Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

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

Let's Talk About Sex, Baby

Episode 9: Who knew BBQ incited so much sexual innuendo?

I'll wait till I get to end of the recap to go into it, but were there a lot of sexual and slightly creepy moments in this episode, or was it just me? Maybe just me, but stay tuned.

First, let's start with the Quickfire Challenge where the chefs are forced to do homework. They're handed -- and by handed I mean, gently presented on wheels -- a copy of Modernist Cuisine. Uh, yeah, that book is not only heavy, but expensive, so that was kind of exciting to see everyone -- and by everyone I mean Chris Jones -- get so psyched to see it. The chefs would study up on the techniques in the book and then create a modern dish for the author, and former Microsoft chief technology officer, Nathan Myhrvold. If you have a moment, you might want to look at his Wikipedia page -- the dude's amazing.) While my mind and apparently many of the chefs' minds jump to molecular gastronomy, some chefs just admitted they didn't know much about it, or that wasn't how they cooked. Also, that's not necessarily what modern cuisine means. While the chefs were cooking, I literally said out loud, "Please let Chris Jones win this." I didn't want the judges to "let" him win -- that would be unfair. I was pleading with a higher being. Unfortunately, although Chris was in the top, he didn't win. Ty-Lor did with his delicious-sounding watermelon/oil dish. I felt really bad for Chris Jones, though. This was his challenge, and he was so passionate about it. Unfortunately Ty-Lor's execution was just better. And Ty-Lor not only wins the book volumes, he also picked up immunity.Sidenote: I was stoked to see Edward's salmon belly sashimi because I just had a delicious salmon belly sashmi dish at Catch on New Year's eve courtesy of Season 3 winner Hung Huynh. I also recently enjoyed a dessert tasting at Nougatine by Johnny Iuzzini before his last day on December 31st. I'll be posting a separate blog about my foodie adventures over the holiday break later in the week, so keep your eyes on this space.

Padma tells the chefs that they'll finally be cooking BBQ! In Texas! And they'll be doing it at The Salt Lick. I was first introduced to The Salt Lick on an episode of Man vs. Food. I honestly can't remember what Adam Richman's challenge was, but I remember the establishment's giant smoke pit. The chefs were separated into three teams of three and told they'd be cooking all night. We're obviously not kidding around with the "slow" part of "low and slow." The cooking process became an interesting one when weird tensions started to arise between Edward and Sarah. After some comments back and forth, their relationship came to a boiling point when Sarah was forced to go to the hospital for heat exhaustion. Edward certainly was concerned, but when Sarah finally came back during service, Edward was, well, salty (pun intended) towards her. Sarah didn't feel guilty for taking it easy, and she shouldn't. From everything I've heard from everyone who was down there, the heat was unbearable. And as someone who really can't handle heat, I probably would've been in Sarah's shoes too. From what we've seen from Sarah so far this season, and how much control she enjoys, I don't think it was easy or preferable for her to leave Ty-Lor and Edward in charge of the execution of her dish. Ultimately, though, their team was safe. Chris C., Chris J., and Beverly, not so much. Their dish was just too salty. I was actually surprised that Tom and Gail didn't embrace Chris' use of Dr. Pepper. I actually didn't know that till I did some state research at the start of the season. This isn't a plug at all, but I love Dr. Pepper. Love. And although Hugh posits in his blog this week that he thought the BBQ sauce sounded gross, I thought it had potential. A few seasons back, our chefs actually made quite a few dishes using Dr. Pepper, so it can be done! Chris was ultimately responsible fo the seasoning that made his team's dish too salty, so he went home. And then we have the winning team, led by Paul. I think it said a lot about what Paul's colleagues think about him that they allowed him to lead. I think Lindsay and Grayson have very strong personalities, but they trusted Paul's vision, and it worked! I know I've already said I have a crush on Paul, but this episode put him over th top. That cutoff shirt with the tattoos?! Sigh. Their team took a risk by using Asian influences in their flavors, and I couldn't help but wonder (sorry.) what Heather would've said about that idea…. I kid, I kid!

OK, now onto the part you've all been waiting for -- the part where I reveal that I have a mind of a 13-year-old boy! Here were just some of the hilarious/creepy quotes and moments from the episode.:

1. "I would love to visit your basement." We know you admire Nathan, Chris, but, um, let's keep that one to yourself.

2. "Did I put it in the right hole?" Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris, Chris. Sure, Crary was just making sure he was executing Jones' beer can chicken correctly, but still. (And, yes, I know -- I need to wash my mind out with soap.)

3. "It's gonna be like sex in the mouth." Oh Grayson -- we get pretty punchy when we've pulled an all-nighter too.But even with those three comments, Chris Crary still raised my brows the highest with the revelation of his naked painting collection in his home. Although, I don't think any of us were surprised with that one.

Anyway, let me know what you thought of the episode. Was Edward too harsh on Sarah? Until next week, have a nosh!

P.S. I forgot to mention Beverly's interesting fire prevention skills. I really wonder what would have happened to that mobile kitchen had the smoke detector not gone off.

P.P.S. I leave you with this because, well, it was awesome:

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

Gail schools us on the science of innovative cooking and explains why George Pagonis' octopus didn't have any legs to stand on. Let's talk about the Elimination Challenge, which was to create an innovative dish that pushed culinary boundaries.

