Bravotv.com: Do you want to talk a little bit about Jimmy Fallon, since you were just on his show this past Monday?
Gail Simmons: Jimmy's been a fan of the show for a long time. He's a fan of food and all things that are fun, and we all thought it would be a really iconic New York moment to get them on late-night TV at 30 Rock. Jimmy was the perfect candidate, he's always up for playing a game. So they went on his show and were the contestants on Cell Phone Shootout. All of his family had picked one of their favorite dishes to put into the Cell Phone Shootout, which would be options for his birthday lunch, which really was happening that week, and his whole family was there to celebrate with him. We thought it would be perfect if they all had to cook dishes based on his family's favorite foods. But there were some ringers in there, his father-in-law threw in beef tongue! Of course there were his favorite things too: Philly cheesesteak, hamburgers, chicken pot pie, all of those comfort foods that we love. It worked really well, and I think the chefs were excited to be part of it.
Bravotv.com: What do you think the key to being successful was with these dishes, since they were all very traditional, a lot of them American classic comfort foods?
GS: They certainly were, and the tricky thing about that is they come with such strong taste and sense memories. Everyone is very nostalgic and very protective of what they imagine those dishes to taste like. What we are always looking for in a challenge like this is a way for them to speak to that memory in a familiar way, but present them to us as a new and modern version. So if you stick to the really classic version, that's OK -- it just has to be really beautiful and really perfect. What we were most excited about were the people who could give us that food and still give us those great flavors, which are the reasons everyone loves the food to begin with, but put a twist on the dish so that it not only feels modern but gives us a sense of the chef personally.
There were a number of people who did that really well. Of the people that you didn't see in top three, I loved Mike Isabella's sausage and peppers. I thought he did a really great job with it. I was also a really big fan of Richard's ramen noodles. I think that what happens on the show is that people come to expect certain things from the chefs, but you can't penalize them if they don't deliver on it every time as long as their food is still good. I know Jimmy was expecting more from Richard. He wanted Richard to do everything with this modernist, crazy mad scientist tilt, but the truth is that's not fair, because Richard also wants to prove that he's a good technician and doesn't just do gimmick-y food. We would penalize him if he used liquid nitrogen with every dish he did. I thought he did a beautiful job with his ramen, but everyone was split over it, so he wasn't on the top or the bottom.