Gail Simmons

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

on Dec 15, 2008

I was assigned the Poker Room. The order our chefs were given was to prepare four types of snacks that could be enjoyed by a few serious players, headed by Phil Hellmuth, co-host of Celebrity Poker Showdown. Considering the time constraint of 30 minutes, I think they did a decent job. Harold went with straightforward, simple ideas like mini pizzas, fried chicken wings (out of a frozen box, no less), grilled cheese sandwiches and beer-battered onion rings. His food looked appealing, was perfect for sharing and easy to eat with one hand while the guys played poker. But besides the wings that he barely could call his own (smothered in a tangy honey-Dijon sauce), none of Harold's food stood out as especially interesting or innovative. Tiffani did the exact opposite. She made very creative dishes using ingredients a few of the players were not even familiar with, such as the Quince and Goat Cheese Napoleon and the Pancetta Wrapped Gracini. Although they thought some of it was tasty, it was far too difficult to share as a snack, let alone eat easily at the poker table. Dave's food was just right! The players totally loved his spring rolls, fried shrimp and salami panini. They even loved his chocolate covered strawberries, which I must admit I questioned when I first saw them on the cart. So Dave won my portion of the challenge. But he clearly lost the other two.

The High Rollers (ie Lee Anne, Miguel and Stephen) saw right through his peel-and-eat shrimp and we had to disqualify him from the challenge, since he only completed two dishes where three were required. Sadly, the two he did complete were cast favorites. Who knows what he could have made as a third if he had paid a little more attention when the order came in? It was bittersweet watching Dave leave. I almost had to hold back my own tears and could not believe he did not cry! I guess that is another thing about giving us time to breathe before the finale. In the end, Dave came back stronger, if not in skill, then in spirit. And maybe that is more important...