Gail Simmons shares her love of ice cream, and discusses Seth and Malika's unexpected exits.
Gail Simmons: My first memory of this episode is that I woke up the morning of our Quickfire Challenge and said to myself, "Life is good, it's sundae!" How could life be bad, when I get to go to work and eat sundaes all day.
Bravotv.com: So we have Gale Gand as the guest judge, what can you tell us about her?
GS: Gale Gand is the original professional TV pastry chef. I remember watching her show years ago and thinking how beautiful her desserts were. She's just a master of her craft, so approachable and lovely to work with. I was glad we could spend some time together.
Bravotv.com: You present the chefs with the Quickfire Challenge, but it's interrupted because of the situation with Seth. Do you have anything you want to say about what happened?
JS: Just that Seth is a super-talented pastry chef, and I wish him all the very best for his future.
Bravotv.com: Back to the challenge, you had one instruction for the sundaes, which was you didn't want nuts and bananas, but you got some nuts and bananas…
JS: Well, yes and no. What's great about sundaes, and what's great about this challenge, is that ice cream really bring out memories for people; everyone has an affinity for ice cream sundaes. The best sundaes in the challenge to me were the ones that came with a really personal story. It made them taste better, but obviously we are still judging on their final presentation only, and there were some really creative examples. There were so many combinations I had never tasted before or old standbys presented in a new way. Yigit's dish had some sort of delicious caramel sauce at the bottom of his. The flavor was just beautiful, and his presentation was so modern. It's really hard to modernize an ice cream sundae, but he was able to approach it with fresh eyes. Zac had an over-the-top approach (as usual). He took a classic idea, black forest cake, cherry, chocolate, all those great flavors which everyone loves, and made it really playful. And then there was Morgan, whose dessert really blew us away. First of all, he had a great story about his son. His mint chocolate sundae was incredible, and he made his own chocolate sandwich cookies to go with the ice cream that were just out of this world, so he won the challenge.
Bravotv.com: What's your favorite ice cream flavor?
JS: So many flavors, so little time! Mint chocolate chip is definitely up there, and mocha or espresso chip. It might be a cliché, but I could eat ice cream every day. In general I have an affinity for ice creams that are pure and creamy and don't have chunks in them. The one exception is any sort of chocolate chip or chunk.
Bravotv.com: For the Elimination, they were broken up into groups and were inspired by the Lucent Dossier Experience.
JS: Yes, the Lucent Dossier Experience is totally over the top, and we wanted the desserts to be the same. So in case anyone wasn't clear, what we asked each group of three to do was to create one chocolate showpiece, and then from that sculpture each member of the team had to create their own dessert that was inspired by its theme. On top of that, all teams had to do a fourth dessert that had a fire element to it. We actually wanted to see flames. And we saw flames from all but one team, Yigit's team. In general the desserts were really fantastic. There were a lot of great flavors, there was a lot of creativity. I was impressed by their sculptures. Usually sugar and chocolate sculptures take days, but they had only a few hours. Considering that, most of the work was very well done if a little rough around the edges. although they were all great, Morgan's team took the lead in many ways. Their theme worked, their fire element was beautiful, and all the flavors played off each other well. I really felt like they pushed themselves. Morgan's dessert specifically just had a style element to it that I was really impressed with, as were my fellow judges.
Bravotv.com: And then there was drama between Heather H. and Morgan. Heather H. thought her dish suffered because she took on the showpiece, and she blamed him for it.
JS: Right, but that didn't really matter because they were still the winning team. I know she wanted to win personally, but she still did a beautiful job. Her chai dessert was excellent, the sculpture was beautiful, and those two elements added to why they won. We just thought presentation-wise, Morgan thought a little more creatively. I could see that there was anger there; their personalities just don't mesh very well.
Bravotv.com: And what about the losing team?
JS: Heather C's dish was the weakest, and I don't think it was due to any lack of skill. I think that from the beginning of the challenge, and under the unusual circumstances, she lost all her confidence. I don't think she works very well under the Top Chef: Just Desserts pressure of having to think on your feet and act quickly. This happened to her in many of the other challenges, like the penny candy Quickfire, when she couldn't think of a way to incorporate any candy into her dish. She may have good ideas, but she just freezes and can't execute. I think working in a team situation makes things even more complicated because there's additional pressure from your other teammates, who don't want to lose. Ironically, out of the three dishes on Team Naughty & Nice, we really loved Malika's dish. It would have been pretty easy to send Heather C. home again, but Malika just didn't want to be there. When someone is that adamant about it, you can't keep them around. I loved getting to know Malika. She's a talented, kind and gentle person. I know that she was happy to get home to her boys. She's an amazing mom, but she's also an amazing pastry chef, and I hope she doesn't lose sight of that. The pastry world is better because she's in it.