Tuesday, May 31, 2011

TC News & Information - Recipe Edition 5.31.2011

Season 4 champ Stephanie Izard offers up a recipe for chickpea fritters with tapenade. The tapenade, made with olives and preserved lemons, has a Moroccan flair.

Season 6 winner Michael Voltaggio shares his recipe for beef short ribs. While cooked initially in a pressure cooker before grilling, a long braise would probably produce the same results.

Sam Talbot, from season 2, shows us how to grill seasonal fruit in this video (watch out - it plays automatically).

iVillage features 21 recipes from Top Cheftestants and hosts, including Jamie Lauren's seared scallops with fennel cream, Carla Hall's green eggs and ham, and Tom Colicchio's Slow-Roasted Pork with Red Cabbage, Jalapenos, and Mustard.

Richard Blais has developed some recipes for McCormick spices, including this one for arugula and peach salad that looks perfect for the upcoming summer season.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Monday, May 30, 2011

Happy Memorial Day!

Whether driving to the shore or firing up your grill, please give a thought to the valiant young men and women who have given their lives over the years to keep America free.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

TC News & Information 5.26.11

In a case of "research before you promote," fitness author Mark Vaughan is accusing Curtis Stone of "health washing" Post Great Grains cereal, which the Top Chef Masters host has been promoting. Apparently the cereal has a ton of sugar, according to this article. Really, we've probably seen enough of Curtis' mug on everything...what with the Merillat cabinet commercials, plus America's Next Great Restaurant and Top Chef Masters, I'm definitely burned out.

Gothamist has listed six Top Chefs that are still cooking in NYC. Unfortunately, one of them is no longer Nikki Cascone, as her restaurant Octavia's Porch has closed after only 6 months. (Thanks to David Dust for the link.)

Zagatbuzz shares a quote from season 2 cutie Sam Talbot and a tiny image of one of his paintings. Hemp seed trail mix?

Tom Colicchio is opening the Lot on Tap, a food truck court/taproom, under Manhattan's Highline park. In the past, he's flip-flopped on the subject of food trucks, and now he's curating them? I guess it's wise to go where the money is, huh?

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

No Top Chef Masters Tonight!

Guess Bravo is taking a loooooong holiday weekend. :)

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Monday, May 23, 2011

Are you watching Treme?

Anthony Bourdain, frequent Top Chef guest judge, is writing the restaurant scenes for Treme.Top Chef head honcho Tom Colicchio and Bourdain pal Eric Ripert (another friend/judge of TC) appeared on the most recent episode. You can find linkage and videos here and here and here. Kind of makes me wish I got HBO. If you're watching, let us know what you think. 

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Recap Roundup - Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 7

A Just Recompense on the Quickfire: "Mary Sue doesn’t feel like she’s tasting anything without smell. Hugh says his ears are jamming as he chews. They taste all five ingredients; the trays are removed, and they have to write down what the ingredients were. Traci points out that remembering five things adds to the difficulty. I agree. This seems pretty poorly designed; I think they should’ve done them one at a time like they have done in simple blind tasting challenges. I don’t understand why they didn’t, in fact. The hearing thing is kind of bogus, anyway. What, hearing yourself swallow worcestershire sauce is going to give it away? Rig the headphones so they can hear Curtis give instructions (which, it’s hilarious, at the end he says, 'Ok, take off your headphones' and they all do so on cue). Maybe I’m just grumpy, but this could’ve been very cool if I hadn’t been so distracted by nonsense."

Reality TV Calendar is judgmental: "Next test is smell. Blindfolds and ear muffs and sniffing only. They are working on some sort of cheese, hot sauce, root beer, rice vinegar and mayonnaise. Traci is out. This one concerns me. The smell of root beer is distinctive. Someone smelled the capsicum in the hot sauce. I hope they gave her the point because that is what the smell is. If you are a chef you should be able to identify many cheeses by smell and distinguish types of vinegar. I can’t, but I’m not a chef. And, frankly, does mayonnaise have a smell? Egg yolk, oil and some acid. It’s going to depend on the oil and the acid as to what it smells like? Homemade versus Best Foods? Yikes. Silly."

Clean Plate Charlie on the happy couple: "The cheftestants will have to make a dish based on Chris and his fiancée Victoria's life story (you're kidding, right). Chris says that he and Victoria were friends first. Their favorite moment was seeing a movie marquee that said j'taime. Then he gave Victoria a bracelet that said j'taime. They also like beer, hockey and pretzels. By the way, by the pictures he's passing around, Victoria looks smoking hot and Chris looks like Bill Gates."

Monkeys as Critics on the romantic couple: "Chris and Victoria’s special phrase is Je t’aime. Because it’s a rare and wonderful phrase often found on pretentious coffee mugs. Hugh wants to puke. I’m with Hugh. Chris and Victoria have to get a beer and a pretzel while watching sporting events. Chris is shaping up to be a total bore, so I’m hoping Victoria is equally dull. Victoria introduced Chris to sushi. She cooked him salmon and he thought it was chicken. Naomi thinks Chris might be a massive dumbass. I’m with Naomi. They’ve never had shellfish (or they never order it when they go out, Chris kind of mutters this part). Chris and Victoria sound like the most boring people ever. How did they get onto 'Top Chef Masters' anyway? Was there a casting call for people who think McDonald’s is fine dining? Apparently the chefs now have to make raw French food with bracelets. Or something."

Oregon Live on the non-twist: "Stone pops into the kitchen, and the chefs' hearts collectively sink. It's 'Top Chef' twist time! What will it be this week? They have to complete their cooking wearing wedding veils, perhaps? Turns out, there's no twist at all. When their meal is served, Stone says, the mothers of the young lovers will be watching on closed-circuit television. Uh, OK ... who really cares?"

