Gail's Least Favorite Soap Opera Dish Was...
The critic names her picks for top and bottom dish.
Bravotv.com: First, was the "scraps" Quickfire.
Gail Simmons: I don't have much to say about the Quickfire. It seemed like a really smart idea, having to cook from scraps. It was impressive that the chefs were able to scrape meat off of bones to create dishes at all.
Bravotv.com TV: So, elimination. Are you a soap opera fan?
GS: I'm not, I'm the opposite of a soap opera fan. I'm a sci-fi girl. I never watched soap operas growing up. Star Trek was my soap opera. And Quantum Leap. But a lot of my girlfriends watched Days of Our Lives. They would tape it on VHS everyday when we were at school. And even my college roommates watched Days of Our Lives. I did watch Dallas. That kind of counts, right? Just learning the history of a show that's made 12,000 episodes over so many years was incredible. We've made I don't know how many episodes -- if you combine Top Chef, 'Top Chef Masters, and Top Chef Just Desserts -- well over 200, but nothing like 12,000. That's just enormous, it's extraordinary. The actors were just game for anything. I guess you have to be ready for twists and turns when you're a soap opera star; you come into work everyday and you never know what's going to happen to your job and to your character, that's what it's like in the kitchen. They told us all about the adventures of their characters -- they've had a baby-snatching, the marriages, coming back to life -- it was awesome. And I love that the challenge incorporated all of those things with the chefs -- the coma, going to jail, and murder. As well as dishes with them themes of murder, sex, and greed....
Bravotv.com TV: It was hilarious. Let's start with Murder, which was Odette, Sang, and Jen. Jen won ultimately, and Odette actually found herself on the bottom which I think people were surprised by.
GS: Here's the tricky part: remember that the cast of Days of Our Lives picked the top and the bottom dishes that day. We, the judges, only voted off one of the bottom after they were chosen, which is quite unusual. As judges, we don't just judge on what our favorite is in a given day, like the cast might have. We judge on what we think was the best dish in all of its merits, including technical skill, doneness of the protein, proper knife skills, overall presentation, which is much more than if I personally liked the dish or not. I think everyone at Critics' Table understood the creation of Odette's dish takes more skill than the cast probably knew. There were some seasoning issues, for sure. It was a little bland. Also keep in mind, we were not judging it against all of the other dishes in the day, we were only judging it within a category of three dishes, and out of the three murder dishes, hers probably was the least successful. Jen's was really excellent, obviously, she won.
Bravotv.com TV: There was Sang's, and he didn't actually plate everything.
GS: Right, but we didn't know that, so it doesn't matter.
Bravotv.com TV: But it felt like a complete dish?
GS: Yeah, it tasted complete enough and we liked it. I might have chosen Sang's had I had a vote, but I didn't have the vote, so it didn't matter. But I did remember really liking what I ate in Sang's dish, the pieces that were there. And we didn't know at the time that there were some things left off his plate. Doug's dish was salty in the same way that Odette's dish was a little bland, so it's sort of a toss-up.
Bravotv.com TV: OK, so the Sex category.
GS: David Burke's dish was sort of bananas. Maybe that's how he likes sex? Ha! It was a classic David Burke dish in that it probably had 15 different ingredients, and I'm not totally sure how they all went together, but I didn't think it was very successful because there were too many textures, too many elements, too many flavors. To me it was quite off-balance. Lynn's dish was fine -- it did have a few elements that I think were a bit sloppy. The way that she plated it the carrots steamed the duck underneath it, which wasn't very appealing and detracted from the texture and the flavor of the duck. But it wasn't the worst.
Bravotv.com: For Greed, we had Bryan's concept that people seemed to appreciate.
GS: Yes, greed, I thought, was an interesting category because it's harder to articulate. Greed is a little more intangible than sex or murder. Bryan's interpretation was really about sustainability and how we are being greedy as a human race. I thought his dish was actually really tasty -- quite lovely and refined.
Bravotv.com TV: You and Lesley said the green cardamom flavor was very strong in Doug's dish.
GS: We all got a very strong taste of green cardamom in Douglas' dish, which is the cardamom pod when it's still raw, and it tasted unripe so it had a bit of an aggressiveness to it. I thought it overpowered everything -- the crab and the shrimp being so delicate -- so that was an issue. I think that it was too aggressive, too strong for the diners. They really didn't enjoy it. I thought Bryan and Sue both did very good jobs. Out of the three, I would probably agree with our cast which one I liked the least. One person from each category has to be in the bottom, so they had to pick someone, right?
Bravotv.com TV: What would you have said your top and bottom were ?
GS: For the top it would be Bryan. For the bottom it would probably have to be David Burke. It was just so confusing and overwhelming. It was a real loss for all of us, letting Odette go. She not only is a fantastic cook who did really well in this competition, but I don't think she deserved to go home for this particular, beautiful dish, which is really too bad. We all felt that way but we needed to choose from what we were given, which came down to Doug or Odette. Between those two dishes, we thought that what Doug did held up better. The one thing I do remember about Odette's dish was that it's such a delicate dish and really relies on the egg yolk oozing out of the raviolo, and since it was sitting around for a long time, it just didn't feel as fresh as it should have. The pasta dough and the leeks and mushrooms that were in the dish all felt a little bit heavy. This dish is so rich, of course, and the pasta needs to be right on. There was a bit of greasiness to the dish with the fried leek too. We felt it was not as good as we know the dish could be and we know that she's capable of making it. Regardless, Odette is one of my favorite contestants ever. I adore her as a chef, I adore her as a person. I think she is so talented. We will really miss her.
Bravotv.com TV: Doug made a comment at Critics' Table questioning the guests' palates. Did that surprise you?
GS: Well, I think what he was referring to was that, part of the reason that they all didn't like Odette's dish was that they didn't "get" the egg yolk, and thought it wasn't appealing. But that's the whole point of the dish. That's where the subtlety and elegance of that dish really comes in. When he heard that was the reason she was on the bottom, I think Doug decided that they just didn't understand it. It's a very sophisticated dish, a very well-known dish at that level. But he probably thought she went home for if because they couldn't appreciate that. The issue is that, as a chef, you can't always cook cerebrally. You have to cook for an emotional response from people of all kinds, and if they're not responding, it could be because you don't think they understand it, but it's up to you to make it a good experience for them. It's not up to them to rise to your intellectual challenge.