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Tom Colicchio

Go big or go home is the motto for Top Chef season 9 as Bravo has just announced the show will be heading to Texas!

Even more surprising is the addition of two new judges. Famed chef, restaurateur and former Food network star Emeril Lagasse and acclaimed chef Hugh Acheson have been added to the judging panel for the all new season.

Returning to join Emeril and Hugh at the judge’s table are host Padma Lakshmi and head judge, chef Tom Colicchio, alongside judge Gail Simmons.

The new season will embrace the Lone Star State’s adage that all things are bigger as in a series first, the production will head to three cities within the season – Austin, Dallas and San Antonio.

Season nine also promises to showcase many surprising twists and turns and never-before-seen challenges and events. Bravo has yet to announce the premiere date but “Top Chef: Texas” will air later this fall.

In the meantime, the second season of “Top Chef Just Desserts” will premiere Aug. 24 at 9/8c on Bravo with 14 pastry chefs competing to out-bake their competition. The winning chef will receive $100,000, a feature in Food & Wine magazine and a showcase at the Annual Food & Wine Cayman Cookout.

Photo by: David Giesbrecht /Bravo

TELL US – EXCITED ABOUT THE NEW SEASON OF TOP CHEF? WILL YOU BE WATCHING TOP CHEF JUST DESSERTS?

Following last week’s dramatic finale, the Top Chef All Stars reunion airs tonight on Bravo at 10/9c.

On the reunion special hosted Andy Cohen, we will get to see all of the all-star food fighters dish on their raw antics and well-done dramas of Season 8. Show host Padma Lakshmi and judges Tom Colicchio and Gail Simmons will appear on the show. All week, the network has teased a clip showing Tom and Elia Aboumrad, first contestant to be eliminated this season who might or might not still be bitter, having some words of exchange. That preview clip is below.

It seems Elia’s beef with Tom (pun intended) stems from the comments she made back in December following her elimination from the show. In an interview with the Chicago Tribune, Elia accused Tom of selling out due to fame. “He has become a very different person. He has become someone who is not all about the food anymore,” said Elia. “He’s not all about supporting farmers markets. He’s all about high-fructose corn syrup and there’s only corn-fed beef on all of his menus now.”

Tom however denied Elia’s claims stating that his ad for Coca Cola was for Diet Coke (which has no high-fructose corn syrup) and that he does buy food from local farmers. “I would say I’m probably buying more local produce at all of my restaurants, especially in Vegas. We get a truckload of stuff that comes from the Santa Monica market and from California farmers three times a week,” said Tom.

Meanwhile, runner-up Mike Isabella opens up about losing out to Richard Blais in an interview with TV Giude. “I thought I won. I’ve never gotten comments like that before in both seasons,” Mike reveals. “Regardless, I did win. … It was a personal victory. To be on All-Stars and to make it that far,” added Mike. Below are some excerpts from Mike’s interview -

Everyone said you were a different chef in the Bahamas. What kind of training did you do during the three-month break?
Mike:
I knew that I barely got out of New York. I kept saying to myself, “Push through, push through. Let’s go back and keep training.” … When I went back home, I started eating differently, I started seeing a trainer, I started working out to get my mental [health] stronger. I was fortunate that I was opening a restaurant and didn’t have to work every day, so I was working in different chefs’ restaurants throughout D.C. … I was really fired up. I was changing things up.

You talk a lot of smack and some fans thought you were dismissive of female chefs. What do you have to say about that?
Mike:
A chef is a chef. When I say, like, “Michelle Bernstein is one of the best female chefs,” I was just giving an explanation. I wasn’t saying she’s not as good as males. She’s one of the best chefs in the country. Period. She’s an icon to me. It has nothing to do with being a guy or a girl. I joke a lot. People take it the way they want. What they don’t see is the whole conversation. … If you talk to anyone — people from my season to this season — they [will tell you] I’m very sarcastic. I thought going into the competition that Blais was the best chef there and I wanted to compete against him. … If he was a girl, I would’ve still wanted to compete against him.

