Gail Simmons

Gail extols the virtues of fried chicken skin and shares just how giddy everyone was to work with Ad-Rock.

on Sep 29, 2011 Let’s talk about the Quickfire first. We have Jordan Kahn as guest judge. Can you tell us a little bit more about him.
Gail Simmons: Jordan is a young chef whose career is a little counter to what most chefs do. He started in the pastry kitchen -- he was Michael Mina’s pastry chef -- and he opened his own restaurant where he is in charge of everything - the savory food and the desserts. His food is very, very beautiful. Very artful. Very creative and cutting edge in its design and its flavor combinations as well as its use of ingredients. I think that has a lot to do with the fact he blurs the line between ingredients for the pastry kitchen and ingredients for the savory kitchen. He doesn’t believe that certain ingredients only belong in one kitchen or the other, and he loves to experiment. But that’s not to say his food is sweet. There are certainly more sweeter elements to his savory food than most, but he’s not using these ingredients to make everything taste like a dessert. He pushes the boundaries of how you think of different dishes. He also uses an enormous amount of fresh herbs and vegetables, fruits and greens that I’ve never seen before, and a lot of really unique, hard to find ingredients, that he incorporates in unusual ways into his food.

I ate at his restaurant Red Medicine just a few days before we shot this episode, and I was truly impressed. It’s rare to see someone doing something totally new. And the food felt really fresh, different. It made me think. This style of plating is modern and interesting. It's unlike anything else I've seen. So we thought he'd be the perfect chef to introduce our contestants to the idea of bringing savory food in desserts. You were saying that he works with a lot of ingredients that you’ve never even heard of, and the chefs seemed sort of lost with a lot of these root vegetables. Were you surprised?
GS: I understand if they had never seen Burdock root before as it is rare to see in its raw state. But I was surprised that a lot of the chefs hadn’t seen celery root, which is something I’ve eaten my whole life. I’m not saying it’s everywhere, but I didn’t think it was that obscure. It doesn’t surprise me that pastry chefs, get into their own sort of tunnel vision in your kitchen and forget to look at the larger culinary world around them. However, the fact that Rebecca said she can’t cook for her life, and she’s a pastry chef was really weak. I know that as pastry chefs they do not sear meat all day but it shouldn’t excuse them from understanding the mediums that they’re working with in food, learning and keeping up on the techniques and ingredients of both sides of the kitchen. I think in most cases pastry chefs have a stronger grasp of cooking than savory chefs have of baking and pastry, but there’s certainly a discrepancy there. And that's what Jordan is trying to undo -- bridge that gap. I think people might wonder how good Chris' dish was, even though he wasn't eligible for the win.
GS: I remember that Chris’ dish tasted good, but we had to penalize him -- you can't finish plating after time is up. That’s not fair to the other contestants. He knew it, but he had forgotten. He didn’t put the chips on until the end because he didn’t want them to get soggy, but then he shouldn’t have know better than to have made those chips. It not like he was forced into incorporating them. He should have thought of that because that’s part of the challenge. The only thing we let people plate later ice cream or something that is super temperature-sensitive, which once it goes on the plate, will ruin or completely change the rest of the dish if it is not eaten immediately, but this wasn’t the case with his chips. The winner was Sally with her mango pudding with turmeric. She’s kind of like killing it now that Craig is gone.
GS: True. It could be that she’s a little less hampered. I also remember thinking while we were shooting that for the first few episodes that I didn’t really notice Sally. She didn’t do anything that made me think she was a really strong competitor. She was on the bottom the first few challenges, but she’s now come into her own. She’s doing really well and she’s won two Quickfire challenges in a row, which means twice the immunity.