Gail Simmons: I was really happy that Wylie was there for this challenge, of course. But I think the set up was a little anti-climactic in honesty. As a viewer, you didn't get a full explanation of how and why they were given this challenge. It was specifically because there are so many people pushing these boundaries, many of whom are in Boston, and particularly Michael Brenner. He is innovative for a lot of reasons -- he’s a physicist, but what he’s become known for in the culinary space is teaching an in-depth course at Harvard about the science of food and cooking, incorporating people like Wylie and as well as a long list of exceptionally talented and renown chefs from around the world, like Ferran Adrià among others. It is exciting and extraordinary, and having him there allowed us to present our chefs with this challenge. We always think about how the dishes taste and look, whether the meat is cooked well enough or the appearance of knife cuts are appropriate. All of that stuff is in affect science -- cooking is all chemistry and biology, reaction of cells to knives and fire essentially. Everyone has their own definition of innovation, and I think there was a lot of pressure to "innovate" in this challenge. Our chefs did well, but I wish they had been given more time to really push their own personal boundaries more. Let’s start with the winner, Melissa, who had the seared duck breast with farro, walnut miso, and pickled cherries.

GS: Melissa really has stepped up her game and soared in the last two challenges; she won the last challenge (and a spot in the finale in Mexico), and now she’s won this challenge, too. Her duck was beautiful, though not necessarily the most groundbreaking dish I’ve ever seen in my life. But she was innovative enough that we felt her flavors were new, but the dish was at the same time beautiful, delicious. Here’s the tricky thing about being innovative, which I think George touched on when he was talking about the challenge too: is it takes time and practice to truly innovate. I can only assume that someone like Wylie tries a dish fifty times before it goes on his menu as a full formed creative work, that changes how we all perceive food. Innovation takes patience and some serious brain power. To come up with something in a few hours is a tall order when it needs to be totally delicious AND have a level of innovation that surprises and impresses us. Melissa knew her strengths and perhaps was more relaxed then she would’ve been otherwise, so she made that walnut miso pesto and incorporated it in a really creative, unusual way. It made her dish stand out, and by far it was the most delicious. And then we had our runner, Mei, with her duck curry with vadouvan and yuzu yogurt.

GS: There was something about Mei’s dish that made me think it was the most innovative of the day in a number of ways. However it wasn’t the most successful, and that’s why Melissa took the win. Mei’s dish was not only breathtakingly stark and beautiful, looking so modern on the plate, but she also combined several unusual ingredients, which made for a very untraditional, very modern curry. It was innovative and it stayed with us. You could even see in Tom's reaction that it was a dish to think about. When you tasted it, you weren't sure it worked, but there was something enjoyable about it; the dish didn't simply come together in your mind. It wasn't straight forward. You needed to take a pause, then a second bite, and by the third and fourth bite you started to understand all the different parts, which were very exciting. I think with a few more tries, Mei would’ve really nailed that dish. I was proud of her for pushing us all that way. Then in our bottom two we had Gregory and George. Gregory did the salmon in tom kha broth with roasted tomatoes, crispy chicken skin, and crispy salmon skin.

GS: There were a lot of fun, tasty components to Gregory’s dish. If this challenge had been to show us an interesting representation of salmon or Thai flavors, he would’ve gotten it right. The thing with Gregory is that as skilled as he is, we were really hoping that he would come out of his comfort zone. The flavors he used were what we have seen from him previously. We didn’t really see a lot of innovation from him. That doesn’t mean we don’t think he worked hard or didn't do a good job. He gave us something that he felt was different in presentation, but the flavors were definitely in his usual wheelhouse. As he said himself when cooking beans in the Quickfire, he felt uncomfortable because he's more accustomed to using Asian flavors and ingredients. So here he was in the Elimination Challenge using Asian flavors. On the other hand the dish tasted great! We loved it, we just didn’t think he fulfilled the challenge of being innovative like we know he could have. And then there was George. . .  Yes, he had the charred octopus, yellow split pea puree, and green apple harissa.

GS: George also stayed in his comfort zone in some ways -- he's cooked us octopus before, so charring octopus did not feel innovative at all for him, I actually felt disappointed when he told us that's what he had made. However, there were probably twenty other components of that dish that did make it feel somewhat innovative. The green apple harissa was one of them for sure. The fact that he called it harissa may be taking some license, but that's OK. I loved it, it went so well with the octopus, and it was something new that all of us had never seen. That said, the rest of the dish didn’t make sense all together. At least three or four of the garnishes he added didn’t serve a purpose on the plate, rather, they detracted from the dish. He spent his time making too many components. They may have shown technique, and you could tell that he was really pushing himself, but it all still has to be one cohesive plate of food, first and foremost. I think it didn’t work because he let himself get preoccupied with all the other pieces instead of focusing on doing one thing really well in an innovative way.

Charring octopus did not feel innovative at all for him, I actually felt disappointed when he told us that's what he had made.

So George's was the dish we least enjoyed eating and thought was the least successful, that’s why he went home. I think George did a tremendous job. He came back once already, and he could come back from Last Chance Kitchen again. He’s a great cook, has a great attitude, and I think he absolutely gave his best throughout the competition, which made everyone better. I don’t always say that, but I think when he came back, he really changed the game and the whole season was better for it.

Now, onward to Mexico!