Gail Simmons

Top Chef: If Snooki Served This

Well hello!  I hope everyone’s has a lovely Christmas/Hannukah/winter holiday of choice.  It’s time to get back into the blog groove with a Top Chef recap just in time for tonight’s new episode!  (We try.)

Hey, did you know there was a new editor at Food & Wine?  I hadn’t realized until Padma annouced Nilou Motamed, who brought the chefs Quickfire gifts.  The chefs have 30 minutes to create a dish using everything (and we mean everything) in the wrapped boxes before them.  The box holds a pressure cooker (which I actually just got for Christmas!), Patron Tequila, pomegranate, chocolate-covered pretzels, cloves, wasabi, squab, and a melon baller.  Ooookay!

Shirley basically has a bad time.  She sets fire to her squab.  Sheldon accidentally works on her station and steals her melon baller, so she doesn’t even know to use it.  Padma makes a comment about how it’s a good thing it’s not a sudden death Quickfire… (“or is it?  I don’t know yet.”  Cute, Padma.)  Shirley finds herself in the bottom with Emily and BJ.  The top of the pack is Brooke, John, and Casey, who takes the win and immunity for the elimination challenge.

Local chef Mike Lata joins Padma for the elimination challenge.  He once fired Emily, so it’s super awkward for her.  The elimination challenge is a take on a tradition that I just experienced, the Feast of the Seven Fishes… but, with trash fish.  The chefs draw knives to pair off and grab a less-than-ideal fish to work with.

They serve to Padma, Nilou, Mike, Tom Colicchio, Richard Blais, Hugh Acheson,and Graham Elliot.

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Having recovered from their Quickfire spat, Shirley & Sheldon come together to create a harmonious mullet dish– even the multitude of bones can’t detract.

img_2510Jamie and Sylva’s fish may taste a bit like blood, but they’re able to turn it into something that looks like tuna.  Impressive!

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Poor Brooke got no support from a frazzled Emily.  This dish needed editing.

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The broth and, what BJ calls, “Silvia’s Italian cracker than I can’t pronounce,” were the only things good on this dish.  The barrel fish ate like chicken.

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An unlikely duo, Katsuji & John, hit it out of the park with their triggerfish.  Okay, they served two different preparations of tomatoes… Katsuji’s sauce sealed the deal for this one and egos were pushed aside!

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Amanda was kind of a nutcase in the kitchen and undercooked her beans.  She and Jim’s dish came off a little pedestrian for the judges.  Tom calls it “South Jersey” cuisine.

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Since Casey won the Quickfire, she got to work alone.  She was grateful to have immunity this week, as she would’ve rather not served anything than this dish.

At judges’ table, Shirley and Sheldon, Jamie and Sylva, and John and Katsuji are the standouts.  Katsuji wins for his sauce, as he & John had the judges’ favorite dish!  The rest of the crew is the bottom, save for Casey with her immunity.  I was nervous for Brooke, but BJ is ultimately sent packing his knives.

I’m so looking forward to what seems like a very interesting Quickfire tonight.  Who’s ready?!  Who do you think is next to go?

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars – Dinner

Oh hey – I took my three day weekend really seriously and this post is super later!  When we last left Top Chef, it was Restaurant Wars part 1.  Lunch service had come and gone; one team’s service may have gone better than the other’s, but in the judges’ eyes, the score was pretty even.

Team District LA– Amar, Jeremy, Kwame, and Phillip– are in the weeds a bit when it’s time to switch to dinner service.  Team Palate– Carl, Isaac, Karen and Marjorie– has a lot of prep to do too.  This time it’s Karen at the front of the house and Carl as executive chef.  Get it, Boston!  Here’s what they make:

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Not pictured above is Marjorie’s appetizer, parmesan parsley garlic bread.  The judges are always impressed with Marjorie’s baking skills and I’m super impressed that she pulled off bread and two dessert courses!  The judges aren’t crazy about her berry soup, and they definitely aren’t keen on Karen’s trout, but overall the meal goes well.  Isaac’s braised lamb is the real winner.

District LA serves:

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This team does an extra amuse, and also (not pictured) an aperitif– Phillip’s Bangkok Dangerous served, awkwardly, right at the hostess stand.  With Amar as executive chef and Phillip at front of the house, the service does not impress the judges.  In the bottom right corner pictured above, Tom and Padma note that Phillip is probably talking about his own LA restaurants, not the one he’s currently running.  Almost none of the food impresses, and the judges have a clear winner when they walk out.

