Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons on the very spicy telenovela challenge.

on Jul 18, 2007

First, let me tell you how gorgeous the location was. The home where the exterior scenes are shot is a massive, Spanish-style estate with extensive gardens and a glimmering pool, right on the water. Upon arrival, one of the producers informed us that legendary basketball star and Miami resident Shaquille O'Neal lives next door. When a few of us walked to the water's edge and peaked over the fence to the neighbor's yard, we could see the large basketball court on the other side, as well as a small, bobble-head statue of Shaq presiding over the dock! Wouldn't it have been fun if he had judged this challenge with us? Although, I am not sure our chefs made enough food to satisfy what I can only assume is one very healthy appetite.

Catering for a big crew on a tight schedule (and often tighter budget) is difficult in itself. We at "Top Chef" know this all too well, as we are our own traveling production that often falls prey to the unpredictability of being on location. We can all get pretty grumpy when not fed on time. Ironically, in this challenge the tables were turned. Our cast became the caterers and had to learn to adjust to cooking on a TV set. Thankfully, many of them had catering experience, so they were not totally in the dark about potential problems. Keeping food warm but not over cooked; Transporting it so it arrives intact and remembering to bring all necessary equipment, garnishes and serving pieces -- common catering catastrophes -- became the least of the chefs' worries. Mid-way through the cooking process, they discovered that they would only have half the time anticipated to finish their work. As often happens, the day's shooting schedule had changed and lunch had been moved up ninety minutes!