Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons breaks down the early competition, and gives the scoop on some of her premiere fashions.

on Aug 24, 2011

Amanda and Nelson gave us the most interesting flavors, that’s why they won. Their chocolate sponge cake with pickled cherries was surprising and fresh. The cherries were quickly pickled, which really balanced out the dish. It made everything a little less sweet, it gave a tartness, and it didn’t seem pickle-y. It really added a brightness and a freshness and a little more acid to the dish, which really went well with the chocolate-y cake and the cream. On to the Elimination Challenge, which was inspired by fairytales. They’re a lot darker than maybe people remember.

GS: The versions we gave the chef were Grimm’s versions, very dark versions of the fairytales, darker than the Disney versions I remember as a child. But I think we wanted to give the chefs as much inspiration and as much room to play as we could. For the most part, I thought their inspirations were great: “Goldilocks and the Three Bears,” “Jack and the Beanstalk,” “Little Red Riding Hood,” and “Hansel and Gretel.” There was certainly a lot to draw from each of the stories. The most important part of this challenge was that we asked them to make a showpiece right off the bat. We really wanted them to know we were serious about desserts, and we also wanted to get them using all the skills and techniques that a pastry chef should have in their back pockets, specifically chocolate and sugar work. Most of them did a pretty great job considering this was their first challenge, they had never worked in the Top Chef: Just Desserts kitchen before, which, by the way, looked incredible this season. Our kitchen was just unbelievable.

Most of them did OK. Certainly two were better than the other two. Just talking about the show piece, Little Red Riding Hood did the best job there, although Goldilocks and the Three Bears had a lot to it as well, used a lot of texture and beautiful chocolate and sugar work. Both of them drew some really great inspiration from the story and showed a lot of detail. Jack and the Beanstalk, and Hansel and Gretel, in terms of a show piece, were not that great. Jack and the Beanstalk, at first glance, looked beautiful, but when we started to walk around it, we realized they were very rushed, there was not a 360-view that we had hoped, and it was falling apart at the seams. The Hansel and Gretel team certainly had the most flawed show piece. None of the people on that team had great experience with show pieces, and you could see from the piece that they did work as a team. It was so disjointed, and they made a lot of decisions that didn’t make sense. Also, when you think of Hansel and Gretel, you think of a gingerbread or candy house! But the house they created was a sad-looking affair. If they didn’t want to use gingerbread, they could have at least covered it with candy, they could have done so many things to give it color and texture to make it appealing to the eye, and they just didn’t do that.