TWOP on post-prandial possiblities: "Curtis and Gail take their mind off the food to speculate over how many couples in the room will be 'getting some action tonight.' They even joke about Oseland's chances with his tablemate. Lest we get skeeved out, it's apparent that Gael Greene deems Oseland's chewing 'ot attractive, not seductive.' Lest ye feel gipped, we get a vignette about Gael Greene's one-night stand with Elvis, after which he beckoned her to order him a fried egg sandwich. Ahhhh, romance!"

AV Club on working the theme: "The three chefs who dedicated the most time to including clever tie-ins based on Chris’ stories were Hugh, Celina and Traci; Of course, they also ended up being the bottom three. You could tell that Hugh was particularly frustrated with this: He felt he had done exactly what they asked for, and was frustrated to find himself in the bottom three because of it. Celina, meanwhile, felt like she had made two things that were meaningful to the couple and two things that the judges seemed to legitimately like. Traci thought she had made a delicious apple tart which captured the romantic sentiment of that final moment (although writing “Je T’aime” on a plate is not exactly creative cookery)."

Grub Street on give the guy a chance!: "Suddenly Curtis stands up and steals Chris’s thunder to announce that Chris has an announcement to make. He proposes, she says yes, and they make out on the floor a little bit. Looking on, Naomi and James weep uncontrollably. It feels like the episode should end here, but someone still needs to get kicked off."

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Top Recipe - Naomi Pomeroy's Chicken Thighs

Porcini Braised Chicken Thigh with Sweet Potatoes Two Ways


5 pounds chicken backs
3 pounds wings and feet (12 each)
10 drumsticks
4 quarts mirepoix (2 parts onion: 1 part celery: 1 part carrot)
4 sprigs thyme
3 bay leaves
1/2 teaspoon black peppercorns
1 bottle dry white wine
6 quarts veal stock
Truffle salt, to taste
Aged balsamic, to taste

12 chicken thighs, bone in, skin on
Dry white wine, a splash
1 cup good quality dry porcini
Salt and pepper
Thyme, a few sprigs
1 whole garlic

Sweet Potatoes:
2 pounds sweet potatoes
8 ounces butter
2 puréed chipotle peppers
1 teaspoon espellete pepper
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Herb Puree:
1 package chervil, chopped fine and covered in oil
1 package chives, chopped fine and covered in oil
1 cup picked parsley leaves, chopped fine and covered in oil
2 small shallots, minced
3 tablespoons champagne vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil


Chicken Stock:
1. Roast bones (backs, wings, feet) at 450 degrees Fahrenheit convection until fully browned in a large stock pot (or 2 large pots).
2. Sauté mirepoix in olive oil. Add drumsticks then roasted bones. Then add wine, herbs, and water to cover.
3. Simmer for minimum of 1 hour.
4. Save feet and mirepoix.
5. Set aside 5 quarts to braise chicken and 5 quarts to mix with veal stock.
6. Veal stock mix – reduce way down to make glace. About 1 quart. Season with truffle salt, and aged balsamic.

1. Leave bone in.
2. Season generously with salt and pepper. Sear in hot olive oil until skin is very golden and crispy. Set in hotel or roasting pan.
3. Add mirepoix and feet from reserve stock production.
4. Meanwhile, reconstitute porcini in hot water making sure you rinse them and filter the water (which you need to keep) through cheese cloth to remove any dirt.
5. Heat 5 quarts chick stock to a boil. Cover thighs just up to their skin with a splash of white wine and porcini. Add a few sprigs thyme and a whole (cut in 1/2) head of garlic.
6. Cover pan with parchment and foil – roast at 350 degrees Fahrenheit convection for 1 1/2 hours (or until chicken is tender).
7. Remove parchment and foil and re-crisp skin at 450 degrees Fahrenheit convection for 20-50 minutes, checking often.

Sweet Potato:
1. Cook potatoes (peeled and chopped) in salted water until fully cooked.
2. Whip with soft butter.
3. Season with fresh toasted and ground cinnamon, puréed chipotle and espelette pepper.
4. Deep fry thin peeled strips of sweet potato and parsley.

Herb Puree:
1. Blend all ingredients in a robo-coup. Pour as garnish.


Posted on AllTopChef.com

Friday, May 20, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Celina Tio

Master Chef Celina Tio talks about her experience on the Bravo show.

Click here to learn more about Tio's restaurant, Julian.

Click here to learn more about Harvesters.

Click here for the podcast.

Thank you Chef Celina!

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Bravo Exit Interview - Celina Tio

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Thursday, May 19, 2011

ATC Love to Chef Celina Tio

Chef Tio was on the bottom a couple of times this season, but always managed to be safe. This time, however, her soft pretzel and salad combo got her the axe. Odd, because the pretzel and the salad were both good....the critics' just didn't understand why she didn't do something more interesting and less-literal.

Chef Tio, we're sorry to see you leave the competition without at least a couple of wins under your belt, but congrats on making it this far in the competition. We wish you much success in the future.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Tio and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Congratulations, Chef Naomi Pomeroy

Well played, Chef Pomeroy - you took a simple dish of chicken and made it into something special that was enjoyed by both the happy couple and the critics. And it earned another $10K for your charity, bringing your total thus far to $25K.

They're saying you can make it all the way to the top. Are you going to disappoint your fans, or will you be the next Top Chef Master? We'll find out in a few weeks.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Pomeroy and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Posted on All Top Chef.com

Reactions to Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 7

Ok, soon enough the producers are going to have to run of out clever challenges, don't you think? This week's Quickfire seemed particularly clever - the first chef to identify five foods using only one of his/her senses while the others are blocked by nose plugs, ear muffs, blindfolds, and the like, would be the winner.

