Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons sheds lights on the greater significance of the Ellis Island challenge.  

on Mar 2, 20110

Bravotv.com: What have you been up to?
Gail Simmons: I'm just back from the South Beach Wine & Food Festival where I spent three days eating burgers on the beach and other delights. That's also why I had no time for anything. I'm just happy to be home for a short period before I leave again. i am heading to Napa for another event in a week.

Bravotv.com: With the Quickfire Challenge, the five remaining chefs were brought on a boat with Dan Barber, of all people, judging a concession challenge. What did you think about Dan Barber judging this challenge?
GS: Poor Dan Barber. I can only imagine what he thought! But it was kind of a fun challenge, and really stressful for all of them. It was interesting to watch what they came up with. I thought at first that they'd all come up with the exact same thing, but they ended up coming up with very different dishes. Some of it was sort of pedestrian, like Tiffany's nachos, but then there was Richard's really creative use of hot dogs. It was nice that Carla won. Dan Barber liked the one thing that was natural and fresh, which he got in Carla's dish.

Bravotv.com: Would you have eaten Mike's bread soup?
GS: I mean it looked disgusting, but that's my job, so yes. I don't have a choice in the matter, so I would have tasted it if I had to. It looked horrendous though.

Bravotv.com: For the Elimination Challenge, everyone got a  portfolio on his or her family history at Ellis Island. What did you think of that and the revelation that Mike and Antonia are related?  
GS: I remember the next day when we went to the dinner and they told us they were cousins. I was just blown away. I think it's sort of extraordinary, and it speaks to the fact that we all really have more in common than you assume, no matter where we're from, no matter where we're raised, or what are roots are. It really is a small world after all. It's amazing really, and so much about what America is, people who immigrated here from all over the world for very different reasons, but who all share a common dream of a better life. I think finding out where they are all from, whether it be Louisiana, Italy, or Ireland, and seeing such diversity in their backgrounds, proves there's no such thing as a purebred. We're all sort of mutts. I think that is why we're all unique and special and why this country has the energy and spirit that it does, because we all bring so much from our heritage to it. I think that it was really powerful to see that and see how food is so intrinsically woven into everyone's culture. When you think of all of these different places – the South, Italy, and Ireland -- you have such strong food associations because of this link between food and history.

19 comments
Cat in the Hat
Cat in the Hat

Love our insightful bogs. I too wondered why Antonia won this challenge when you said that her veal was a bit salty. Is it because she had yet to win a "prize"?

Sari2011
Sari2011

Excellent challenge - interesting to see the chefs learn more about their heritage, with their family there to share it with them. They rose to the challenge and created thoughtful, delicious dishes that expressed who they are, and where they came from. It seemed like it was an enlightening experience for them as well, the type of challenge that makes an artist stop the race, sit still and think about who they are as people and as chefs. These are the moments in an artists development that are truly meaningful. Great show - congrats.

OliveAnne
OliveAnne

I too really enjoyed this episode. Shame on you for making Richard almost have a heart attack - Team Richard - you go guy! Now as for Tiffany why is she still here? She has taken the easy way out each time. I think she should have been long gone. And Mike is a snake. I think it so matters for a TC to be a person who does not steal from another chef. It has to be about more than just a good dish. I would have liked to see Richard, Carla and Antonia be in the final only. Send Mike and Tiffany packing. Five will be interesting - will you be cutting it down? Thank you for your Blog. OliveAnne FloridaFan

dhoffman,k.king,&n.williamson
dhoffman,k.king,&n.williamson

The three of us think it was an awful tease for Richard. He is hands down the best chef by far and we did not like the judges playing with his feelings like that. Mike is so sneaky as he stole Richards dish before . And the cousin thing with him and Antonio ugh, enough is enough. We all think Richard should win but sometimes we wonder about the judges and just how much they know about judging. We do love Gail and think she should run the show. thanks for listening to the three sisters.

kitchengirl
kitchengirl

Why braised meat? Braising is how you make a tough, cheap cut of meat palatable. Braised meat is the food of poor people, and -- as is the way of the world -- the food of poor people eventually becomes the food of rich people (and the food of rich people becomes the food of poor people, cf. the proliferation of heavy-on-the-meat, high-fat food being flogged at cut-rate prices to the working poor.)

As for Richard: that was truly cruel. The heartbreak and disbelief was visible all over his body. Richard has, through the whole season, been the "cleanest" player. He is helpful even when his help could cost him a prize, and he is clearly in it for the love of the food as much as the love of the game. He (even more than Carla and Antonia, who I also think have the best approach to cooking and food) displays a kindness, heart, and strength of character that is not often seen in real life, never mind on a reality/competition show and making him the target of such a nasty prank was a real low for the show.

