Gail Simmons

The judge breaks down each course.

on Feb 27, 2013 What did you think of the finale format?
Gail Simmons: I still can’t believe it’s already the Season 10 finale! It’s more intense than it’s ever been. We decided to completely change the way we do things and this time we’re in front of 300 people, and half of them are actually eating along with us. Usually, our chefs cook for a table of anywhere from eight to 20, but this year they were cooking for 160, an enormous task. Just to be clear, the challenge was to make the best of five dishes, head-to-head. The only qualifications were that the second dish needed to be scallop and the fourth needed to be snapper, so that there was a little bit of consistency in terms of how we were judging, but there did not need to be trajectory of the courses. I believe they didn’t even have to do dessert, if they didn’t want to, but in this case both chefs chose to, even though neither was plated and served. They could have done five appetizers if they wanted, they could have done five desserts if they wanted. We just asked them to bring us their five best dishes possible. I hope it was liberating for them to just cook their hearts out. I guess sometimes that can also paralyze you too.

I just want to say up front that I could not be more pleased with the final two chefs. I was devastated to see Sheldon go, since he really was a favorite of mine throughout the season and of all TC seasons combined; I think he’s so smart and so kind, a great chef with a lovely spirit. But, I believe Brooke and Kristen are truly exemplary as TC contestants. They have very different styles, but they both have such strong foundations, distinct points of view and super strong cooking skills. I was really excited for this final meal. Let's go through the dishes.
GS: All of the courses we ate from them were strong. There were very few major gaping flaws with any of their dishes, but we needed to choose which one we preferred, and that’s based on a combination of technical finesse, as well as flavor combination, presentation, creativity—these are all the things that go through my mind. I am not just judging arbitrarily on which one tastes better, although of course, that’s part of the equation too.