Gail Simmons

Gail talks about the impressive dishes she and her fellow judges enjoyed in this week's episode.

on Aug 26, 2009

Everyone knows Las Vegas is the perfect bachelor/bachelorette

party destination. Naturally, our producers could not pass up the chance to have our chefs cater a “battle of the sexes”–style challenge — the men cook a selection of hors d’oeuvres for one excited bachelorette; the women prepare the same for her bachelor counterpart. Throw in cocktail pairings using three classic shots (a gingery Moscow Mule, tequila straight up, and the sweet and sour Golden Delicious) — plus a private pool complete with cabanas — and you have the makings of fun-filled day.

I must admit that, after six seasons of Top Chef, distinguishing one dish from the next isn’t always easy. One sure sign of success is when we, as judges, enjoy a dish in the moment and actually remember it fondly afterward. Thankfully, the outcome of this particular challenge impressed us all. Several dishes were not only memorable, they were downright exceptional. We agreed right off the bat that the men served a more balanced, skillful menu in this challenge. Even their worst dishes did not come close to being as disappointing as a few dishes from the women’s team. Aside from the men being strong overall, the four dishes we chose as our favorites displayed unique cooking techniques or flavor combinations we had not seen before — a commendable feat considering the sheer quantity and variety of food the four of us have consumed in our lives.

For starters, Mike V. gave us an Apple Sorbet with a Goat Cheese Cookie, created to mimic the flavors of the cloyingly sweet Golden Delicious in a much more sophisticated way. I was shocked at how well he was able to deconstruct the shot and bring the flavors together again in perfect balance. The sorbet was tart and fresh, not to mention expertly made on the spot, using liquid nitrogen, a method we have seen people attempt unsuccessfully on the show (remember Chef John Besh at the Magic Castle on Top Chef Masters?) The cookie was a savory, subtle complement to the apple and an excellent finish.