Bravotv.com: Were you aware of the tension between Mike and Richard at the beginning of the episode?
Gail Simmons: I have to assume there are a lot of emotions at this point. Obviously
they have a love-hate relationship. They've been in this together the whole way through, and I think they respect each other and each other's cooking. But that is what it comes down to when there's just one human being standing in the way of your success.
Bravotv.com: This finale was a little different than seasons past conceptually since normally we ask them to make the meal of a lifetime, but this season we wanted them to make the restaurant of their dreams. What did you think about this change?
GS: I thought it was great and needed. In a regular finale you just have to make one meal side-by-side for a table of judges, and this was taking it to the next level. We wanted them to cook the food that they would make if they had their own restaurant. Not Restaurant Wars where you have to cooperate, but the way a restaurant is usually run where there is one chef in the kitchen and it's that chef's vision. We also wanted to make sure that it incorporated the ability to run all the moving parts of a restaurant. They didn't have to deal with construction since we gave them spaces that were already designed, but they had to communicate with the front of the house, they had to feed many people besides just the judges in multiple seatings at different times. They had to direct their team in the kitchen, plus being at the front of the house to make sure the food is coming out the way they want in the right time frame exactly how they envisioned it. I think it was a great challenge just because it upped the stress but also upped the reality factor, so you can see what they're made of when it's down to the final moments.
Bravotv.com: Another difference this year was how they chose their sous-chefs. They had to do a blind tasting. Were you surprised how it turned out?
GS:You have to remember one important thing: as much as they all work together and know each other well, they don't taste each other's food that often. They never ever get each other's finished plates -- they only maybe taste each other's food while it's being prepared. For that reason it's actually not a surprise that they don't know each other's food that well. They see each other's style in the kitchen, their cooking abilities, and their knowledge, but they never actually see the finished product, so it's actually an interesting exercise. I know that the results of whom they chose weren't what they wanted necessarily or what they expected. But in the end I think it worked out really well.
Bravotv.com: You guys were split up for two judging times. You were with Tom, Curtis, and Art Smith, and you went to Mike's restaurant first. What was that experience like? What did you think of the restaurant and the concept?
GS: I'm not going to talk about the aesthetics of the restaurant obviously. But I thought it was great. I thought it was timely in terms of the food we're all eating these days. In New York, L.A., Chicago, San Francisco, etc. the restaurants I've been going back to and the restaurants that are getting all the hype are the scaled down, simplified but really flavor forward Italian restaurants. And Italian-American plays on using great Italian ingredients, really refined cooking, but in a very casual way and in a way that really highlights the ingredients. I feel like that's exactly what restaurant Iz was. The menu read beautifully at first glance. There were certainly small problems with some of the dishes; they weren't all completely perfect. But overall I was really impressed with the thoughtfulness of the food and the restraint that Mike showed while cooking, which is something that we hadn't always seen before. He didn't come out guns blazing in this challenge, he kind of led us through the courses, and they just built on one another slowly and beautifully. The first course was very light, very simple, beets with mozzarella, and chocolate truffle vinaigrette. It was simple, it was clean. That chocolate vinaigrette was actually very subtle and worked really, really well. It was one of those pairings that you wouldn't necessarily think would be intuitive, but it wasn't sweet chocolate, it was just that cocoa flavor, and it really played into the earthiness of the beets. It was a great counterpoint to the mozzarella. It almost looked like balsamic, so it was a kind of funny play on balsamic. It had that same quality -- a little bit of acid and a little bit of sweetness that made the mozzarella better. It was simple and it was great.
You got me so excited for the pepperoni sauce. Any chance you can post the recipe? Or is it now a top-secret phenomenon...If so, it is well deserved. I liked Mike. THE PEPPERONI SAUCE SOUNDS AMAZING!!
Gail, have you thought much about retiring? Or perhaps changing professions? You would make a great restaurant critic. I hear Mikey is opening a new restaurant which could keep you busy for the next year or two.
I agree...the pepperoni sauce is the ONE dish that I would like to make myself and serve...please post it and give us suggestions as to what to serve it with.
Gail, Thanks for your in depth comments. Your description of the dishes has made me hungry... I'm certainly satisfied with the outcome of THIS contest. Finally - the chef I wanted to win - WON! It's about time.
Gail, Thank you Sooo much for a woderful show and PLEASE give Padma Our Love!!!! Question: Is there ANY way that Fans Can Get hands on this Isabella's Pepperoni's Sauce? Perhaps it can be on the Next Top Chef Book? Thanks!!!
Didn't Richard make a "Vitello Tramonto" with hamachi and crispy sweetbread nuggets in the High Steaks episode of Season 4? What was so different about this season's dish?
Richard was great! I'm so glad he didn't choke like before. He deserves the title of Top Chef All Stars! Are there going to be any more Top Chef? How do you top this seasons all star cast? My aunt (Phyllis Hanes) was a food critic, wine taster, and the food editor for The Christian Science Monitor in Boston. She once told me she had the best job in the world! Will Gail continue being a judge and food critic? Any more Top Chef-Just Desserts in the making?
Sweden here... How you gonna top "all stars" for season 9? I already suggested Marco Pierre White from UK and Rene from NOMA, but BRAVO keep eating my posts. I´d love to see Marco Pierre White in that environment...Marco has charisma and scares the "you now what" out of even Gordon. Ohh, and he´s a Michelin-chef. "Make it work"...:) Obviously season 7 was weak, and "all stars" was a strong season. So now what? And just for the record, I have a little crush on Gail..think sweden, vikings, Thor, Curtis Stone 2.0 from scandinavia..I´m yours Gail....:)
I understand a little bit why you got rid of Elia but out of the competition that was up there I mean Stephen is a garbage chef and he had no business even being there you should of got rid of him and let Elia stay on to prove herself.
Then you send up Jennifer who is one of the most skilled chefs there for bashing you guys and I don't care what you say you sent her home because she spoke her mind and you guys didn't like that. You should of hands down sent Jamie home the girl can't cook and she ducks out on every challenge.
Getting rid of Casey kind of didn't make much sense either, You guys set up the challenge to have 2 people come up and say oh I will expedite food and I will rely on someone else to do my dish, I mean someone has to do it because you guys put that into play. Casey's dish would of probably been better if she was cooking it and I know you might say oh well she offered it's tough well I probably can say with a guarantee that anyone who did that was probably going home. I mean that challenge everyone did garbage and you sent Casey home who showed Antonio how to do it and she couldn't do that and handle her dishes and sending her home was stupid! Jamie did terrible and you just let her stay on and makes no friggin sense at all.
You mine as well just tell them no one be a team leader , no one offer to help cook someones dish while they're out in the front of the house or doing this, I mean is it the producers who are stupid or the judges that just don't take anything into consideration?
Then of course you send Tre home who cooks Risotta different and you keep Mike who italian for christ sakes and he couldn't even cook pasta lol and the challenge was based on him doing pasta lol ss LOl. Like where is your brain LOL?
You judges just don't have a brain, You send Angelo home and he is one of the best chefs on the show and you could easily of sent home Tiff or Carla because they honestly don't have the level to cook at a top level chef,
Then of course you send home Dale and let Carla and Tiffany sit back and continue to do crappy and you keep giving them friggin chances but you don't give the acutally good chefs the chances you should of gave them way back before, I mean how many times do Carla and Tiff have to be at the bottom lol I mean use your brain.
All in all I was happy Richard one but his competition wasn't that great, The final five should of easily been Richard-Angelo-Casey-Jennifer-Marcel