Gail Simmons

Gail tries to answer the question, "So, who's fault was it?"

on Jan 16, 2013 Let’s start with the men’s winning team.
Every dish that Sheldon put out was great. There were no major flaws. Yes, the Balut could have been more Filipino in flavor, in ingredients (it was actually very French with the egg and the foie gras and the duck confit), but it was a modern interpretation, and was certainly executed beautifully by Josh, so we couldn’t really fault it. It just didn’t follow the same flavors of Filipino inspiration in terms of how it tasted, as the other dishes did.

The Kilawen was excellent, the Miki was absolutely rich and so flavorful, and the Adobo flavors were really bold. Sheldon had such beautiful clarity on how the dishes should be. It’s obvious that he has been working on this concept for a long time. I hope one day he gets to create Urbano as a real restaurant because I think America is ready for it. If you aren’t now, you will be once you taste his food. Perhaps because we had less familiarity with this cuisine, we were not as quick to find flaw, but that’s the risk you take! He took a risk in giving us food that was foreign. That in and of itself can be very difficult too, because we have no point of reference for how it’s supposed to taste. But it was all balanced, pleasing to our palates  and each dish made us want to eat it again and again.

The real issue with Urbano, and the reason that there was any debate, was hospitality. It really had to do with Stefan. If we could have sent him home, we would have. I know he was in over his head, and as he said, he is not a server—but he was in charge of something he could have handled in a million ways and he chose to handle it with arrogance, in a flippant manner, which is the last way you want to be treated in a restaurant. So much was going on: they got pummeled by guests, people weren’t leaving, there were 25 people waiting at the door at one point, which is just insane. But keep in mind that they had served the exact same amount of as at Atelier Kwan, so there had to have been a bigger issue there. They chose to do a lot of extras: cocktails, etc., but they needed to keep service moving if they wanted it to be so detailed and they couldn’t. All that aside, there was something lost in translation with Stefan. He was not gracious; he was curt. He did not explain the food very well either. There were a few moments they didn’t show in the episode that made things worse. The Balut itself was sitting on this egg-white, hardened, salty, white mass when it came, so it looked like meringue, and we all instinctively went to eat it, and we found out that it was a hard, salt, thing just there as a decoration. No one gave us any guidance. Also, we couldn’t find servers, we couldn’t find Stefan to answer questions. His staff didn’t know what wines we were drinking; they didn’t know what course we were on. Service and hospitality really went down the drain under him. But we just felt that the food was all executed so well, and the concept was so great, and there was really far less flaws in the food than at Atelier. At the end of the night, they’re chefs, they’re cooks, and this is about the food.  I don’t think anyone is going to argue with the fact that the boys won this time around. It’s just who went home that was the difficult decision.