Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons talks catering, weddings, and Stephen Aspirinio's ego.

on Dec 15, 2008

Sitting down to eat, my first tip off that there may be cause for concern was that the menu did not contain a single cold course. Besides, Dave's last minute crab hors d'oeuvres and the single oyster in Lee Anne's trio of amuse bouche, every dish served needed to come out of that kitchen hot and fresh. Not an easy task with one hundred rowdy wedding guests, a different wine pairing per course and multiple, spontaneous speeches with which to contend. A beautiful salad or creative chilled soup could have made the whole ordeal much easier for the kitchen and the wait staff. The Top Chef team barely pulled it off and there were definitely a few hitches along the way. The shrimp toasts were greasy, the salmon was cold and bland, the seafood Lover's Nest was over sauced and under seasoned, there were eggshells in the cake -- made from a mix, no less! If memory serves, aren't eggs practically the only ingredient besides water that is added to a store bought cake mix? The fact that they could not get that right amazed us all! I specifically remember one wedding guest being so hungry and disappointed with her meal that she actually ran across the street for take-out between courses. There was no question in my mind that if Lee Anne had thought her menu through more carefully in the first place she could have avoided several of these problems.

Despite this lack of foresight, once in the Hotel Monaco kitchen, Lee Anne did manage to stay calm and organized. According to most of her fellow contestants, she was a strong manager and a pleasure to work for under the circumstances. The Scotts, although underwhelmed, left on their honeymoon happy and grateful for all her hard work in contributing to their special day. She clearly put her heart into this challenge and no one can find fault in that.

And then there was our beloved sommelier.

Last week Tom could not have been more serious when he warned that in the next challenge Stephen had better show up in his chef whites. And again (although dressed appropriately) he disappointed us by barely contributing to the workload while his fellow contestants scrambled to get it all done. Knowing that at several times throughout their prep he abandoned the others so he could direct wine service infuriated me.