What’s the latest on Graffiato?
Mike:
We should hopefully open up in the next few weeks — late spring. You’ll see some similarities with some of the dishes you saw in the finale. It’s going to be a great restaurant. It’s right in the heart of D.C. It’s Italian-inspired dishes, with home touches, wood-oven cooking. We’re just so excited to get it going.

Mike also revealed that Bryan Voltaggio, season 6 runner-up is an investor in his new restaurant. Interesting that Mike was asked about being dismissive towards female chefs as some fans of the show have criticized it for being “anti-female.”

And finally, Top Chef Masters will be making it’s debut tonight following the reunion show with new host Curtis Stone.

 

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON ELIA’S COMMENTS? SOUR GRAPES? PLUS THOUGHTS ON MIKE’S INTERVIEW & TONIGHT’S REUNION? IS TOP CHEF ANTI-FEMALE?

A day after his big win on Top Chef: All Stars, 39-year-old chef Richard Blais is speaking out via a new interview with Entertainment Weekly. In excerpts below, Richard explains why he always appeared insecure about his dishes, his feelings on chicken oyster-gate today plus his next plans.

How He Chose His Final Dishes – “Most of it is on the fly, like, here are the ingredients you’re given. I tried to focus on picking out my favorite ingredients. Hamachi is a fish I really love. The black cod has such a beautiful fat content that it’s easy to cook, especially for a lot of people.”

On Why He Always Doubted Himself - “On Top Chef, we’re getting reviewed every single Wednesday night, and in reality, every day. So you’re just seeing a little bit more intense version of that. But I think all good chefs do that. They analyze and maybe over-analyze the tiniest details.”

On Being A Favorite To Win It All – “There was definitely a tremendous amount of support on social media. It’s such an honor to have people root and cheer for you, and to walk down the street and have people say, “Oh you should’ve won your first season,” and “We’re rooting for you this time.” I definitely got the sense that maybe everybody else thought I was a favorite, but internally I never bought into it.”

When asked about oyster-gate, Richard states it is completely “squashed” and that while Mike might have been influenced by his idea, he did not steal his recipe. For the time being, Richard is still a partner at Flip Burger but reveals he has some new projects ahead that he can’t discuss just yet.

Meanwhile, it seems the folks behind Top Chef can breathe a sigh of relief today as some fans of the show actually threatened to stop watching if Blais did not win. In fact, one fan tweeted to judge Tom Colicchio before the finale aired and stated that all faith would be lost in Tom and the show if Richard lost. Tom replied, “if Richard doesn’t win perhaps you should loose faith in Richard.”

As we all saw, Richard did indeed win which however brings us to an interesting question. If Richard, who appeared to be a much better competitor than Mike Isabella based on wins (9 wins to Mike’s 4), had lost the final challenge hence the competition, would that have been fair? This also seems to be the criticism with contestant Tiffany Derry making it to the final 4 over other competitors such as Dale Talde, who won way more challenges than she did.

Let’s compare the two contestants shall we -

Tiffany – Won 2 quickfires and zero elimination challenges. In the bottom 7 times.

Dale T. – Won 4 quickfires and 3 eliminations challenges. In the bottom twice.

Dale came in 6th while Tiffany made it to the final 4. And oh yeah, both of Tiffany’s wins came in group challenges. Numbers don’t lie and from looking at the above stats, it seems absurd that Dale was sent packing first. This isn’t to criticize Tiffany or put down her culinary talents, but once again, numbers don’t lie.

In Tiffany’s defense, she doesn’t make the rules which leads us to believe it might be time for the show to make some rule changes, taking into consideration the overall season performance, and not just one challenge when it comes to the elimination rounds. The ‘Top Chef‘ title shouldn’t go to someone who got hot in the final challenges, or someone who was mediocre all season long and managed to hide in the middle of the pack.

The Top Chef title should go to the contestant who excelled consistently over a season’s entirety, like Richard Blais. We can’t help but sit and imagine a finale battle between Richard and Dale. Now that would have been something to watch. Fans of the show also seemed to believe Mike was no competition for Richard as our poll question of who deserved to win before the finale aired garnered Richard 84% of the votes. A similar poll from UsWeekly gave Richard 86% of the votes. Something tells us those poll numbers would have been much different had Dale been in Mike’s shoes.

