Gail Simmons

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

on Mar 2, 2011 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. 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. 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. 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.