Taste was first, and the chefs had to identify water chestnuts, papaya, mustard greens, Worcestershire sauce, and cashews. Being claustrophobic and having a balance issue freaked Floyd out a bit; he guessed none correctly and was eliminated from the round. The second round involved the smells of Epoisses cheese, root beer, mayonnaise, hot sauce, and rice vinegar. Traci was the one who had trouble with this round and was out. In the touch round, the chefs had to identify okra, arborio rice, chayote, blackberries, and gummy bears. While all seemed pretty easy, Celina and Naomi didn't identify as many as Mary Sue and Hugh, so were out. And in the final round, Hugh wins cash for his charity - but not immunity -  by identifying more food sounds than Mary Sue.

For the Elimination Challenge, the chefs had to examine the relationship between food and love in a Date Night challenge. Curtis introduces a munchkin-voiced guy named Chris who tells the chefs that he plans on proposing to his girlfriend of four years and needs their help. Each chef must prepare a dish based on a momentous occasion in Chris and Victoria's courtship, creating a 6-course meal for 21 couples. After he tells them about soft pretzels at sporting events and other occasions that are really only special to them and leave Hugh heaving, the chefs leave to shop.

The party is held at the studio, so the chefs have the luxury of cooking in the Top Chef Masters' kitchen rather than RVs and fast food joints. While prepping, Mary Sue cuts off the top of her thumb, calmly tosses it in the trash can and continues working. Did she go to the Emergency room for stitches, Jamie Lauren? No.

Eventually the happy couples file in, including Curtis with Gail Simmons, and James Oseland with Gael Greene, whom he tackily asks about banging Elvis. And she tackily tells him the story. Ick. Without the shadow of a large hat over her face, the contrast between her wrinkles and her unnaturally-white teeth was a bit...unnatural.

Floyd serves his "kama sutra" shrimp and watermelon first. It's spicy but good. Celina offers a soft pretzel and a salad, both of which are good but leave the critics scratching their heads. Mary Sue's dish involves mussels and clams and is well-received. Next up is Naomi's dish of chicken thighs and sweet potatoes, and I can't tell if Gail's comment about the large portion size is a bad thing or if she just didn't have anything else to say. Hugh made steak with broccoli and large onion rings to represent a gold bracelet that Chris once gave Victoria. And finally Traci's somewhat dry-crusted apple galette is served.

And then is the moment everyone has been waiting for - Chris gets down on one knee and proposes to a rather shocked Victoria. Hey - it's been four years of getting the milk for free; why should she expect a proposal? She thoughtfully doesn't embarrass the munchkin while they're on national television and says yes. And then their moms, who have been waiting back in the "wine room" pop out for tears and hugs.

The Critics ask to see Naomi, Floyd, and Mary Sue first. These chefs have prepared the favorite dishes of the evening, with Naomi's chicken coming out on top. Floyd seems a bit miffed at that. Then Hugh, Celina, and Traci face the firing squad. At this point in the competition, complaints are really minor quibbles. Hugh's dish was boring and it seemed that he cooked down to his audience because they weren't foodies. Traci's pastry was dry and could have used some more sauce of some sort. But Celina's odd combo of salad and pretzel, though tasty, got her eliminated this week.

So what did you think of the episode? Please leave a comment!

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

TC News and Information 5.17.11

Let's start today's post with Stephanie Izard, who is doing a special "Dueling Pigs" limited seating dinner May 29 featuring humanely raised pigs of two different heirloom breeds. She'll announce only on Twitter - and soon - when tickets to those 16 seats will be available.

Then there's Carla Hall, who's out and about offering fish recipes as part of a "Go Fish" campaign with CanolaInfo.org. She demos a dish and talks about her new TV show, "The Chew," in this video with local Hawaiian station KITV.

We're glad Carla survived the tornado that shut down the St. Louis airport last month. But she has stirred up a bit of a kerfuffle by becoming a spokesperson for Fancy Feast cat food, which is sponsoring a "flavor creation contest" where cat owners can submit suggestions to be turned into actual catfood - the reverse of what most TC contestants aspire to - as reported here and here.

A kerfuffle of an entirely different color has emerged in Canada, where Food Network Canada is broadcasting the first season of Top Chef to be produced in a country other than the U.S. Toronto Life and HuffPost talk about the blogospheric backlash that ensued after previews aired at the end of last week's TC Canada episode foreshadowed Daniel Boulud and a "classic French-themed challenge" where one contestant would have to cook horse meat (which is apparently legal in Canada, although not in the U.S., and considered something of a specialty in France). The actual episode is airing 5/16/11 as I write this post and autolaunch it for Tuesday morning, although we in the U.S. are barred from legally viewing it. Top Chef Canada's facebook page said this prior to Monday evening's episode:
There has been a great deal of conversation around the use of horse meat in tonight's episode of Top Chef Canada.  The premise of this particular episode is traditional French cuisine and horse meat is selected as one among several other ingredients that represent traditional French foods. We assure our viewers that the horse meat along with all protein featured in this episode was federally approved and meets HACCP standards. . . . What has become clear in the past few days, however, is that there are many varying opinions and claims surrounding the commercialization of horse meat. In light of this, Food Network Canada pledges to investigate the various issues and will carefully consider all the facts around this topic should horse meat be suggested for any future production.
And we thought bugs were hard to stomach.

To end this post on a more light-hearted note, check out this video from CNN, where Suvir Saran and Mary Sue Milliken run into James Oseland for the first time since filming Top Chef Masters 3.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Monday, May 16, 2011

Recap Roundup - Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 6

TWOP on the Quickfire: "The remaining seven chefs join Curtis Stone in the kitchen for their Quickfire challenge. They have an array of heavenly ingredients, including foie gras, scallops and truffles. The only catch is that they have to create their dishes in just seven minutes, beating Tom Colicchio's personal best of eight minutes, 37 seconds."

