Gin is one of my favorite drinks. I got thoroughly excited when I saw the bottles... it's one of those challenge I would've enjoyed being a part of. For a while, I was a die-hard Rum and Coke fan, but I drank too much of it. All that sugar? I was putting on tons of weight. I said to myself: I need a new drink... something that's going to be refreshing in the summertime. And someone handed me a gin and tonic, and I was like, oh. That's good. And slowly but surely, I found the gin I like, and Bombay Sapphire in that pretty blue bottle: this is what I'm talking about. Some people, when they're drinking gin, get nasty. I get quite giddy.
I thought it was a great quickfire challenge. I thought that some of the chefs had better drinks selected for them than others. A lot of the drinks were dessert-oriented, because of all the fruit in the cocktails. I thought Dale had a tough one, and I felt he really hit it on the nose. If you have a sherry-and-gin based drink, that's screaming foie gras. I thought his dish was really well orchestrated. I was kind of surprised by Hung's dish. I thought that it might have worked well, too. Because of how fatty salmon is, I really appreciated it. I'm not a big salmon guy. I really liked the salmon skin idea, though. I thought that was a sharp move because it cut the sweetness of the drink. Conceptually, it made a ton of sense to me.
I was also surprised by Tre's dish. There was the gin, and then halibut with a lot of fruit in between, and for me, it was a little weird. I wouldn't have been able to taste the fish. The halibut couldn't stand up to all the flavors. Halibut is more of a neutral fish, more of a textural type of fish that gives you get really nice juicy flakes, and I don't know how halibut could've measured up to all the flavors.
And then you have Casey's dish. She didn't have to stretch very much. She had a sweet flavored fish and some foie gras and some sweet accoutrements, and you really can't go wrong with that. I was surprised that so many people went with the scallops. I thought that was telling. In general, I think a lot of it has to do with the fact that they have an experienced, talented chef doing culinary producing for the show now, and they are giving the chefs a lot of great food to work with. Not to take anything away from the old producers, but they weren't chefs. And for my season I loved the producers on the show but I just wasn't very impressed with what we had to work with; it was pretty bare bones. I never went into the freezer and saw foie gras, fresh olives, fresh scallops, fresh tuna: tons of stuff to work with. It wasn't like that during the first season at all. This season, it certainly is fun to watch. Lee Ann is a badass cook, and incredibly talented. I love eating her food, and watching her cook. You can see that she loves it, so it's a lot of fun to watch her work.