Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons questions the chefs' Vietnamese dish choices.

on Oct 25, 2013 What was it like having Eddie Huang around?
Gail Simmons: Eddie’s so fun! He’s very outspoken and always up for anything, which made him a great guest. It’s his first time on our show, but he’s no stranger to the camera. And he’s got hilariously awesome fashion sense. And this week was all about Vietnamese food. Did you eat a lot of Vietnamese when you were in New Orleans?
GS: We all did actually. The Vietnamese food is great in New Orleans, and our set was actually right in Gretna, which is the neighborhood where a lot of the best Vietnamese restaurants are located. There was one in particular called Pho Tao Bay that was right near our set, and we would order dinner from there all the time during Judges’ Table. It was always our craving at the end of the night. So yes, we became very familiar with the Vietnamese food of New Orleans. Let’s start with the Red Team.
GS: So the great thing about this team was that they certainly stayed true to a lot of the flavors of Vietnamese food, but they added little twists. We never said they had to make 100% authentic Vietnamese food with no variance and none of their own spin. We just wanted it to taste good and feel that they had represented this very interesting New Orleans Vietnamese community. I think the Red Team in general did that well.

Truth be told, I couldn’t eat the raw beef salad because I was pregnant – it was pretty much the one thing I couldn’t eat that day. But the complaint at the table was that although it tasted great -- it was well-seasoned and the pickled vegetables were delicious -- it had a bit of a mushy, over-processed texture. The judges wished Nina and Carrie had left it more like a coarse chopped tartare. It was chopped too finely.

Justin’s pho was fantastic. We all agreed that it really packed a lot of flavor which is hard to do in a very short amount of time. It felt like the kind of pho you would get at one of these restaurants -- piping hot, with a great balance of spices in a rich broth, and thin beef pieces.

Carrie’s custard looked like an afterthought. It wasn’t anything special from its presentation, but it had a lot of flavor. I thought it was odd that they tried to do a dessert at all, certainly that wasn’t the focus of their adventures earlier that day. Although they did go to a Vietnamese bakery. I’m glad that she was inspired by it and catered something to our collective sweet tooth.