Gail Simmons

Gail gives behind-the-scenes dish on the first part of the finale.

on Dec 15, 2008

When I first heard we were taking a multi-month break from the Top Chef shoot after filming the ninth episode, and resuming in Las Vegas for the finale, I was a little distraught. Tom, Katie and I were having a good time together, the crew was terrific and the remaining contestants were starting to cook really delicious food. I doubted the decision of our producers to stop the momentum we had built over the last several weeks and lose all of that great energy.

I often wondered what our three finalists had done to prepare for the challenges that lay ahead since I saw them last. Had they spent the last few months slaving over a hot stove, searing meat, blanching vegetables, and shocking pasta? Had they been timing themselves to see how quickly they could whip up a variety of dishes using the most exotic ingredients they could find? Had they memorized recipes for every possible occasion? What would I have done if given time to regroup before my last hurrah?

The moment they all walked into the service kitchens at the MGM Grand, I could tell they had done none of this. Instead, it was clear that they had all taken the opportunity to actually relax. Harold was all smiles, boisterous and casual. Tiffani seemed reflective and just slightly softer in her approach. Even Dave had learned some new breathing techniques and assured us that he was focused on staying calm. They also had gotten some much-needed sleep. I think they sensed they would be needing it. I now understood exactly why taking that long break before filming the finale was such a good idea: It gave them all a chance to recuperate and restore their culinary juices.