Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons comments on the amuse bouche challenge twist!

on Mar 23, 2011 Did you think Mike had the easiest dish? Even Tom seemed to think so.
GS: Well in theory yes, but it depends on what you do with it. It was American, so it's definitely something that most people are familiar with. I would be surprised to find a top chef in this country who hasn't had fried chicken at some point in their life. It was certainly the most familiar. I don't think it was the easiest, because clearly it wasn't perfect. Boy, do I wish Carla Hall was around for this challenge. She would have nailed that fried chicken.

And then there was Antonia. She had a tough challenge because she had to appease a great sushi chef with sushi. That's what he cooks for a living, and every element that he asked for were things that he makes in his restaurant. It was definitely far out of Antonia's comfort zone and Japanese cuisine, because it's so simple, really needs to be precise. It is a subtle cuisine, a very delicate type of food. Morimoto explained that his mother would sort the rice grain by grain, making sure they were all uniform, and would all cook together correctly. She had a big challenge for sure. She did some of it well; and some of it not so well. Her rice ended up coming out pretty well all things considered, and that was impressive. Some of the pickled items were beautiful, there were pickled mushrooms, pickled eggplant. There was a pickled Asian pear that was really nice. I'd never had that before and I thought it was a playful piece. Some things were strong and overpowering though. There were two flaws to her dish in my opinion: Her miso soup was not just salty, but to me had a distinctly off flavor. Not to say it was bad, but it was heavy handed in all of the seasonings. It was strong, it wasn't balanced, it just wasn't a great miso soup. And her tuna sashimi – she went overboard with it. Sashimi should be subtle, delicate. If you're going to put things with it, there needs to be balance, because sashimi is raw fish, unadorned. Nothing else. If you're going to add seasonings, you don't want to lose the fish, you want it to be fresh, clean, and simple. I don’t know why she mucked it up so much. It's not like her, she's usually good at stepping back when she needs to stop. For some reason she got ahead of herself. So then Mike and Antonia had to come up with an amuse bouche.
GS: It was so cruel. Not only were we making them do this when they thought they were done and could relax, but it was the moment that really mattered the most. They had to dig deep to find every ounce of energy inside and impress us. It was a challenging moment: Give us one bite to save your life. And you liked Mike's better.
GS: Yes, but it was really hard to choose. They both had good and bad qualities. Antonia did a piece of grouper with a very strong vegetable curry underneath, and it was good, but it was very powerful. The coconut lobster broth with curry, yam, dill and apple was very good, and flavorful, but there was a part of me that thought it could have been more focused. It didn’t need so many components. It overwhelmed the fish. Grouper is a pretty sturdy fish, it's meaty and it can stand up to a significant amount of spice. But I think it got a little lost. Keep in mind, we're talking about miniscule details. It was a good dish, and I would be happy to eat it again if I were served it.