Gail Simmons

Gail explains that she just wants to be taken care of at dinner and commends one chef for conquering Restaurant Wars.

on Dec 4, 2013 Next was Carrie’s Sauteed Gulf Shrimp, Chickpea Puree, Oregano, and Lemon and Stephanie’s Linguini with Caviar, Oyster Cream, and Fennel.

GS: The shrimp that Carrie made was delicious. The chickpea puree, lemon, and shrimp had a Middle Eastern bent. She made this very intense shrimp butter with the heads and shells of the shrimp. It really was amazing. But her plate became a bit greasy from all that butter. The butter sort of pooled at the bottom of the plate, which, as I said in the episode, was great as a soaking agent for the gougeres they served at the beginning of the meal. Ultimately though, the flavors in her dish were excellent.

Stephanie’s linguine with caviar was one of my favorite dishes of the night, by far. It had oysters and cream too, which made it brin and rich. Her linguine, which was handmade and hand- cut, was an excellentchoice and made with a deft hand. You can tell she felt confident making this dish, that she either had made it before or had spent time thinking about thoroughly, because it felt very finished, very refined. Then we move on to Nicholas who made a Roasted Black Drum.

GS: Nicholas’ black drum, oxtail and kale with a very deep, dark hibiscus reduction and king trumpet mushrooms was a really bold dish. I’ve seen similar variations of it before -- dishes that pair a meatier fish with a very rich deep red wine or meat sauce. It’s sort of unusual, but it is really stunning when you pull it off well. And he certainly did. There was this great juxtaposition between the deep earthy flavors of oxtail, kale, mushrooms, and reduction and sauce against the fish. Drum is definitely an oilier fish, which could withstand such a bold preparation and wasn’t overpowered by the other flavors.

We could tell when we were at Fin, because of how smoothly service went, even more so when we heard the chefs talking at the judges table, then reinforced a third time when I watched the episode, how well Nick expedited service. I couldn’t help notice how much control he had over the kitchen, and because he took control of the kitchen, Travis could do his job more easily too. Everything f trickled down from there. He and Travis had a great working relationship from start to finish in the evening. They communicated. Nick’s role expediter in the kitchen -- to pace the courses, to make sure they were firing each course at the exact right time so it came out just a few minutes after the last course was cleared -- is a real skill. Nicholas clearly is confident in it, and it showed. I don’t think we’ve ever had someone in Restaurant Wars expedite with such confidence and ease in all the years that we’ve been doing this challenge.

It’s the first night of service in a new restaurant, essentially. Never does the first night of service go smoothly, so we were amazed at how smoothly their service appeared. This was not just a testament to Travis, but a true testament to Nick. He trained Travis well, he communicated with Travis well, he had constant control over all the other chefs on his team. Carrie, Stephanie, and Brian were all listening to him and clearly working for him that night, which is a tricky thing to do when you know in the back of your head that this person is also competing against you. That’s always the chefs’ problem at Restaurant Wars (certainly it has been our problem many, many seasons in a row), and he conquered it.