Cast Blog: #TOPCHEF

You Cut Me Deep, Padma

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

You Cut Me Deep, Padma

The Bubble group makes it out of the Stew Room alive to compete for a spot in the final 16.

 

Welcome back my little Bubblers to Week 2 of Top Chef: Texas, and the final episode to determine the final 16 cheftestants who will compete in the rest of the season, both on-air and online… but more on that later!

 Before Padma and co. moved on to the Bubble group, there was a third group of chefs chomping at the bit to compete. Their challenge was to divide the ingredients offered among them, each cooking with different things. There was a funny moment where Andrew and Ashley (who I shall refer to as Avril Lavigne because I thought there was a serious resemblance there) actually rock, paper, scissored for the mushrooms. Andrew won that battle. Would have been interesting to see what Avril would’ve made with them. She got oxtail, and ultimately goes home, but not before making me incredibly nervous that she'd knock someone's eye out with the lid of her pressure cooker. Seriously, chefs, learn how to use a pressure cooker before you get ot the Top Chef kitchen. Might be up there with learning how to make desserts.

The first group presents their dishes. Paul Qui has what Tom said is his favorite dish of the group. Hugh calls it “precise.” Paul gets a coat! Is he adorable, or is it just me?

Anyway, Kim gets sent home with overcooked lamb. As does Berenice with an underwhelming short rib dish.

Chaz, from NYC's Fatty Crab goes home. He actually doesn’t even get his risotto on the plate. I wonder what would’ve happened had he just brought out the whole platter with his cooked risotto. Since he didn’t plate the food I don’t think it would’ve mattered, but I’d be interested to have seen it. Chaz may have gone home, but he had my favorite line of the show. As his heat introduced themselves, they all proclaimed their culinary achievements, James Beard nominations, etc. When the judges got to Chaz he said, "...I was nominated by my mom as one of her two favorite sons." Tom laughed, I laughed. Sorry to see you go, Chaz! I was ready for Chaz to become the Tom Haverford of Top Chef: Texas "Padma, you cut me, deep, boo," but alas, Chaz was sent home.Andrew Curren finds himself on the bubble, and Jonathan goes home for Brussels sprouts. I love Brussels sprouts, so I found his poor cookery to be a personal affront. 

Lindsay makes it through with a dish that caused Tom to be the most animated I think I've ever seen him. You could tell he really loved it. He was also awakened by Beverly's octopus dish. Although it was a little tough, the flavors are exciting enough to get her a coat.

Now on to the Bubble group. I don't think we've ever seen so much stewing in the Stew Room. I was beyond amused by the seemingly mystical nature of all things Bubble. The chefs had no idea what lurked outside the Bublbe Room. They were like Felicity trapped in that weird black and white cell a la The Twilight Zone. Remember that episode? Edward Lee was Mayor Cranky. I feared for the other chefs' lives because Edward seemed to be about one comment away from killing them all. Thankfully, they were released and ready to cook for the final two spots. Can you imagine if Edward had been forced to stay in that room and not be able to cook?! Thank G-d that didn't happen. Note to Magical Elves: Find Edward some fun games to play in the Stew Room! 

Anyway, the Bubble chefs are literally allowed to cook whatever they want, and most of them opt for seafood. Edward notices that trend and opts for duck, and guess what? He makes it through!! The only criticism of his dish was that his duck was overcooked. Well, I've said this before, but I like my duck a little over. There are "rules" about how certain meats should be served, and most people say duck should be medium rare. Well, when I spoke to Jacques Pepin a couple of seasons ago, he said he likes his cooked cooked. And that just made me feel better about life. See how I dropped that I've spoken to Jacques Pepin before! Sigh. One of the greatest moments of my careers, so Edward, you're forgiven in my eyes. 

Oh, I almost forgot -- Edward cut himself! Like, really, really badly. Blood was insane. But he wrapped that thing up and kept on truckin', which shows he's there to compete! Grayson kills it with bacon-wrapped shrimp with fig. I have to say I thought Grayson's dish was absolutely gorgeous. I mean, those colors! Tom commented that the fig is what made the dish interesting. I wonder how often that chain rule works in cooking. If fig works with bacon and bacon works with shrimp, then fig would be great on a bacon and fig dish. Hmmm… seems to me that it will absolve me from some of the grosser snack combinations I've ever tried.

Molly goes ome with overcooked shrimp. Sorry, Molly!

That leaves Andrew and Janine. And both were cut. I have to say Janine's story about being broken up over the phone after nine years made me feel horrible, and I was kind of pulling for Andrew. When he told him that he took Hugh's advice to cook with confidence, my heart melted. 

But, don't feel too badly for these two because there's a twist! The ultimate twist! They'll both be competing in our new online series Last Chance Kitchen! Watch them duke it out in the first challenge HERE. So good luck to those two!! P.s. In case you were wondering what fregula pasta in Andrew's dish was (I was), Wikipedia explains it here.

Sooo, now the competition really begins. We have our 16 chefs and we have a preview of next week's first real challenge. Until next week, Have a Nosh!

 

 

 

 

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!