While Mike did end up giving Richard a run for his money, sorta, on the finale, fans of the show still overwhelmingly believed Richard deserved the title. A PEOPLE.com poll had 86% of the viewers agreeing with the show’s end results.

And though the finale showdown between Richard and Mike appeared extremely close on television, Melissa Maerz of the LA Times disagrees. The reason? Maerz was one of the lucky few who actually got to taste the finale dishes during Bravo’s finale party on Wednesday.

According to Maerz, it was not a close call at all. Maerz states all of Richard’s dishes were superb, describing his hamachi dish as “astoundingly delicious and clean-tasting, it was like a magical fish that’s spent its whole life swimming upstream into a Brita water filter.”

As for Mike, his halibut “was the worst dish by far, flavorless and cold, with a slightly sweaty texture, and the overly sweet kumquats lent it an aftertaste of jelly doughnut.” His pork shoulder with pepperoni sauce was “as if someone had nursed a tender baby pig from a bottle of liquid pizza.” Ouch. Maerz however adds that the dishes were not prepared by the all-stars themselves, but rather by a team of chefs.

TELL US – SHOULD TOP CHEF CHANGE THE WAY CONTESTANTS ARE JUDGED? OR IS THE CURRENT FORMULA IDEAL?

It’s Blais vs Mike on tonight’s finale of Top Chef All Stars!

Following a season of shocking eliminations and chicken oyster-gate, it all comes down to a final cooking battle between Mike Isabella and Richard Blais after beating out 16 other all star contestants.

Blais, season 4 runner-up, is arguably the favorite to win, even pointing out on the last episode that he had won 8 competitions in comparison to Mike’s 3 wins. However Mike, a season 6 competitor, has been on a hot streak in recent weeks, garnering some major wins with his confidence at an all-time high.

There is a lot on the line as the winner of this season will get a cool $200,000! The finale will air tonight on Bravo at 10/9c.

Watch What Happens Live – Right after the finale episode, a new episode of WWHL with Andy Cohen will air with the winner, runner-up and fan favorite.

Meanwhile, following a tough elimination last week, Antonia Lofaso, who was also eliminated right before the finale on her previous stint on season 4, expressed her disappointment. “Its just like having your stomach just drop,” Antonia said after her elimination. “It feels worse this time. So much work to get so close and just have it go away. It’s so hard.”

Antonia is however handling the loss much better today, revealing she is okay with losing to her cousin Mike. “He didn’t have it out for me in a mean way. I think he just wanted to stick it to me for whatever reason. It’s all playful. You have to remember in those moments, you’re not given a lot of time to decide,” said Antonia to TV Guide. “We’re asked to choose and he chooses. If I had to choose first, I probably would’ve given him canned foods [in the Quickfire]. We had a very playful rivalry through the show where we liked to nudge each other. By no means was it disrespectful or hurtful.”

TV Guide also reports they were on the set for the showdown between Antonia and Mike on the most recent episode, and that it almost went Antonia’s way. Apparently, the vote was 4 – 3 in Antonia’s favor but following an off camera convo with judge Tom Colicchio, guest judge Wolfgang Puck had a change of heart thus Antonia and her knives were sent packing.

And finally, Bravo is currently airing a marathon of the show for those who want to catch up.

[polldaddy poll=4816307]

TELL US – WHO DESERVES TO WIN TONIGHT? WERE THE JUDGES RIGHT IN ELIMINATING ANTONIA? PLUS THOUGHTS ON TONIGHT’S FINALE?

Following a so-so season on Top Chef All Stars, Tiffany Derry was eliminated on the most recent episode of the show.