Thankfully, team Palate takes home the win, specifically, Isaac!

Padma asks Phillip to pack his knives and go, and the viewers breath a collective sigh of relief.

What did you all think?!

Top Chef: Restaurant Wars – Lunch

This week on Top Chef, it’s the classic challenge: Restaurant Wars!  You know the drill.  The remaining 8 chefs are split into two teams by drawing knives for first pick & second.  The two teams need to execute pop-up restaurants and impress the judges!

Oh, but there’s a little twist this season.  Restaurant Wars is actually a two-part event, as each team is to execute both a lunch and dinner service.  No big deal, right?

Orange Team Captain Amar fills his team with Jeremy, Kwame, and Phillip– he picks Phillip for his front-of-the-house experience and interest, not knowing that two chefs would have to play front-of-the-house with this Restaurant Wars double-header.  They form District LA.

Gray Team Captain Karen chooses Marjorie, Carl, and Isaac.  With both my Boston chefs on one team, this is my favorite.  They open Palate.

Here’s what the chefs put forth for their lunch menus:

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Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and restaurateur Bill Chait dine at both restaurants.  They prefer District LA’s appetizers, but Palate’s entrees.  Kwame is at front-of-the-house for District LA and does a decent job– he makes sure there’s someone there to greet the judges, but does forget to provide them silverware.  Marjorie, the general manager for lunch at Palate, is sadly away from the hostess stand when the judges arrive, but does a great job contending with the tables who just don’t seem to want to get up… she bribes them with wine!

Lunch service ends pretty smoothly for Palate, but the same can’t be said for District LA.  The tickets are still pouring in by the time Palate’s service is through… but to be continued!  I can’t wait to see what the teams come up with for dinner, because with the judges opinions so far, it could go either way.  What do you think?!

Top Chef: 10 Years Later

Get ready for a lot of 10’s!  There are 10 chefs left on Top Chef in this week’s episode, and the challenges are appropriately themed.  It has also been 10 years since the very first season of Top Chef premiered.

So, for the Quickfire, the 10 chefs can only use the same 10 ingredients.  Each chef has 20 seconds to pick one, they don’t have to use all 10, but they can use nothing else.

  • Phillip grabs beef
  • Isaac gets chicken
  • Chad picks jalapeño
  • Jeremy adds salt
  • Marjorie selects vinegar
  • Karen grabs olive oil
  • Kwame picks garlic
  • Amar gets mushrooms
  • Carl selects tomato
  • Jason chooses celery

Top Chef Alumna Antonia Lofaso is here to judge the Quickfire with Padma.  She selects Isaac and Karen as having made her least favorite dishes, and Jeremy and Amar as having made her favorites.  Jeremy wins and receives immunity!

The elimination challenge is also 10 themed.  Padma can barely make it through her giggles to the list of things that were happening 10 years ago– that Myspace was the most popular website (oof) and Tom Cruise married Katie Holmes.  The chefs need to put themselves 10 years ago on a plate and serve it to a table of (surprise!) 10.

It’s really fun to hear the stories of where these chefs were (and who these chefs were!) 10 years ago, but for one, it’s not a happy memory.  Kwame can’t get out of his own head during this one.  Michael Voltaggio (heart-eyes emoji) comes around with Tom to taste, as he’s one of the four Top Chef Alumni attending the dinner (the others being Antonia, Blaise, and last year’s winner Mei Lin!).  Phillip makes a literal fool out of himself explaining how he can’t cook to the judges’ tastes.  Tom tries to explain the concept of simply cooking good food correctly, but it’s not sinking in.

Here’s what they make:

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Gail makes a comment to Tom while they enjoy that she sat down next to him 10 years ago and here they still are!  Too cute.  The two of them plus Padma, Blaise, and Michael Voltaggio sit at the judges table to give the good news– their favorite dishes belonged to Marjorie, Chad, and Carl.  Marjorie gets her second win!

Now for the bad news– Jeremy’s immunity saved him this week, but Kwame got in his own head and ended up on the bottom, as did Phillip and Jason.  Jason is eliminated, he’s seemed a bit off-beat for a while.  He packs his knives, but something tells me Phillip could be right behind him… enough excuses, just cook well!

