Gail Simmons

After leaving the show to get married, Simmons comments on the first Toby Young episode.

on Jan 7, 2009

If judges were allowed to keep in touch with cheftestants, I would have called Carla as soon as I watched this episode to thank her profusely for her hilarious and much appreciated shout-out! I laughed so hard I nearly fell off the couch when she called my name in her interview after having met Toby Young, the British writer who took my place while I got married. Although I was flattered that she missed me. I was also happy to hear that Toby's arrival prompted a challenge in which our chefs were free to cook without any limitations, serving family-style plates for the judges--and, as it turns out, a table of their fellow chefs--to critique. When I learned the parameters of the challenge, my hope was that the chefs would quit complaining about how they never get the opportunity to cook their own food, and instead turn out a table of great-tasting dishes.

No such luck.

I did feel some relief when a few of the dishes served that evening appeared to be worth eating: creative, appetizing, and appealing. I could almost taste the bright, harmonious flavors in Jamie's winning Seared Scallops with Fennel, Garlic, Oranges & Olives and Stefan's Duck Breast sounded as hearty and savory as the judges claimed it to be. I was thrilled at the description of Ariane's Skate Wing with Pineapple. It was an otherwise classic skate preparation, given an inventive spin with the addition of the caramelized pineapple, which I imagine lent a subtly sweet and tart flavor that melded exceptionally with the nuttiness of the brown butter. I was intrigued by the description of Leah's Seared Rouget Encrusted in Bread, but it seemed as though the judges were divided on its level of success.