Gail Simmons

Gail reveals the most surprising element of all the potluck dishes.

on Nov 14, 2013 Let’s start with the Quickfire.

Gail Simmons: I may not have been there, but I was super psyched that Kermit Ruffins was. He’s such a talented musician, loves food, is a great cook.

Kermit Ruffins' smoker!

It was a difficult Quickfire in that the person who won was the person who finished the dish, but not necessarily the person who really had the vision or worked the most on the dish. But it was just fun to see them all improvise and have to work off of each other so closely. It made you understand how dependent you are as a cook on other people’s work, and I think that’s the important lesson for all cooks. Working in a kitchen, you really do rely on each other so intimately. So the Elimination Challenge -- It was all about creating a cohesive potluck meal. Are you a potlucker?
GS: Yes, I definitely potluck. I’m a firm believer in asking for help at dinner parties. In fact, I went to a potluck last night with some girlfriends before I went to do on Watch What Happens Live. I don’t necessarily call it “potluck” every time; but I have dinner with friends at our houses all the time and we all bring something to contribute.

In the spirit of collaboration, we wanted the chefs to create menus that really worked off of this idea where everybody contributes a dish and makes one cohesive menu, which is the way many of these musicians eat together before they perform, but it’s also how musicians play together in a band. Again, it’s an important lesson on everyone contributing their part to make  greater whole that is all cohesive, tastes great together, and makes sense -- just like a great piece of jazz music.

I was really excited to be judging with Sue Zemanick. We’ve been friends for a long time. She was just on this past season of Top Chef Masters as well. She has always been a great tour guide and advisor, any time I’m in New Orleans, and this season was no different. She is an amazing cook and her restaurant, Gautreau’s, is one the most beautiful restaurants in New Orleans,  just love her. She actually knew a lot of the musicians, which was really cool. Let’s start at the top with the Green Team.

GS: There was a lot that I really liked about the Green Team’s dishes. It all felt like it went together. First of all, everything tasted great. The only major issue we had with this team was that Carrie’s “summer tiramisu” wasn’t really a tiramisu. It was misnamed. It was more of a trifle. It had certain elements of a tiramisu, but because it didn’t have coffee cocoa, it just wasn’t what you think of as a tiramisu at all. It was very beautiful though and felt summery, with the nectarines and pistachios – and great combination. And the dish worked well as a light dessert to the meal, so we certainly weren’t going to penalize it too much.