Thoughts?!

Top Chef: Date Night with Chrissy Teigen

Yesterday, my best friend announced we were in a fight.  Apparently I didn’t give her adequate notice that her number one girl crush, Chrissy Teigen, was on my favorite show, Top Chef.  I can’t say I blame her.

Not only was Chrissy Teigen a supreme joy, but this episode featured a Big Gay Wedding– 25 couples! and was enough to bring tears to my eyes.

But let’s get back to the dates.  The chefs pull up to a date farm and gather their Quickfire ingredients.  They meet Padma and Chrissy in the kitchen of a culinary school to cook.  Their task: to recreate the best date (of the romantic variety) they ever had by featuring dates… the fruit, that is.

It’s a cute idea, and Carl’s milkshake date was so cute to hear about.  Chrissy Teigen is the cutest of all, though, as a Top Chef fan herself.  She comments on Padma’s well-honed poker face too.   The least successful dishes were made by Chad, Phillip, and Carl.  The top dishes were made by Jason, Isaac, and Giselle.  Jason is the winner and Chrissy yells, “immunity!” to tell him what he’s won.  She can come back any freaking time.

Art Smith announces the elimination challenge, catering a wedding for 25 same-sex couples officiated by the lovely Padma, who promises a killer outfit for the occasion.  Art recalls his own wedding cake disaster from Top Chef and says he will supply the cake.  The chefs gather is various pairs to create the menu for the very special event:

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Tom, Padma, and Gail have the pleasure of tasting and judging along with Art.  Most of the dishes are absolutely delicious, to the point where Tom is nervous that they won’t have any bottom dishes.  With so many top dishes, the decision is difficult, but the select Wesley & Kwame’s shrimp dish and award Kwame the win!

The only two dishes they disliked were made by Phillip & Kwame, and Karen & Giselle.  Kwame is a little confused, but Padma assures him his sauce was the best part of the dish and he is not going home.  The choice is between Phillip, whose whipped cream potatoes didn’t work for the judges but came out to his liking; Karen, who did all the work on a poorly executed dish; and Giselle, who seemingly did nothing.  Gail pointed this out, and thus, Padma announces that Giselle must pack her knives and go.

It was the right decision, and I must say: I enjoyed watching Phillip get some grief– he’s not that wonderful!

I’m so glad Kwame has another win; this kid is awesome!

The worst thing about the holidays was certainly the lack of Top Chef, so I can’t wait for more.  Who are you cheering on?!

Top Chef: Pop Up Problems

Oh hey, a two part Top Chef premiere is worth of two posts!  The 16 remaining chefs are tasked with opening 4 Pop Ups across Los Angeles… on the very day Padma tells them this.

They are split into four teams and go to four different places, each highlighting a different cuisine:

  • The Orange team consists of Frances, Grayson, Phillip, and Renee.  They are to make vegan food.
  • The Grey team is Amar, Angelina, Isaac, and Marjorie.  They’re making Persian food.
  • The Purple team is Carl, Giselle, Jason, and Karen.  They’re to make Korean food.
  • The Blue team consists of Chad, Jeremy, Kwame, and Wesley.  They’re making Mexican food.

Ludo Lefebvre appropriately guest judges– I’ll never forget LudoBites for the name alone!  Each team goes to a restaurant to reflect their cuisine and can pick the brain of the chef there to ensure success… some teams do this better than others.

Here is what they make:

Persian and Korean go well, Mexican is saved by Kwame (who was the least confident about Mexican cuisine) and vegan… well, they’re the losing team.

The winning team is Persian!  Only one chef can win and it’s Marjorie for her killer dessert which the Taste of Tehran’s chef decides to add to her menu.

From the losing team, Renee is eliminated.

My two Bostonians were safely on the Korean team.  I’m looking forward to seeing what else they make!  Who do you have your eye on?

Top Chef California

Top Chef is back on my tv (finally!) and back where it all began– California!

It’s season 13, and 17 chefs (mostly executive, some James Beard nominees) gather to compete for the title of Top Chef.  There are not one, but TWO Boston chefs representin’ this season!  They’ll have to impress Tom Colicchio, Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, and Emeril Lagasse.

