Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons on the very first Restaurant Wars.

on Dec 15, 2008

I cannot stress enough how impressed I was that our six remaining contestants completed this task as well as they did - and with minimal bloodshed to boot! The challenge was behemoth: create an entire restaurant, down to every last detail and serve dinner for up to twenty people in it, all in less than 24 hours! I, for one, was more than a little skeptical.

Over the years, I have eaten in many restaurants on opening night, something I try hard to avoid as the first few weeks of any restaurant's life is inevitably about working out the kinks. I can proudly say that my meals at both Sabor and American Workshop were far superior to many I have had. But that is not to say that either was perfect.

Let's start with Sabor. From the beginning, Miguel was totally upstaged by Stephen and Lee Anne. Sure, he worked hard behind the scenes, but the fact that he knew nothing about Spanish food, and let them run with it to the extent that they did, was a telltale sign he would not be able to play a role in any of the decisions. This was the second time he has put himself in a backseat position. Remember his issues with Andrea in the street food challenge?

Stephen pulled what I now often refer to as, well, a "Stephen." He envisioned himself the perpetual educator, went completely overboard with his ideas without running them by his teammates, and in the end spent most of his time listening to the sound of his own voice -- not the sound of Lee Anne's frustration as her food got cold behind the scenes. Lee Anne was no angel either. She fashioned herself the leader, chose an extremely ambitious menu for their timeframe and budget, then at Judges' Table readily admitted that she was not comfortable working with the people on her team. To be fair, their food and overall concept was actually quite strong and we all enjoyed the meal (minus a few fish scales and lukewarm tapas). They lost due to lack of teamwork, which pointed to an even greater lack of planning. And lovable, passionate, hardworking Miguel packed his knives because he did not show leadership at the time when it mattered most.