Gail Simmons

What's a judge gotta do to taste some berry?

on Dec 19, 2012 Did you think the Quickfire Challenge was a little cruel?
Gail Simmons: It was cruel, but really creative!  I love that Kristen made that little cake. I thought a lot of the dishes were really smart—Danyele’s bean soup, Sheldon’s lemongrass smoked scallops… People used their ingenuity and that’s what TC is all about. You’ve said that this was one of your favorite Elimination Challenges.
GS: It was. I always love the challenges where we can be outdoors in the sunshine and the chefs are cooking on their own. I thought of this as a super-seasonal, beautiful challenge; this berry farm was magnificent, as you saw. And the berries were at their peak, I’ve never eaten so many berries in my life—my fingers were stained for days! It was a great day out on the farm. It was a really fun, creative challenge, the chefs did really well overall. Even the food that was in the bottom was nowhere near as bad, for example, as the Pike Place challenge. There will always be losing dishes, but that doesn’t have to mean they are bad. This was just a head-to-head challenge, so it was the nature of the competition. While the chefs were cooking, there was a little sauciness in the kitchen.
GS: Everyone’s getting to know each other a little more, so they’re getting more comfortable with each other, but they also are starting to get annoyed by each other. They’re living together, they’re working together, they’re competing against each other; things tend to get a little itchy at this point in the season, and it shows. You saw Josie and Stefan go at each other, Bart getting sassy. Everyone is getting a little tense and intense. They are starting to hit their limit in terms of personal space. What did you think about John telling Tom that Stefan bought frozen tuna?
GS: I thought it was ridiculous—it had nothing to do with anything. If it was really bad quality, we would have berated him—but the truth is, and most people don’t know this, that most tuna in America comes flash-frozen. It is fished, it is flash-frozen, and sent to auction, shipped, and distributed. We have all eaten frozen tuna, even at some very nice, expensive restaurants. When it’s handled properly and when it’s good quality, when it’s served after it’s been thawed properly, there really shouldn’t be an issue with it. Sometimes it is bad quality; they can thaw it improperly and the texture’s disgusting. But, I think it was underhanded of John to point it out, because it had nothing to do with Stefan’s cooking technique—he chose what was available. And when we ate it, it was actually delicious. The texture was perfectly good, the fish tasted fresh, it was in good enough condition, and we had no problem with it. It was about how Stefan handled the product, and I thought he handled it very, very well.