In a new interview with TV Guide, Tiffany talks getting booted, why she thought her dish was great, and touches on that whole Black Hammer curse. Excerpts are below -

Did you have any feeling that you were getting booted?
Tiffany Derry:
It was such a mixed thing. I didn’t know who it would be. I definitely knew the issue of cold and hot. When they straight-out asked me, “Was it supposed to be cold?” I was like, “No, not cold. Please don’t say it was cold.” At least say it was lukewarm. Sometimes there’s a little exaggeration between cold and warm, so you never really know, but I was like, “No!” And there are other issues [for Richard and Antonia]. When someone says something is raw or undercooked, then it’s like, [the elimination] could be based on a technical issue or a [temperature] issue. You never really know. … I didn’t know how to read the whole thing. I felt like my dish was good. I really enjoyed it and I think I said that. To go home on a dish that you like is better than going home on a dish that you know you could’ve done better on.

After the weather this week and the fire last week, do you think you guys should have the best equipment at your disposal in the finals?
Tiffany:
I don’t know. I think this made it much more interesting. We cook with great tools in our restaurants every day; that’s the norm. To put us outside of our comfort zone with different machines and all of that is kind of cool.

You and Antonia won the Quickfire and then you got eliminated. Do you believe in the Black Hammer curse?
Tiffany:
[Laughs] I know! But see, the Black Hammer is supposed to [strike] when you’re cooking with her, when you’re on the same team. So I don’t know what happened. [It took effect] on the next challenge. You know what’s weird about this challenge too? I was going to make the dish Antonia ended up making. We’re on the same wavelength sometimes. It’s kind of crazy. I was going to do a pan-seared fish and the conch ceviche on the top. My other idea was to wrap the fish in banana leaves and still do the conch ceviche. I found out Mike was doing banana leaves, so I’m like, “Freak!” I was freaking out! Then I heard Antonia describe her dish and I was like, “Oh my God! I’m doing the same dish everyone’s doing!” So [my soup] was the third option.

What are you up to now?
Tiffany:
I am building a restaurant in Dallas. It’s called Private Social. Traveling a little bit, doing a lot of cooking demonstrations.

In other Top Chef news, judge Tom Colicchio and wife Lori Silverbush welcomed baby boy Mateo Lev Colicchio on Tuesday at 12:11PM in New York City.

According to a rep for the couple, both mother and baby are doing well. Mateo is Tom’s third son, as he also has a 19-month old son, Luka Bodhi, with Lori and 17-year-old Dante from a previous relationship.

And finally, it’s one week before the finale and on tonight’s new episode, the three remaining chefs fashion a challenge for their fellow contestants in Season 8′s final Quickfire. Then, they dish up a “last supper” for celebrity chefs Masaharu Morimoto, Wolfgang Puck and Michelle Bernstein. It airs tonight on Bravo at 10/9c.

TELL US – THOUGHTS ON TIFFANY’S INTERVIEW AND TONIGHT’S NEW EPISODE?

OC Housewives' Alexis Bellino, Lynne Curtin and Gretchen Rossi

Bravo held their 2010 Upfront Party at theSkylight Studio this week in NYC, and all of our favorite Housewives as well as other Bravolebrities were sure to be in attendance.

The upfront party is when Bravo announces what is to come during their next season of television.

OK magazine was there and was able to report some behind the scenes moments. Representing the Real Housewives of Orange County were Alexis Bellino, Lynne Curtin and Gretchen Rossi, who did not seem phased by their new competitionthe Real Housewives of Beverly Hills. The OC ladies joked that they did hear the Beverly Hills Housewives all have their own private jets.

The Real Housewives of NYC’s Jill Zarin, Ramona Singer and Alex McCord hit the red carpet together during which Jill would not reveal whether or not she and Bethenny will reconcile, simply saying “watch the show.”

Kelly Bensimon also hit the red carpet with LuAnn De Lesseps, and when asked how she thinks Bethenny will be as a mom, she replied, “I can’t really speak to that. I’m sorry.”

The Real Housewives of Atlanta were the only housewives franchise to all walk the red carpet together. The Atlanta ladies are reportedly getting along better these days.

The Real Housewives of New Jersey were also in attendance. Danielle Staub walked the red carpet by herself, while the four remaining housewives stayed together.

Also below are photos of Bravo stars from the Millionare Matchmaker, Flipping Out, Top Chef, Kell On Earth, and Shear Genius.

CLICK THE READ MORE BUTTON TO SEE MORE PHOTOS FROM THE EVENT -

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