Monkeys as Critics on the Quickfire: "Anyway, time for the Quickfire! For once the chefs get really good stuff to cook with like scallops and caviar and not Oreos and canned peas. The catch? They must make a fabulous dish (actually, two plates of it) in seven minutes. Hugh calls it a Quickfire on steroids. I love Hugh, but I don’t think he’ll grab immunity if he’s even slightly serious about half of his dish being the most elaborate cat food of all time."

Oregon Live on cooking conditions: "When the buses arrive at the Hollywood hotel where Maroon 5 is staying, the chefs have to complete the meals on the bus, not in one of the hotel's kitchens, which is sort of infuriating to watch. New York chef Floyd Cardoz is forced to cook steaks on top of the toilet! Los Angeles chef Mary Sue Milliken is prepping tostadas on a mattress normally reserved for liaisons with groupies. Eww!"

Jordan Baker on Hughisms: "Back on the other bus, Mary Sue has “covered the bed in tostadas” which Hugh tells us is “not any fetish I’ve ever heard of.” Oh, Hugh. Thank you for being a friend."

AV Club with a stray observation: "I honestly wonder what the editors would do without Hugh — while Floyd’s going on about how his kids are going to think he’s so cool for meeting Maroon 5, Hugh’s dropping one-liners left and right: 'I’ve got youth, and panache, and one eyebrow on my side' in the little interstitial between commercials was a particularly fun one, confirming that he’s self-aware about the unibrow situation."

A Just Recompense on feeding the band: "The band gives their food preferences. Adam Levine likes Japanese food, and steak. There’s a vegetarian, of course. And a guy from Nebraska who wants corn. Then there’s the guy who’s still upset they missed Thanksgiving dinner when they were in Australia. And one of them likes LA so wants Mexican food. Presumably that means LA-style Mexican, Because if you tell someone like Rick Bayless you want Mexican food, you’d better mean it. But Rick Bayless isn’t here, sigh."

Eater once again makes a lot of references to stuff completely unrelated to Top Chef.

Grub Street on the final moments: "Unsurprisingly, the judges summon the Black Team and Traci wins for her steak. That means Red Team is on the chopping block. 'The duress came through the food,' Curtis tells them, which was kind of the point of this whole ordeal, right? All three chefs are roundly criticized, but Alex — who made four dishes on his own — is sent packing."

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Top Recipe - Traci Des Jadins' Japanese Steak

Japanese Style Steak, Miso Braised Daikon, Cucumber & Pea Shoot Salad


2 pounds rib eye
1/4 cup mirin- for marinade
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 cup pea sprouts
8 ounces daikon
1 tablespoons white miso
1 tablespoons mirin- for daikon
Rice wine vinegar- to taste

Cucumber Salad:
1 tablespoon plum paste
1/4 cup rice wine vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 tablespoons mirin
3 cucumbers – Japanese or European
1 cups pea sprouts


1. Trim the rib eye, remove all sinew and fat
2. Marinate with a little mirin and soy sauce.
3. Sear rib eye in smoking hot pan until both sides are nicely charred. Finish cooking steak in oven at 350 degrees until medium rare, about 6-7 more minutes. Slice and place on a bed of pea sprouts.
4. Cut the daikon into 1 1/2 inch thick discs and turn into little flying saucer shapes.
5. Place into a sauce pan – cover with water, add a tablespoon of miso and a little mirin.
6. Cook until tender at a simmer, 10-15 minutes, add a little rice wine vinegar to balance flavor.

Cucumber Salad:
1. Combine paste, vinegar, oil, and mirin for vinaigrette.
2. Cut cucumbers into desired shapes.
3. Combine with sprouts and dress with vinaigrette.


Posted on AllTopChef.com

Friday, May 13, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with Alex Stratta

Master Chef Alessandro Stratta talks about his career, his life with 3-year-old twins and surviving cancer.

Click here for the podcast.

Click here to learn more about his charity: FasterCures.

Thank you Chef Alex!
Posted on AllTopChef.com

Bravo Exit Interview - Alessandro Stratta

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Thursday, May 12, 2011

ATC Love to Chef Alessandro Stratta

Chef Alessandro Stratta started off this competition on the right foot, but unfortunately things seemed to go downhill from there. This week, he was far too ambitious in the number of dishes he made for the Maroon 5 dinner, and a couple of them just didn't reach the heights that the critics expected from the chef. The once Iron Chef Italian was bested by a plate of overcooked pasta.

Chef Stratta, we're sorry to see you go so soon - you seemed to be destined for the finale. Good luck and good health to you in the future!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Stratta and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Congratulations, Chef Traci Des Jardins

Congratulations to Chef Traci Des Jardins for winning both the Quickfire and the Elimination Challenge this week. It was all about the beef. First she dazzled her fellow cheftestants by making a simple beef carpaccio dish, then she wowed the critics - and members of the band Maroon 5 - with her steak with Japanese flavors. Lead singer Adam Levine in particular was impressed, as he was the one who requested both steak and Japanese food.

That makes $25,000 in total for Chef Des Jardins' charity - so far. There's still plenty of money to be won.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Des Jardins and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Reactions for Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 6

This week, the seven remaining cheftestants faced two interesting challenges. The Quickfire Challenge involved "heavenly" ingredients such as caviar and foie gras (which Curtis pronounced "fwa gwa"). Cooking with luxury ingredients wasn't really the challenging part - that would be the time constraint - a big 7 minutes. After the frenzy of mostly raw preparations, the chefs then rated each others' dishes. Of course with this group, there was tons of both honesty and modesty.

Celina ends up at the bottom of the pack, while Traci takes the win with her beef carpaccio, getting $5K for her charity La Cocina, and immunity in the next challenge...

