Bravotv.com: So, we start with a Quickfire Challenge with Marilyn Hagerty….
Gail Simmons: Marilyn was so adorable. I remember so well when the Olive Garden story came out, and it was just so appalling how some members of the snobby, obnoxious food community made fun of her when really, her writing was more a reflection of the majority of this country than anything, and she was just being honest and reporting on a new restaurant in her neighborhood, which is the truth. So, we were so thrilled to have her on the show; everyone was so excited that she was there. I’m not quite sure she knew that much about Top Chef, but that made it even better: she wasn’t biased, she had no preconceived notions about being on reality television, which was really refreshing, and she did a great job. It was the perfect Quickfire Challenge for the holidays.
Bravotv.com: On to the Elimination Challenge with Chris Pratt and Anna Faris. Were you guys excited that they were coming?
GS: We were so excited! They are hilarious, individually, but even more so together. And I heard that Anna was a big TC fan before, and Chris had been on our show actually last season. Not on the show but on the set—he filmed a scene on our set for The Five-Year-Engagement. Did you know that?
Bravotv.com: Top Chef does get a shout-out in the film!
GS: Unfortunately the scene got cut, but I hear it's on the bonus features.
Bravotv.com: On to the dishes!
GS: Brooke has a double-whammy: she won the Quickfire and the Elimination! Really at this point, when we were shooting, I thought, "Wow, Brooke really came out of nowhere." For a few episodes, she really laid low and played quiet, and this was the first moment when we saw her capability, and I think a lot of it had to do with the fact that she did have immunity from the Quickfire and allowed herself a little more ambition, a little more risk, and cooked her own food. Everyone on Top Chef always loves to say, “Oh, we never get to cook our own food; this isn’t really my food.” Well, too bad, because you cooked it, and therefore it is always your food, but I know what people mean. Chefs are not in their comfort zone, so they’re not always cooking to the best of their abilities. And here’s an example where, for whatever reason, she was able to relax a little bit, and her lamb-stuffed squid was absolutely delicious. It was ambitious; it was a really complex dish with a lot of strong flavors. The coconut milk and black rice was an even flavor with the lamb-stuffed squid—it tasted very Spanish actually. And it was just totally out of left field, this dish, very untraditional. She definitely listened to Chris and Ana, because she used flavors that they loved, but in a way that no one expected, and that’s why she won.