Gail Simmons

Gail prasies most of this week's dishes and discusses what she really looks for in a perfect bite of food.

on Jan 22 Let's discuss the Quickfire challenge. Tell us more about what you look for in the perfect bite.
Gail Simmons: In every meal you eat, not every single bite is going to be perfect. But when we're looking for good food, I think balance is the most important thing. With this challenge, I wanted to get that idea across to the chefs. I wanted to have them think getting everything you can and all the flavor into that bite. That bite being in perfect balance is so important to making great tasting food. A little sweet, a little salty, a little spicy, those are all the things that makes your mouth drool and water and want more. This was what I wanted to see if they could do. Putting it all on one little cocktail fork is kind of silly, but it got the point across that it had to be small. It had to be limited, and concise. So let's talk about the bites. Shirley's Tataki Style Flank Steak with Black Pepper, Cherry, and Crispy Onions had problems staying on the fork.
GS: Shirley's dish tasted really great. I love that she built it Tataki-style. There was a lot of soy and a lot of savoriness to it, and there was balance, texture, and crispiness. The problem was the way she constructed it made it difficult to eat. There were so many tiny components that were balancing on top of the piece of steak that was on the fork. The construction just wasn't perfect, which is ultimately why I thought that compared to the others, she shouldn't go through to the next challenge. You have to really think of all of those things to make it the perfect bite. Then you had Nina's Shrimp Escabeche with Potato Aioli and Pickled Shallots.
GS: Nina had a really great idea to do something escabeche. There’s a vinegar to escabeche that really rounds out the flavor of the food. You really tasted the shrimp; the potato aioli was a little fatty and a little savory. And then, of course, the pickled shallots and the escabeche flavor went together really well. But, hers was a little bit greasy. There was an oiliness and thickness to it that I thought could have been better. But it was absolutely a great idea.

The two I liked the best were Carlos and Nick.

Carlos was just clever to grill the mangos. There was warmth. The mango had a sweetness, but also a tartness to it, and a great texture that really went well with the shrimp. There was quite a bit of heat from the chili, actually, which I really liked. It was simple, there were very few ingredients. You don’t need a lot if you pair ingredients well and season them well -- and that’s what he did.

And then Nick's beef deckle was really smart too. Deckle is a cut of the beef that often gets overlooked, but it's really flavorful and tender. So if you want one bite, it's smart to use that piece of meat. Then he had this really crispy, beautiful, purple potato chip and balsamic glaze that brought out all of the savoriness and beefiness of the meat and added layers of texture. Balsamic vinegar is an interesting option, because I often don't like balsamic vinegar. It can be really sweet, but in this case it worked really well. It added that layer of sweetness that, yet again, made it a whole bite of food.