Gail Simmons

Gail reflects on the neck-and-neck competition between Nina and Nick and why after an arduous Judges Table, Nick came out on top.

on Feb 5

So then we got down to the deliberation and this was really, and I know we probably say this every time, but it really was one of the hardest decisions we’ve made. We couldn’t agree, quite frankly, and mostly that’s because we had very different experiences between the two tables. Padma’s group was five people while we were four, so what became very complicated was because we had different experiences eating our meals because service went differently for the two tables,it made the comparison sort of skew -- as there were five of them. So it wasn’t necessarily a fair and even discussion. So we really had to get down to dishes, comparing each dish to each other and putting aside the rest of the experience so we could make sure we were judging on fair ground so to speak.

And when we went through the dishes, it was really close. Nina’s first two dishes were stronger than NIck’s, but NIck’s final two dishes were stronger than Nina’s. And then there were the extras that Nina made and we had to figure out how to factor them in. And this went on and on for hours literally, until we sort of realized we had to think about who made the worst dishes of the night, who made the best dish of the night, and that went to a vote between all of us. And in the end we thought that the full experience that Nick gave us and the strength and highlight of just a few of his dishes -- really the last three courses of his -- were really exceptional. So after much back and forth, long into the night, wherein I almost fell asleep at the table numerous times from sheer exhaustion we decided that Nick’s meal was the winning meal that night -- and that he would be named Top Chef!