and execute them. A progressive meal has to have a certain flow about it. And even the stereotypical versions of the "menu degustation" could force a contestant into cooking a dish that's not in their wheelhouse, for instance a straight forward fish course because "it belongs there."

Tonight, Mei Lin has a slight advantage. She cooks in a restaurant every day that showcases a tasting menu. Her food has been the epitome of a modern tasting menu all season. Many previous times, to a fault. Mei's food is small and precise. Beautiful to look at, and intellectually stimulating to discuss. Cold sometimes, every once in a while a shaved radish plated with tweezers heavy. It's not for everyone. It's not for everyday. But it's the type of food that when done well, can win Top Chef. Win James Beard Award noms. Win Best New Chef honors. Win Michelin stars.

Her future could indeed be bright.

What struck me most about Mei's food tonight however, wasn't technique. Technique and presentation often can get in the way of flavor. But tonight Mei delivered a few courses that were deeply satisfying. Soulful, delicious food that also was presented at a high level and cooked with surgeon's precision. That congee though...combined with a simple dessert that took yogurt and granola to another planet, won her the day. Her other two courses were fine, but suffered from the strains of modernity. Overly plated (the duck) and technically overwrought (the fried octopus).

Gregory on the other hand, it's just not his finest work. You can hear it in his voice as he's explaining his food. He's cooking improv, an ode to Mexico. The problem is, this isn't a jam session at a local cantina. This is a studio session where the chefs should be cooking practiced and refined pieces.

His octopus was a highlight and featured the unusual combination of passion fruit and avocado. It was an explosive start. The following two courses unraveled a bit, with the soup being good, but way too unrefined for the moment and technically problematic (the crispy shrimp heads), and the fish course bordering on dessert with the sugary carrot purée.

The mole was authentic and delicious, the rib cooked perfectly, but the dish felt a little incomplete. I believe Gregory had the better ideas, but just needed to think them through a bit more.

His sadness after the fact, I can attest, is profound. Tearful. Absolute emptiness. Close to the feeling of the sudden loss of a loved one. This may shock some of you, because it is indeed just a game. The mere thought of feeling that way over such silliness is well, silly. But not for us. This isn't the Super Bowl where an athlete loses and they can shake it off. Jump in their Bentley and start thinking about next season. There is no next season. There is no guaranteed pay day for the runner-up. The ten wins you had before don't matter. It just ends. Suddenly. And it's rather sad.

The good thing is, this is certainly, 100%, not the last time you will hear from Gregory. I waxed last week about Doug's professionalism, all of which is very true. But Gregory... Gregory is a special talent. His food (and I can say HIS type of food, because it's unique to him), is a study in refined, exotic comfort. What the man can do with a one-pot meal of braised anything, some chilies, sugar, vinegar, herbs, and spices is beyond impressive. Rarely do I taste food that makes me jealous as a cook. Rarely do I taste food that makes me start thinking about a new restaurant concept. The word inspiring in cooking competitions is sort of like the word "love," when it gets used too much, it loses it luster. Gregory's food however. I love it. It is inspiring.

Congrats to Mei and Gregory! Tom was right, I can't wait to one day say I saw you two way back when, in Mexico, in a little kitchen, before the bright lights, fancy kitchens, and big stages that lay ahead for both of you.

See you next season. I hope!

Richard Blais
@RichardBlais - Twitter and Instagram

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