Hari from India
Hari from India

I thought it was a lovely episode, really genuine. In this age of reality TV how often do you see something that really rings true. And with love. The way this one was shot was also very lovely. I just feel really bad that no one realised that Richard's mum passed away a couple of months earlier. I mean respect to Mike and his grandma but that was a while ago. You could see the pain in Richard's eyes when the edits cleverly showed him while everyone was sympathising with Mike. Poor Richard. Maybe the others didn't know but he really looked like he needed a hug or a hand squeeze right then. GO RICHARD! I'm rooting for you all the way from India. My girlfriend too. :)

andy boy
andy boy

Not one of the best episodes. It was too mushy. The judges, even Tom was too nice. How many times did we have to hear about Antonia and Mike being cousins, enough. The 1st challenge was dopey. It's too late in the season for stupid challenges. Cooking with snack food on a boat to Ellis island was an amatuer challenge. The ending was a copout. Someone should have gone home. How can you have a winner if everything was so good. If you can judge a winner, than you can judge a loser.

AngeeLee
AngeeLee

OK, you guys got to stop saying that mikie hadn't cooked italian since his grammy died. Just one or two episodes ago he was making gnocchi for his fellow chefs at their house. That's when angelo wandered in, asking if something was burning. so let's stop pretending that the gasbag is not an ass, i'm sorry his grandma passed away, but so did mine and everybody else's. Please.

Susan715NY
Susan715NY

It was cruel to "joke" with Richard that way. Everyone's anxiety is high at this stage and to play with people that way was tasteless and certainly not funny. You put all of these contestants through the wringer; how about a little compassion?

RST
RST

I agree; this was the best show, so far...

Vintage Barber
Vintage Barber

Gail, I love you, you are great but the judges this year have dropped the ball mightily this season & last night was just another example. I realize that all five performed well but this is a competition and if you were able to pick a best then you were able to pick a least (there were no "worst") & eliminate someone.

They pay you judges, culinary experts, the big money to make the tough decisions. Sorry that you were given a pile of slop somewhere to make your night easy but I tuned in to see a result and all I got were hugs and sticky sweet feel good TV. Were the judges afraid to criticize and eliminate someone in front of their family members?

Add the story about Mike & Antonia which was beaten to death and all I can say was last night show was all sweet, no substance. Here these two go from bitter rivals to kissing cousins, yuk! Please get back to your roots of being a fierce competition and enough of these irrelevant side stories. It is alienating the true Top Chef fans. Otherwise, it's all good! You are the best Gail! We want you back for another Top Chef, Desserts!

FanFare57
FanFare57

Thank you Gail for describing the chefs' dishes in more detail. I'm still now sure why Antonia won. It seemed very random since all the dishes won raves. Did the judges flip a coin? Amazingly, Tiffany slipped through because she finally created an acceptable dish. Now, Ms. Mediocrity could become the ultimate title winner? That would be a joke, and in insult in a way. The treatment of Richard was particularly cruel, btw. And it wasn't even funny!

VE
VE

Half of my family is from Naples, half from Sicily- so that's similar territory to Mike and Antonia. So when I saw a few people's last names in Antonia's portfolio that were the same as mine... not likely, but you never know. So you're right, we're all connected on a very deep level. I can totally understand why a tough-guy like Mike can get emotional over a pot of grandma's gravy, and I understand that fennel and mussels can be very Sicilian. I was really starting to not like Mike at all, until this week when he bared his soul.

It's also such a weird coincidence that Richard has chemists and meat-market owners in his lineage. It just makes sense. Please take it easy on the guy, he might end up in an ambulance if you do it again.

mamapasta
mamapasta

This program and contestants are awesome; sad to see it nearing an end! Good luck to all.

amina f.
amina f.

Hands down, Top Chef is the best show in the history of reality-tv. I LOVE it !

BYLee
BYLee

In my opinion, one of the best episodes of Top Chef of all time: No smoke, no mirrors, no mind games, minimal liquid nitrogen, just cooking from the heart. To learn more about the chefs' backgrounds and family histories and what this means to them, along with seeing them interact with family, was extremely heartwarming. It was also great to see the show give the chefs a chance to reenergize themselves and remember why they were doing the show by being with family before the stretch run. Once again, we see why Top Chef is a serious reality show, and not one of those that just looks to put people in situations where they can look bad. Well done.

Walter F
Walter F

Gail,

I'm writing because of the amazing way you said your line about what Mike's mother thought about his gnocchi. It could have been done thousands of other ways, but you delivered the news that Mike's mother "loved his grandmother's gnocchi and thought it was the best, until she ate his" so delicately that it brought a tear to my eye. For me, it was the most touching moment in all of the Top Chef episodes I've ever seen.

Thanks for that!

jvester
jvester

A thousand thank-yous to the judges for pressing to take the fab 5 on to the next challenge! This was an amazing episode! Can't wait for more:)

ct mary
ct mary

This was a wonderful show and full of love, warmth, interesting styles, and showed these chefs as a classy group. No more carping, whining, and complaining. Just serious competitors. So far, it is hard to understand why Antonia's dish won, but I guess the other blogs will make that clear. The editing didn't highlight why she won. And I am thrilled that they will come to the finale. I felt very bad for Richard when he was "teased" by the phrase...."pack up your knives....". It was done once before in another season, but Richard looked like he was going to faint when he heard the rest of the phrase. I guessed that Carla and Tiffany would be going because you could see the semi-smirks on the judges faces. Oh well. I love this show and am captivated by these classy competitors.