Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons gives a behind-the-scenes explanation for the overwhelming use of banana in the chefs' Quickfire dishes.  

on Sep 22, 2011

Bravotv.com: There were three different banana offerings. Did it surprise you that so many people opted for banana in their candy bar?
GS: I kind of loved it. I'm a huge banana fan myself. What you didn't see was that behind the scenes we had running banana jokes all season. The banana you see when they do the close-up on Carlos' shoulder pocket was actually a fake banana that he kept as his good luck charm all season. The chefs were constantly playing practical jokes on us and on each other with that banana. So it certainly didn't surprise me that Carlos used banana. Banana is one of those hard flavors that when done well really complements milk, dark, or white chocolate, but you have to be careful, because if you add too much sugar, banana becomes very grainy and sticky. Bananas also need to be at the right ripeness or else they're either too sweet, or if they're under-ripe, they have this sort of tannic quality adding a "green" flavor that you don't want. I liked that so many people tried to incorporate it.

Bravotv.com: Were you surprised that Orlando helped Rebecca?
GS: We weren't surprised. Everyone talks about Orlando being the villain in the interviews, in the kitchen, and in the house, but we didn't know any of that while we were shooting. When he came to Judges' Table, he was always perfectly well-behaved. I didn't know any different. And that's what a good pastry chef does. He was done, so it didn't involve compromising his own dish. He had extra time and was completely finished, so there was no excuse for him not to help her. And I'm glad he did, because her candy bar turned out really well. I like that he acknowledged he helped her, but he didn't complain that it was his work that allowed her to be on top that day.

Bravotv.com: What were your thoughts on Sally's winning candy bar?
GS: Sally's was great. As Pichet said, it encompassed everything you'd want in a candy bar. There was an exotic, interesting flavor, the chocolate was tempered beautifully, the forbidden rice added a crunch and a great textural component. I'm a huge Ovaltine fan; it's something I drank growing up all my life, because my father is from South Africa, and it's very common there. It's a malt drink, which helps you sleep.