The seventeen gather for Tom & Padma for their first ever Quickfire, and it’s a classic– the mise en place race!  It’s not a relay, but a competition to be one of the first nine to complete their mise.  Those nine move onto part 2 of the Quickfire, where immunity is up for grabs.

Five different ~California~ ingredients feature in the race; they could: break down chicken, supreme oranges, separate eggs, turn artichokes, or prep asparagus.  The choice was theirs, but the tasks were on a first come, first served basis.

The chicken people seemed to finish fastest, some egg folks… I don’t think a single orange-supremer made it in.  The top 9 split themselves into 3 teams:

  • The Blue Team: Renee, Frances, and Amar
  • The Green Team: Isaac, Grayson, and Carl
  • The Red Team: Jason, Jeremy, and Wesley

The relay part comes in here for part 2.  They have to make a dish featuring one of these California ingredients, but only one can cook at a time.  In fact, each chef only gets 10 minutes to cook before handing it off to their teammate.  Their teammates wait blindfolded and they cannot communicate with them.

Mostly, this goes well (with the exception of the team who pretty much never found their chicken cooking) and the Blue Team– all three members– win immunity!

For the elimination challenge, the chefs can make anything they want, as long as its enough for 200 LA foodies.

Here’s what they do:

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The food bloggers and critics actually voted for the top and bottom dishes, and the judges decided from there.  Amar, Carl, (yeah Cambridge!) and Jeremy took the top spots, with Jeremy taking the first win!

This left Angelina, Grayson, and Garrett on the bottom.  Grayson gets a little sassy but Emeril is having none of it.  Because Garrett made the real technical mistake, he unfortunately is sent home first.  But there’s always Last Chance Kitchen!

Guys, I promised you a double recap, as this was a two-night, two-episode premiere!  Come back tomorrow for Pop Up Pandemonium!

Are you all as excited as I am to have Top Chef back on?!

Top Chef Boston: Fine Art & Food

Six weeks after our last elimination in Boston, Melissa, Mei, and Gregory arrive in Mexico.  Melissa, originally trying to prove something to her father has let that go and is ready to win for her.  Mei, determined from the beginning since she works for Michael Voltaggio, a Top Chef winner, has been sent training at Top Chef runner-up Bryan Voltaggio’s restaurant Volt.  Gregory, worried about his weaker second half of the competition, is back with a lot to prove.

The three are greeted by Tom and brought to the last battle of Last Chance Kitchen, Adam versus Dougie, going on before their eyes!  Dougie is declared the winner, which I am so pleased about.  He deserves a spot in the final.  The new final four are sent to meet Padma for the Quickfire.

Guest judge Enrique Olvera is there to help Padma announce the challenge.  One of the most popular foods in San Miguel de Allende is the prickly pear.  They will be highlighting the xoconostle, the sour fruit of a cactus.  Here’s what they make:

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Enrique ranks Gregory and Mei on the bottom and Doug and Melissa on the top.  Doug wins!  He gets an advantage in the elimination challenge. (more…)

Top Chef Boston: Bye, Beantown

After an episode without eliminations, the chefs don’t have to pour one out this week.  One chef can sleep easy– Melissa already has secured her space in the finale in Mexico!  The real challenge is between Mei, Gregory, and George to grab the last two spaces available to them.

Padma and Wylie Dufresne (!!) announce the final Quickfire Challenge in Boston.  Wylie is one of those guests that Top Chef fans are always excited to see.  If you watch this show and its spin-offs, you probably know Wylie well.  For the Quickfire, Padma mentions the nickname for Boston, Beantown.  Before I can roll my eyes at this (locals never use it!) she says that the name and the dish (that is, baked beans) have fallen out of favor in recent times.  Thus, the challenge is to make a bean dish!  The winner gets a trip to Turloto Wines in Napa, California!

Here’s what the chefs make:

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George’s dish is nicely cooked, but maybe didn’t need the pork.  Melissa made a nice plate, but beans were not the star of the dish.  Gregory overcooked his beans, which is what they were warned not to do. Mei knew her audience.  Since Wylie Dufresne loves eggs, she incorporated one into her dish.  Though maybe not the best looking plate, she wins the challenge!  This is surprisingly her first Quickfire win, and she’s pretty psyched about it… “Napa, here I come!  I’m gonna get wasted.

