Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons breaks down the finale meal course by course.

on Mar 31, 2011

The oyster with lemon horseradish and crème fraiche pearls with salsa verde was really bright, and it went together. I don't necessarily associate dairy and oysters,  so it wasn't necessarily what I would choose, but because it was crème fraiche it had a sour note that went really well with the cold oyster and made it feel really fresh.

The hamachi with fried veal sweetbreads, Asian pear, pickled radish, and garlic mayo was my favorite dish of the competition. It was so delicious and gutsy and bold. It really made a statement when we tasted it. The raw tuna was beautiful, and then it had those fried sweetbreads. So it was this raw, clean fish and these fried sweetbreads, which countered it. There was also some spice to it, there was some heat there, with the chiles, the Asian pear, the pickled radish. They all really cut the fat of the fried sweetbreads, and it came together beautifully. So this was your favorite dish from the entire season?
GS: I have to say it might be, yes. There was a lot of great stuff to be sure, so it's definitely top five.

The pork belly with the black cod cutlet was also a great dish. I had a little problem with the cod cutlet, but no one else did, so I have to believe it was just my piece of fish. Mine was a little bit watery and mushy, but no one else had that issue. Otherwise the flavors were great, and it was the most exciting piece of fried fish I've had in a long time. He treated it almost like a veal medallion or chicken fried steak. And the bone marrow and pork belly, I mean wow, super rich, but really the kind of food you want to dive into.

The beef short ribs with mushrooms was really well executed and technically a very strong dish. However it wasn't the most exciting dish I've seen from Richard, especially coming off the two before it. I know his point was that he wanted to show us his more classic side and his technical savvy, which I appreciated for sure. It was a comforting, very classic dish. At this level of the competition though, I want to see something on your plate that I've never seen before or a new combination. It doesn't need to be smoke, mirrors, and magic tricks by any means, and in fact I'm against all that. I just want to see people do things that I couldn't just get anywhere else which proves them as a chef, and I didn't actually see that in Richard's dish, especially again in comparison to the dishes that he just served us, which were so extraordinary. I had never seen anything like them before; I had never eaten those combinations. So from an excitement standpoint, I found it the least exciting for sure. But you couldn't really argue with it technically from an execution standpoint. It tasted great, and it was just a beautifully braised short rib. The mushrooms were great. The cabbage marmalade was lovely. I thought it was interesting that they both had cabbage in that course. The celery root was very sweet so that was excellent, and the horseradish had acidity which helped with the fattiness of the ribs. It was really nice.