Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

Bloody Great Feast

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

Bloody Great Feast

Tom Colicchio explains the minute details that sent Beverly packing.

 

Shooting this week’s episode was one of the best experiences I have had in my years judging this competition. No, not because I was seated next to Charlize Theron, terrific as she is, but because the chefs delivered one of the finest meals I have ever had on Top Chef. From the first course to the last, they kept on bringing it. I know some viewers have wondered whether the chefs this season are as talented as many in seasons past. This episode finally answers that question with a remarkable seven-course yes.

The chefs’ high level of performance shows just how creative chefs can be when presented with an idea. Chefs can derive inspiration in so many ways, from seeing ingredients and imagining ways to play with them, from tasting the food of other chefs or from foreign locales, or, as here, from an idea. Here, the notion of playing off of evil and fear freed our chefs.  Look, for example, at the handprint Paul put on the plate -- that would never have happened without this challenge, and it worked. It was the right counterpoint to his beautiful (and delicious) enchanted forest, and if it made Eric squeamish, well, that was the desired effect, right? Grayson’s black chicken “slaughtered on the plate”--– whoa. Sarah’s blood risotto -- fantastic idea. The chefs’ food showed that they clearly relished the challenge. And as a result, it was all really great.

And so it came down to splitting hairs in order to figure out who won and who had to pack his/her knives and go. While this may feel unfair, stop and think about it: Isn’t this exactly what we hope for -- a competition in which the competitors are achieving at such a high level that it has to come down to small details? A football game that comes down to the last play of the fourth quarter because both teams have been performing incredibly? That’s a good game. An Olympic downhill race in which the difference between taking home the gold or the silver coming down to mere one-hundredths of a second? Exhilarating. I want more challenges in which the food was exciting, and the difference between flying to the world premiere of a film and packing one’s knives and flying home comes down to the smallest of differences in otherwise complex, innovative and well-executed dishes.

Beverly, Grayson, and Sarah all presented us with great dishes; each had minor challenges. I meant it when I said that if they kept cooking like that they’d have great careers and that they should serve their dishes at their restaurants (with slight reworkings….) At the end of the day, Beverly went home for a combination of matters: Her sauce was sticky… and she played it the safest in terms of the challenge. She went easy on the story; she didn’t run with the conceptual football as fast and far as the others did. In a competition in which all the food is as outstanding as these dishes were, that fact had to be taken into consideration. The chefs were not merely asked to make dishes; they were asked to make dishes that would have pleased the murderous Evil Queen Charlize plays in her upcoming film. We had to weigh how well each chef accomplished this task, and Beverly fell short of the other chefs in the overall concept of her dish. As for the evil Queen herself, while it was a fun conceit to have Charlize Theron join us as a judge because it gave us a chance to craft a fun challenge for the chefs, you may not know that not only is Charlize a huge fan of the show, but she’s also a good amateur cook. I’ve cooked with her before, and she knows her way around the kitchen.

All in all, this was a great challenge, in which I was served memorable food and shown a line-up of very fine chefs. Note, please, that we’re no longer cooking BBQ. The flame under this season has just been turned way, way up…. Stay tuned…

 

 

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!