The final challenge in Boson has to do with a newer face of Boston– not so much Beantown, but instead, a city at the center of new ideas.  The last challenge is to make an innovative dish!

They head to Catalyst, in the Kendall Square, Cambridge area to do their cooking.  Around the table sits the biggest group of judges we’ve seen yet– Gail, Padma, Richard, Tom, Wylie, and Dr. Michael Brennan, a physics professor at Harvard.

The innovative dishes are:

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Melissa and Mei are on top again this week!  Melissa actually ends up the winner of the last challenge!  She gets a nice cash prize to take with her.  Mei secures her ticket to Mexico and her spot in the finale!

Gregory and George end up on the bottom for not being innovative enough and bitter charred octopus, respectively.  Only one can move on to the finale, and it’s Gregory!

I happen to think these three were the right choices.  We knew that Mei and Gregory we destined for the finale from the beginning, but Melissa was kind of a sleeper at the beginning– she sure has come on strong as the competition picked up!

Of course, the Last Chance Kitchen winner will also be joining Mei, Melissa, and Gregory… I won’t ruin it for you if you’re not caught up, but I happen to think this person is very deserving as well!

I’m psyched for the finale, but so sad this wonderful season is coming to a close!

See you in Mexico, kids!

Top Chef Boston: A Lit Major’s Dream

Every episode of Top Chef Boston reminds me how much I love living here.  I think Bravo may have made this season just for me…  I’m going to gush all the way through this recap, so let’s get to the Quickfire!

The cheftestants walk in to see Rob Gronkowski, who has partied with my high school friends and yours, standing with Padma Lakshmi.  The challenge is to make sausage for Gronk.  “I need a big sausage,” says Gronk in an awkwardly overt innuendo.  “Me too,” says Padma adorably and hilariously.

Here’s what the chefs make:

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On the bottom, we have Melissa whose sausage came out quite small, and Gregory for too many spices and toppings.  The top two are Doug and George.  George wins!  Even though he told Gronk to his face that he’s not a fan of his, the food won him over.  George gets immunity for the win.

Guest Judge Tony Maws (of Craigie on Main, for you Bostonians) comes out with a book case.  The elimination challenge is to make a dish inspired by one of the New England authors on the shelf.  “Make your high school English teachers proud,” Chef Tony says.

  • Gregory chooses Edgar Allan Poe (who was born roughly between the Steinway Building and the Boloco on Boylston street, next door to my former dorm) and uses The Raven as inspiration
  • Katsuji chooses Stephen King (who my high school English teacher actually knows! from sitting next to him in their college classes at U Maine) and selects Carrie as inspiration
  • George goes for Dr. Seuss (I’m out of local girl fun-facts now) and opts to use One Fish Two Fish Red Fish Blue Fish as inspiration
  • Mei goes for Henry David Thoreau (and Nicole says, oof transcendentalism) and finds inspiration in Walden
  • Melissa chooses Nathaniel Hawthorne and is inspired by The Blithedale Romance
  • Dougie kind of gets stuck with Emily Dickinson, but after a quick flip through the supplied book he finds inspiration in the line “bring me sunset in a cup”

Tom & Tony check on the chefs who have all been successful in their creative inspiration.  Mei even impressively sketches her plate out, inspired in part by her boss Michael Voltaggio’s attention to plating.

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Frances Lam joins Tom, Gail, Padma, and Tony at the judges’ table.  Here’s what the cheftestants make this time around:

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Everyone gets such good comments!  The only negative thing we hear is that Greg didn’t take Seuss far enough, and he has immunity.  With the bar so high, the elimination makes me nervous.

On top this week: Mei, Melissa, and Doug.  The big winner is Mei!

And who’s eliminated?  Sadly, Katsuji.  This was hands-down the saddest I’ve been this season.  I think Doug summed it up best at the beginning of the episode when he says, “He’s probably my favorite person in the house… I don’t know why.”  Katsuji has been a constant source of laughter and you know his heart goes onto his plates!  I’m hoping he makes a comeback in Last Chance Kitchen!

 

So, sad news.  Next week, though, my alma mater Emerson College gets a little shout out!  Of all the colleges and universities in this city… I told you this season was made for me!

Enough of my gushing… what did you think?!