...which is to cook a family-style meal for the band Maroon 5, based on their requests. And the requests are quite varied - there's a vegetarian and a vegan in the group, but lead singer Adam Levine wants steak and Japanese food. There are also requests for corn, spanikopita, and Thanksgiving dinner.

The chefs head to Whole Foods and then get to working on their prep and cooking - on two tour buses. The buses are small, with 3-burner stoves and a tiny oven. While it's mentioned that this challenge is really about time management, I think it's more about 3 or 4 people working in a tiny area with no counter space. It's like me, trying to make a holiday meal in my kitchen - if a guest comes in and tries to help (aka - get in my way) then I go ballistic. But I'm not a mild-mannered Master chef, either.

Anyway...because Traci won the QF, she got to choose a team, and whether she wanted 2 or 3 teammates. She went for 3, choosing Hugh, Naomi, and Mary Sue for her Black Team. The other three - Alex, Floyd, Celina - became the Red Team. Was choosing three people a good idea when the space ended up being so tiny?

Maybe, maybe not. The Red Team serves first. It surprised me that both teams pretty much gave the band exactly what they asked for - spanikopita, steak, corn, and Thanksgiving. Personally, I thought they'd be a bit more creative, like making spanikopita filled with corn, or baking a chicken served with cranberry sauce. But nope. Anyway...since both teams pretty much made the same things, it made comparisons all that much easier for the critics and the band. Their main issue with the Red Team's meal was the soggy "cafeteria food" pasta served by Alex, and they weren't all that happy with Celina's spinach pie/cous cous duo. Floyd made an uninteresting salad that even Adam Levine says he could have done.

The Black Team fares much better. Although Mary Sue's fried avocado looked like "a piece of poop rolled in birdseed," it was a delicious poop. Traci's steak with Japanese flavors was a unanimous favorite, and Hugh's spinach pie was miles better than Celina's, as was Naomi's Thanksgiving dinner. And the margaritas they served probably helped, too.

Ultimately, the four-man Black Team came out on top, with Traci's steak getting the win. All three of the Red Team's members had their faults, but Alex's dishes - all of them - were the worst, which got him eliminated this week.

So what did you think about this episode? Please leave a comment!

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 6 Previews

The remaining aspiring-masters are asked to create a hit meal for Grammy Award-winning recording artists Maroon 5. The band drops by and challenges the chefs to create a feast fit for a rock star, but, in true “Top Chef Masters”-style, it's not that easy. Once again the tables are turned and the chefs are taken out of kitchen and brought to a surprise location to prepare their meals. What conditions will they be dealing with to pull off a *harmonious* dinner? Find out tonight, 5/11, @ 10/9c on BRAVO's Top Chef Masters 3.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Recap Roundup - Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 5

Oregon Live on a tight budget: "Working with a selection of basic ingredients, with prices broken all the way down to individual units or ounces, the chefs have to make a gourmet appetizer for under $1. Immediately, you sense that the concept of 'Dollar Store Cuisine' is completely foreign for most of the chefs. Las Vegas chef Alex Stratta starts pricing how much each individual walnut in his dish will cost. Atlanta chef Hugh Acheson, who has had at least one industrial-strength freak-out each week, promptly freaks out when he fumbles an egg for his dish and it breaks. Heavens! That was worth 18 cents!"

Monkeys as Critics on reactions to the Elimination Challenge: "Curtis is already moving on to the Elimination Challenge! Each chef must cook a main dish and a side for 100 people who will not have utensils. Traci is thinking amusement park. She isn’t far off. This seems too simple to be trusted, and that scares the poop out of Hugh. Seriously, he said it scares the poop out of him, I’m not being cutesy paraphrasing here."

Clean Plate Charlie on Hugh: "Hugh only can think of slaw. Slaw? With your hands? He says 'Yes. We've all eaten slaw with our hands but it's done in private.' Once again, I'm not sure whether to worship him or report him to the authorities."

Jordan Baker on slow going: "Oseland talks to a diner who’s been waiting 15 or 20 minutes. He and Alex order one of everything and collect their number – 98. We don’t see the scene where the table with number 3 is still waiting for their food, sipping sullenly at their third grape soda of the day."

Reality TV Calendar on the first shift: "First shift front of house. George, Floyd and Traci with Naomi having grabbed the drive through. It doesn’t take long for chaos to set in. George is not making his orders clear. He’s not specifying sides or telling them 'here' or 'to go'. George says it’s ridiculous. Best chefs in the country working a drive through. Hah!"

A Just Recompense on flirting: "Curtis continues to flirt with Danyelle: normally dates are over after the meal but now they go inside, she says she’s doing ok on their date. Guys, next time, leave this on the cutting room floor, it’s really nauseating. But James and Alan are doing some flirting, too: Alan says, looking over his giant cup of soda, 'When I was interning for you did you ever think we’d end up here?' I find their flirting a lot more palatable."

Eater has more on flirting: "Curt and Restaurant Girl can’t be the only ones having all the fun so he says the same thing Monica said to Bill 15 years ago except he’s not under a desk: 'When I was your intern did you think we’d end up here together?'

AHHHH. The boy is hot for teacher.

Restaurant Girl fires back: “This is my first drive thru date. How’s it going?” Curt then calls her a “hush puppy”. He got her open like 7-11, all day, every day, WOOP... Hot stuff."

AV Club on challenge goals: "As for the Elimination Challenge, I would readily admit that this is not a fair test of the contestants' overall ability as chefs: If the producers had wanted that, they would have told the contestants the challenge ahead of time and had the test be who could make the most sophisticated version of fast food. However, this wasn’t about who could cook the best fast food dish. Instead, it was about who could work with their ingredients to create something different from what they had intended. It was about their skills of imagination and creativity, with perhaps a bit of luck (Mary Sue’s food truck experience, picking the right ingredients) thrown in for good measure."

