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

Between Carlos and Nick, they both did really interesting dishes and they both were very much in their own personal style, which we appreciated. It was a very hard call, and we didn't all agree at first.

Padma thought that the bigger sin was that Nick, once again, under seasoned his food. It seemed to be a theme with him and she wondered how long do we let him get away with it? I understand her thinking and she's right -- he is a light seasoner. It's not that he's forgetting to season, he's not making a mistake. Everybody uses salt differently and everybody wants a different level of seasoning in their food. Nick is a light seasoner. He uses salt in his dish, but we always want more. That could be us, but he is a little bit hesitant to really go for it.

But that was really the only mistake in his dish. The rest of his dish was quite beautiful. The three fish that he used, the cobia, the bass, and the confit tuna, were beautifully cooked. It was such a precise plate of food. There was nothing superfluous on the plate. Three perfect pieces of fish in this shrimp consomme, with some crispy rice around it. The crispy rice really added a lot of texture and intrigue. I really enjoyed this dish. In fact, I had no problem with it at all. Maybe, a pinch more of salt would have made it better. But I did understand why Padma felt that maybe it was time to penalize him for it.

But in the end we all agreed that as much as Carlos' seafood tamal was a really interesting idea, it was a much heavier dish and was just a little bit off-balance. To me, at least, that was a bigger issue than the lack of salt in Nick's food. There really wasn't enough of a counterpoint -- again going back to the Quickfire and the idea of the perfect bite. You need some balance. I know that Carlos used that pickled okra as a counterpoint, but there wasn't enough of it. The mousse that he made, the seafood mousse that he made in the banana leaf was very rich, and then there was all this buttery seafood. I wanted something else that could cut through that fat a little bit.

The other issue that Emeril and Padma mentioned was that because he chose to put the seafood into the mousse it broke up the perfection of that mousse. If he had the seafood on top, you would have been able to appreciate how well that mousse was made.

We were thrilled to see Carlos cooking out of his comfort zone. As much as it was a Mexican inspired idea, the idea of the tamal, it certainly wasn't a traditional tamal. It really felt much more like New Orleans than Mexico, and we were really happy about that and to see Carlos doing something really different. Overall, I still believe that Nick made a better dish that day. And for Carlos, as much as he cooked beautifully throughout the competition, he was eliminated.

Carlos is an amazing young talent, has an amazing restaurant in Chicago. I can't wait to eat there. And has has one more shot in Last Chance Kitchen, in Hawaii, so we haven’t seen the last of Carlos for sure. I'm just glad we got to eat so much of his food because there was so much food of his that was truly, truly memorable.