Southern Discomfort: Chef Ed Cotton Recaps Top Chef All Stars Episode 11

"Ha! No, really. There *is* a can of cream of chicken soup in all my recipes."

Stepping away from his kitchen at Manhattan’s Plein Sud restaurant, Executive Chef Ed Cotton, a season 7 Top Chef finalist, sheds some light on the action during last night’s episode of Top Chef All Stars.

I saw your Facebook photo of the cassoulet from Plein Sud a few days ago. Love this! I make a Castelnaudary-style cassoulet every year. What’s your favorite type?

I’m very traditional when it comes to Cassoulet. I make my own garlic sausage, cure my own duck legs and pork belly to make the confit, and braise a leg of lamb. The beans have to be Tarbais beans — nothing else.  Stop by Plein Sud, before it gets warm and our menu changes for the spring season.

I will do just that! Going from slow food to fast food…here’s Paula Deen. Oy! Look, someone gave me one of her cookbooks and it felt like every other recipe had “one can of Cream of Chicken soup” as an ingredient. I kinda feel it’s beneath the contenders to cook for her. Even if you’re a fan, who else might you single out as a pillar of Southern cooking that you might enjoy seeing on a future ep of Top Chef?

Well it’s Paula Deen, the life of the party! She’s really a very entertaining woman, who has built an amazing brand, and I would love to cook for her. It would be fun! And, if Justin Wilson were alive today,  he would be the person to see and cook for! He was a great inspiration to a lot of chefs, including me.

Fabio listens sympathetically as Richard admits his fears over his shortcomings in the Elimination Challenge.

Someone once made me pretzel salad. It was…weird…but weirdly good, in a salty-sweet kinda way. What’s the weirdest so-called Southern food you’ve had?

I haven’t had many weird southern foods but I did have alligator for the very first time during a quick fire on my season of Top Chef.

For the QFC, what are you dropping in a deep fryer that would kill it, Ed? And, what did your colleagues drop into oil that impressed you?

I would make a crispy fried stuffed jumbo chicken wing with coleslaw and spicy mayo. I thought Tiffany’s fried pickles were great. I love fried pickles! There is a place here in Manhattan that serves fried pickles, and when I go there, I always order the FRICKLES!

My heart breaks for Antonia! Ugh! So, Mike wins, rather dubiously. Is there such a thing as culinary plagiarism? Or, chef law?

Antonia was so upset, and I would have been also. I did feel very sad for her; it happens sometimes when you’re under stress and cooking like a crazy person. As far as the stealing of someone else’s ideas and recipes, there is a time and a place for everything.  I think recipes should always be shared with others. That is what makes people continue to learn and grow. I love exchanging recipes with friends and other chefs. That said, this was a little too close to home. I would never have done what Mike did — that was straight up wrong. When you are competing for the Top Chef title, you should think for yourself and show people what you can do not what you can steal from others. Sorry, Mike.

Tom scans Mike's workstation for his missing wallet.

John Besh is a guest judge. Can you talk about his cuisine?

To be honest with you, all I really know about John Besh is that he’s a chef with a  great reputation. I’ve never tasted his food, but I would love during a visit to Louisiana.  He’s big in working with charities and has a true passion for food. He looks like a guy that prides himself in true southern hospitality.

The former cheftestants return to “help.” Who do you pick? Spike and his crabs? Who’s scary, for you, as a sous?

I nearly lost it when Tiffany picked Marcel. Come on, Tiff, what are you thinking?? I know she loves shrimp, but I would have picked anyone else but him. I liked everyone else, but Marcel, by far, is the scariest sous chef to me.

Blaise says he only uses new dishes on Top Chef. Crazy — or crazy like a fox?

Blaise is an animal! He puts himself out there and takes risks, and most of the time he knocks it out of the park. I give him props for being true to himself.

Okay, I’m feeling like Antonia is our always-a-bridesmaid-never-a-bride cheftestant. Mike didn’t break any ground, and I feel that he is a Benedict Arnold. So, where did Blaise go right to best his co-competitors, especially Antonia?

Despite his refusal to turn out his pockets, Mike is able to remain on Top Chef.

Antonia is always close but a hair shy of actually winning. Her crab cake looked great ,and I’m sure it was! Mike is Mike, and he makes me laugh. He is lucky Tiffany lived in New Orleans for two years to give him more of a flavor profile. Blaise stepped up and delivered a great dish to take the win! Richard had a great combo idea with the “surf and turf” and terrific flavors in his plate. I think he’s picking up some momentum. I think the stealing of the recipe kind of sparked something.

Ouch! Dale’s done. Where did he go wrong? Also, there’s no crying in baseball — or on Top Chef! What do you think of his dismissal? And the chances of the remaining cheftestants?

From the get-go, it really looked like Dale didn’t have a game plan. He seemed stressed out, but I thought he would have delivered after doing so well on the past challenges. I guess it’s like what Chef Tom says…one bad dish will send you home. I wasn’t expecting him to go this week, so now I’m not sure who is going to go to the finale. He was in the mix for me. I guess I’ll have to wait until next time.

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