TWOP on the winner: "Mary Sue admits she took a gamble with her fritters, but the critics think it paid off. But who wins? It's food truck purveyor Mary Sue, who'll take home another $10,000 for Share Our Strength. Oseland says, 'In any context -- fast food, slow food -- what you made for us today was fantastic food.' Mary Sue promises to put the quinoa fritters on her menu."

Grub Street shares one last behind-the-scenes tidbit: "Since this is my last week as a critic on the show, it's as good a time as any to talk about how the judging actually works. Before we call the chefs out, the critics sit down one at a time with the producers and go over their favorite and least favorite dishes. I would have thought that this system would create a lot of conflicts, since the critics ostensibly have to come to some sort of consensus. But we usually pick at least most of the same dishes. It's a little trickier to agree on the top three and the bottom three, but coming up with whose dish was best and whose was worst is pretty clear. Then we sit down at the critics' table, the chefs are brought out, and the producers prompt us (via our earpieces) to tell specific chefs our feelings on their dishes, either positive or negative, depending on whether it was the winning group or the losing group. I really wish there were something juicier I could say about this."

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Monday, May 9, 2011

TC News and Information 5.9.11

Happy James Beard Awards Day! The Beard media/cookbook winners were announced last week, with Top Chef Season 7 winning for best studio program, and Eric Ripert's public television show "Avec Eric" winning for best on-location program.

Tonight the James Beard Foundation's chef and restaurant awards will be announced, with Tom Colicchio, Trace Des Jardins, and Ming Tsai hosting. The event will be live-streamed and live-blogged. Stephanie Izard's Girl and the Goat restaurant is a nominee in the Best New Restaurant category, and fellow TC Chicago chef Dale Levitski's shares some thoughts - and faces - of her in this video.

If you're looking for an alternative to those Beard awards, you can cast your vote in this competition sponsored by Zagat. You'll probably recall contestant #6, whose red beard had its own facebook page.

Speaking of Southerners, current TC Masters contestant Hugh Acheson's restaurant Five and Dime is featured in this NYT piece on sophisticated Southern cooking.

Hugh is also on the council of the Atlanta Food & Wine Festival, set for May 19 to May 22 this year. With themes that include Old Traditions, New Traditions and Imports & Inspirations, Kevin Gillespie is cooking up an "inspired" contribution at Woodfire Grill.

TC Masters Season 2 contestant Anita Lo discusses the difference between appearing on Top Chef Masters and Iron Chef in this Wall Street Journal interview: “Iron Chef” was, by far, the easier challenge – a “walk in the park,” as Lo describes it. “It’s just one competition and you can go home after it,” she says. Plus, on “Iron Chef,” you “can have whatever ingredient you want.” With “Top Chef,” Lo was limited to what she could find in Whole Foods – and that meant foregoing harder-to-find Asian ingredients.

Former Gourmet editor and current Masters judge Ruth Reichl (yeah, she'll be back for this week's episode!) has a new gig with the Gilt Groupe, reports the Village Voice. She also had some insights to share about food, culture, and writing at the College of Brockport recently.

Finally, Eater LA is reporting a July opening for Michael Voltaggio's new restaurant, Ink.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Top Recipe - Mary Sue Milliken's Skirt Steak Quesadilla

Skirt Steak Quesadilla Diablo, Quinoa Fritters with Sweet Pepper Garlic Mayo

1 cup grated Mexican manchego cheese
1 cup grated panela cheese
1 cup grated cotija cheese
6 flour tortillas
2 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted

Diablo Salsa:
2 to 4 habañero chiles
10 tomatillos, husked
1 small, yellow onion, quartered
6 garlic cloves
1/2 bunch cilantro, with stems
1 lime, juiced
1 teaspoon salt

Carne Asada:
2 to 3 tablespoons cumin seeds
3 jalapeño chiles, stemmed, cut in half, and seeded if desired
2 cloves garlic
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon freshly ground black pepper
1/4 cup freshly squeezed lime juice
1 1/2 bunches cilantro
3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
1 1/2 pounds skirt steak, trimmed of excess fat

2/3 cup white or black quinoa, rinsed and well drained (if necessary)
1 1/3 cups water
1/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup grated cotija or feta cheese
3/4 teaspoon salt
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste
4 green onions, white and light green parts only, finely chopped
1/2 bunch Italian parsley, chopped
1 egg
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup canola or grape seed oil

Red Pepper Mayonnaise:
1/2 cup good quality mayonnaise
1/3 cup roughly chopped, roasted red peppers
1 tablespoon sherry vinegar
2 cloves roasted garlic
1 to 2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil
Salt, to taste
Freshly ground black pepper, to taste

1. In a bowl, mix together cheeses.

2. Lay the flour tortillas on a counter. Divide the cheese mix into 6 equal portions and spread over half of each tortilla. Sprinkle salsa to taste over each. Arrange the Carne Asada evenly over the cheese. Fold the tortillas over to enclose the filling and brush the tops with butter.

3. Place a cast-iron skillet, sauté pan or griddle over medium-high heat. One at a time, cook the tortillas buttered side down in the pan until lightly golden, about 3 to 4 minutes. Then brush the uncoated side with butter and flip over. Continue to cook until the other side of the tortilla is lightly golden and the cheese begins to ooze. Serve hot, whole or cut into wedges, with your favorite salsa, guacamole, and sour cream.

Diablo Salsa:

1. On a hot grill, char the habaneros, tomatillos, garlic and onion until slightly blackened and soft.

2. Remove vegetables from grill and place in blender with cilantro, lime juice, and salt. Blend until smooth. Allow to cool and serve.

