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 And then we have our top. First we’ll start with Chris. Do you think he had the hardest ingredients in total?
GS: I do think Chris had the hardest ingredients, and he wasn’t on top because of that. He was on top because it also was one of the best that day, and that shows an amazing skill set. Chris had Chef Boyardee ravioli, pork and beans, and pizza – and he chose two of those ingredients himself. I have no idea why. I guess he wasn’t thinking and he got excited, then realized he had to tackle them. But he did a great job. He made a fresh sweet ravioli, a brownie that incorporated the pork and beans (you actually did get the texture of the pork and beans when you ate it, although there wasn’t quite enough of their flavor). And then he made a pizza stick as a garnish, which somehow all worked together. I swear when you ate it all together, it wasn’t abhorrent, which is pretty incredible. There was a lot of work that went in to what he did, and it showed. And Sally's dish?
GS: Sally's was absolutely delicious. She made a prosciutto cake, which was basically a cake dough with pieces of prosciutto in it, which you tasted clearly. She also made cheddar ice cream, which had a cheesiness to it that I actually liked. And her chicken toffee sauce really made sense. She used chicken stock to make the caramel that became her sauce, which had this essence of chicken, but was mild, just slightly salty and savory, and went well with the cake. Then she had this genius idea to put a crispy piece of fried chicken skin on top as a garnish, the way somebody would normally put a cookie or tuille. Everybody likes fried chicken skin. I mean, you can’t not love fried chicken skin, right? And finally we have our winner, Matthew, with his cheesecake and his gravy foam which you were all about.
GS:We all loved it! The thing that worked the most about Matthew’s, was that of everyone, his really felt the most like a typical dessert. It didn’t feel like he was stretching or including random ingredients just to complete the challenge. It was smart to make a cheesecake using mashed potatoes. And then he added the gravy which he used as a foam, genius! It was mild, but still flavorful and he added some sweetness to it so it didn’t taste like a turkey dinner. Finally, he made a whisky caramel with his Jack Daniels, which is also really smart. If I had been presented that dessert in another situation, say at a restaurant, I probably would have been OK with it. I mean it certainly would have been a little bit out there, but it didn’t feel like we were eating garlic panna cotta for no reason or fries with 17 toppings or onion jam that didn’t work with the rest of our food. It was subtle. You tasted everything he used, but it came together in such a way that it still felt very much like a treat.