Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons explains why the high school challenge is her favorite.

on Sep 30, 2010

Gail Simmons: Sorry I haven't been able to blog for the past two weeks. I was working on the show, shooting Top Chef All-Stars, and promoting Top Chef: Just Desserts. I'll be doing a weekly Q+A as often as I can going forward. I'll leave the full blogs to my fellow judges. How was premiere day?
Premiere day was fantastic! I don't know if anyone checked out the dessert trucks with my head on them, but it was pretty much my mother-in-law's favorite day of the year. I was super-excited about it, because I really think the world would be a better place if everyone just ate a little more cake. And when I say a little, I do mean just a little, because no one needs a massive piece of cake, no one needs four of them a day. A little piece of cake a day, or just a square of chocolate really helps. It releases serotonin, it makes you happy, and I think it's important for the world. That's why we made this show! 

Speaking of which, I warned you Bravo-nians, that this show would get kooky. I think the first two episodes show that there are innate differences between a chef in a savory kitchen and a chef in a pastry kitchen. I keep getting asked that question, "What's the difference, are they so different?" And I what I tell journalists and everyone else is this: You wouldn't ask your psychiatrist to perform open-heart surgery on you. They're both doctors, but that doesn't mean they should do each other's jobs. That's the very loose and exaggerated metaphor I use. In some ways the job of chefs in the savory kitchen is easier because they can tweak the taste, and season as they go, improvise, be spontaneous, and feel their way along until they come to their final dish. Pastry chefs do not have that luxury. Once they whip it up and put it in the oven, how it comes out is how it comes out, and there's only so much they can do to fix it if it is not perfect. It's a much more precise art and therefore requires it's practitioners to be very steady of hand, very patient and meticulous. There cannot be an ounce of second-guessing or an ounce of hesitation in the pastry kitchen. I think that's where our pastry chefs get into a lot of trouble this season, we are putting them in very intense high-pressure situations. And as Johnny Iuzzini said just the other day in an interview which really rang true for me, "Chefs rely on two things more than anything else: time and materials." And when you take those two things away from them, everything goes bananas. The result is Top Chef: Just Desserts. 

I'm happy to report, and I hope it's obvious, how talented these pastry chefs really are. That is first and foremost our priority on the show. Whatever happens in the kitchen, whatever happens in the house, in the Stew Room, is what it is, but we will always treat our chefs with dignity, reverence and respect. How they treat each other is another story. 

So Episode 3…

Two words: Sylvia Weinstock.
She is a genius. She is an extraordinary woman. She is in her 80s, and she touched our show during that episode in a way we really didn't think was possible. Did you ever see The Incredibles? She looks like Edna Mode. She is the Edna Mode of the pastry world. She is so smart, so down to earth, so wise, and really was a pleasure to work with. She was kind to all of our contestants, and she set a good example of how you can give great feedback by being constructive without being too critical. She really had such empathy for our pastry chefs. I learned so much from her over the two days she spent with us. Listen to your elders, they have a lot to teach you.