Carne Asada:

1. Lightly toast cumin seeds in a dry medium skillet over low heat just until aroma is released, about 3 or 4 minutes. Transfer seeds to a blender. Add jalapeños, garlic, salt, pepper, and lime juice and puree until cumin seeds are finely ground. Add cilantro and olive oil and puree until smooth.

2. Using hands, generously cover meat all over with marinade. Place in a shallow pan and pour on remaining marinade. Cover and marinate in the refrigerator a few hours.

3. About 30 minutes before cooking, remove meat from refrigerator. Heat the grill or broiler to very hot.

4. Cook steak just until seared on both sides, 3 to 4 minutes per side for medium rare. (Or pan fry in a hot cast-iron skillet lightly coated with oil.) Transfer cooked steak to a cutting board and let rest for 3 to 5 minutes. Then slice across the grain into diagonal strips. (Tough, yet flavorful steaks like this should always be cut across the grain so that no one bite will contain too long a muscle fiber.) Cut strips into a 1/2-inch dice and use for carne asada quesadillas or tacos.

Quinoa Fritters with Red Pepper Mayonnaise:

1. Place a small, dry saucepan over high heat. Add quinoa and toast for about 5 minutes, shaking and stirring constantly to prevent scorching. Transfer to a large saucepan and add water. Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer and cook, covered, until water is absorbed, about 10 minutes. Set aside to cool.

2. Meanwhile, to make mayonnaise combine ingredients in a blender or food processor and puree until smooth. Taste and adjust seasoning as necessary. Refrigerate until ready to use.

3. In a large bowl, combine cooked quinoa, flour, cheese, and salt. Add onions, parsley, egg, and yolk. Stir thoroughly with a spoon until the mixture has the consistency of soft dough.

4. Heat oil in a large skillet over medium heat. Using two soup spoons, press batter into egg-shaped ovals and gently slide into the hot oil or use a small ice cream scoop. Fry until the bottoms are golden and brown, less than a minute. Turn and fry the second side until golden, less than a minute. Drain on paper towels and serve warm, topped with red pepper mayonnaise.


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Friday, May 6, 2011

All Top Chef Interview with George Mendes

Top Chef Masters contestant, George Mendes, talks about his experience on the Bravo show.

Click here to learn more about Chef George's restaurant, Aldea.

Click here to listen to the podcast.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Bravo Exit Interview - George Mendes

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Thursday, May 5, 2011

Congratulations, Chef Mary Sue Milliken

Congratulations to Chef Milliken on her second win in this competition! It's been a bumpy ride for this chef, who ended up in the bottom three even more often than she pulled out the victory. This one she had in the bag, however. With her experience on the Border Grill food truck, she was able to make a dish that pleased guests and judges alike without a lot of sweating.

Keep up the good work, Chef!

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Milliken and her dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

ATC Love to Chef George Mendes

Chef George Mendes chose an unusual pairing of pork and clams for his Elimination Challenge dish. While it would have worked beautifully at a posh sit-down restaurant, the combination just didn't work as fast food. George stuck to his guns, however, making his own food his way, and that is to be admired.

We're sorry to see you go, Chef, and wish you nothing but success in your future.

This post is only for positive comments about Chef Mendes and his dishes. If you have anything negative to say, please do so here.

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Reactions to Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 5

For this week's Quickfire, the eight remaining master chefs had 20 minutes to create an appetizer with a total cost of a dollar. The chefs all pretended to have trouble with this concept, but I've been charged $12 for a salad that had about $2.00 worth of ingredients so how hard could it be? The end results were judged by APM's Dinner Party Download hosts Brendan and Rico, who loved Naomi's bread salad, giving her $5K for her charity and immunity.

The Elimination Challenge started with a bit of a tease. Curtis reveals nothing other than the chefs need to each create a main dish and a side that can be eaten without utensils, for up to 100 people. The next day, they get 30 minutes and $300 to shop at Whole Foods before being driven to their venue: Farmer Boy's, a fast-casual burger chain in California.

Half the chefs - Hugh, Celina, Mary Sue, and Alex - get to work in the kitchen, while the other half - Floyd, George, Naomi, and Traci - man the front of the house. The diners arrive and it's chaos. Fast casual food should take about 5-7 minutes from order to table, but these chefs, not used to this kind of pacing, are taking far longer, causing lines and consternation. George turns out to be a horrible expediter, which I think is strange because really, isn't expediting the main duty of most executive chefs these days? They don't actually cook, but instead hang out at the pass and make sure that the food that goes out is perfect.

Then the critics show up. Alan Sytsma (where the hell is Ruth Reichl?) and James Oseland hit the dining room, while Curtis and Danyelle take the drive-thru. It's kind of pathetic how Danyelle flirts with Curtis the whole time they're supposed to be eating. Guess she doesn't get to date much. Curtis takes the obvious flirtation in stride, but part of me senses that he's annoyed by her. Or maybe it's just me who is annoyed.

And then everybody switches! The kitchen chefs become FOH and vice versa. The critics change places as well and find that the food is taking even longer to come out than the first time around.

Eventually, the chaos is over and the chefs get critiqued. Curtis calls George, Alex, and Celina to the table. They have created the least favorite dishes of the day. Celina's "wrap" was really a pancake with stuff on top, not wrapped at all, and impossible to eat. Plus - bland. George's pork and chorizo skewer, with a clam in a cucumber boat on the side, was also hard to eat and probably not suited to a fast food challenge. Alex's "taco" was really a "burrito" and it was too sweet.

They are sent back to the kitchen to call out the top three, Mary Sue, Floyd, and Traci. Floyd made an Indian street food dish called a "franky," which the judges called "genius." Curtis fell in love with Traci's burrito (which sounds really dirty, huh?). Best of all was Mary Sue's steak quesadilla and unusual quinoa fritters, which earned her a second win and another $10K for Share our Strength.

The bottom three get called back out and their faults are recounted. While it seems to the viewing audience that Celina's dish was the most problematic, it ends up being George who is given the boot.

So what did you think of this episode? Tell us in the comments!

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Recap Roundup: Top Chef Masters 3 Episode 4

Oregon Live on fashionable food: "New York's Suvir Suran pulls from his Indian roots to create cheese pakoras with garbanzo beans. The chef, who has made as much of an impression for his shiny shoes and fancy pants as he has for his cooking, compares his dish to the world of high fashion: 'It's very Calvin Klein rather than Paul Smith.' What that means is anyone's guess."

Monkeys as Critics on names: "After running crazily through the kitchen and slapping together cheesy things, the chefs learn that their judge will be Norbert Wabnig, owner of The Cheese Store of Beverly Hills. I have to say, he has the perfect name for a cheese snob, even if it inadvertently reminds me of Eddie Murphy in a fat suit even though it’s spelled differently."

Grub Street offers a behind-the-scenes fact from Masters' guest judge Alan Sytsma: "Later, Curtis would tell us about the cheese challenge. I almost instantly asked if he meant, like, good cheese, or Kraft singles, the mere suggestion of which horrified Curtis. We then had a ten-minute philosophical conversation about American cheese. Turns out James and I are in the 'for' camp (seriously, how do you make grits without adding a slice of American cheese?), while Curtis and Danyelle are firmly 'against.' To each his own, I suppose, but I still think anyone who believes they're above American cheese is probably a self-righteous asshole."

Oregon Live on cross-promotion: "The cross-promotion between 'Top Chef Masters' and 'The Biggest Loser' is more than a tad shameless (NBC's parent company also owns Bravo), the sort of sweeps-week stunt normally reserved for struggling prime-time dramas. But once the 'Biggest Loser' contestants and the chefs start mingling, you realize that the chefs actually have something to learn from people who have struggled with weight loss. Several chefs note that they don't think about calories or fat content, and that they need to pay better attention to it."

Castles and Cooks on the Elimination Challenge: "Showing that Bravo and NBC will cross promote anything, the elimination challenge was Biggest Loser themed! So everyone got divvied up into teams and assigned a breakfast, lunch or dinner meal based on a Biggest Loser’s contestant’s cravings. But here’s the catch: everyone had to come in under 1500 calories as a team."

Jordan Baker on product placement: "The critics, Sami Brady, and the Biggest Losers enter. As breakfast prepares to go out, Naomi worries that the Stevia has given her food a 'weird, bitter aftertaste.' That is probably both the worst and most refreshing piece of product placement I have ever seen on television. Stevia: low in calories; weird, bitter aftertaste."

AV Club on criticism: "At this stage, the critics’ deliberations seem almost esoteric, ruminations on the food without any sort of concrete notion of what they’re looking for. They thought Alex’s food was the least successful, that Mary Sue was the most safe (which sent John home last week in a head scratching decision) and that Suvir departed too far from his client’s wishes, but where does 'what tasted the worst' fit into that set of criteria?"

TWOP on judgement: "Judgment time. Curtis calls in the blue team (Naomi, Floyd and George) first. They were the most successful, both in calorie reduction and flavor profiles. They managed to snip off almost 4,000 from their original menu. George says he focused on the crust to make his pizza good. Floyd thought the cheese was the key to his dish, and Naomi deemed the fibrous berries an important ingredient. But who wins this week? It's Floyd, with $10,000 for the Young Scientist Cancer Research Fund at Mount Sinai Medical School."

Are you a recapper? If you want to be included here, drop us a line at alltopchef@gmail.com and let us know!

Posted on AllTopChef.com

Monday, May 2, 2011

TC News and Info 5.2.11

Tre Wilcox's new restaurant, Marquee Grill, has opened in Dallas. Feast has a video interview with the chef here.

Robin Leventhal's newest venture, Shopsky's Delicatessen, is slated to open on Mercer Island in May. She talks to the Seattle Times about the eclectic "modern Jewish deli with a Pacific Northwest twist" here. Snake River wagyu pastrami, anyone? How about salmon cured in local gin?

Dave Martin is contributing the menu to NYC's first French fry truck, The Frying Dutchman. Eater has a sneak peek at the fries and sauces, including a cinnamon apple maple butter (for the sweet potato fries), a gorgonzola cream cut with buffalo sauce, and a sour cream, applewood smoked-bacon and cheddar cheese sauce.

And Preeti Mistry demos Indian Street Food from her current venture, Juhu Beach Club, for Thrillist in this video.

Marking the first anniversary of his restaurant, Plein Sud, Ed Cotton talks to Zagat about how the menu has evolved and other lessons along the way.

Hugh Acheson did this interview prior to his weekend appearance at the Good Food Block Party in Athens, Georgia, talking about his charity, Wholesome Wave, and saying this about competing on TC Masters: "Best thing is the camaraderie. The only downside is that it is mildly exhausting."

Eric Ripert offers some interesting food and music pairings to Maxim, and reels off an intriguing list of musicians he'd invite if he could have anyone to dinner, including: "Definitely Prince! I would also invite Maria Callas and Amy Winehouse. I think those two would be a really good combination." Ripert also tells WWD he would never compete on TC Masters.

The May issue of Esquire has an Tom Colicchio (done prior to the birth of his new son).

The Martha Stewart Radio show also has some audio clips of Colicchio, Gail Simmons, and Harold Dieterle about Top Chef.

And here's a piece about the Top Chef Tour's stop in Biloxi, where Eli Kirshtein and Tiffany Derry went head to head.

Finally, don't miss Top Chef: The Musical from Grub Street! The Top Chef-ers who would be willing to participate - or not - are a hoot.

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