Gail Simmons explains why the fishing challenge couldn't have come at a better time, and her take on Marcel's almost-rap.
Bravotv.com: For this challenge, this was the first time we actually have the chefs catch their own fish and work for their dinner, so tell us about that part of the challenge.
Gail Simmons: It was perfect! I think after the dim sum challenge, our contestants were feeling really roughed up. They were five episodes in, not feeling so hot, starting to get down on themselves, down on the challenges, and frustrated that they weren’t doing well, and I think this was just what they needed. It got them outside. I’m always a fan of the challenges were we bring them out of their element, and get them out into the open air, like the street cart challenge, and we when had them cook on the beach in Malibu Season 2.
Tom is a big fishermen. Kerry Heffernan who’s one of Tom’s close friends and an incredible chef in his own right, is a great fisherman, so they went out there with them and they caught a lot of fish, which helped make them feel really good about themselves when the day was done.
Bravotv.com: Do you ever fish?
GS: I have fished. I had an uncle growing up, he passed away several years ago, but he took me deep sea fishing at Christmas down in Florida, and I always loved and cherished that time. I hadn’t fished in many years and just this past August I went away with my husband and my parents to Blackberry Farm in Tennessee and we learned how to fly fish. I totally feel in love with it. I’m always hearing about fishing from Tom because Tom talks about fishing so much. You know, in the summer, he fishes every weekend when he can.
Bravotv.com: So for this challenge they were broken up into groups. Obviously Jamie and Tiffani went home, but Antonia did well.
GS: She did do well. Her dish could have been on the top in another circumstance. I mean the name of the game was that you really were with your team, you went down with the sinking ship so to speak, so she was on the bottom because of her teammates. Her dish really was quite exceptional not only because it tasted great, it was crunchy and salty and delicious, but she used a fish that people usually shy away from that takes a lot of work to finesse. It’s very bony and she did a really great job preparing it, in a really smart way.
Bravotv.com: Do you think it was Jamie’s time to go?
GS: Yeah I think we were all clear on the fact that everyone thinks Jamie needed to go, but until now, it wasn’t her time to go. There was always somebody who did worse than Jamie, as bad as Jamie did, or as little as Jamie competed, there was always someone else we really felt strongly about whose time it was to go more than her. But tonight was her night, unfortunately. Her dish, here was a great example of good conception bad execution. Her idea was great. Those light fresh flavors of summer: radish, watermelon, cucumber, but she prepared the dish in a way that just didn’t make sense the way she put them together. And instead of getting the fresh, light flavors, the fish was sort of drowning in very tepid, flavorless water. She didn’t assemble them in a way that made them pop. If there had been a piece of delicious watermelon, if there had been -- dare I say -- a cucumber foam, if there had been some radishes with some salt and some spice or maybe pickled radishes that gave it a little bite, a bit of acid. You got no acid, you got no flavor. It just tasted washed out, and the fish was a little bit messy, so unfortunately it really was the losing dish of the night. And Tiffani’s wasn’t far behind. Bravotv.com: And what about Richard and Marcel?
GS: Ultimately, their dish was completely edible, and parts of it were really tasty. The tricky part of their dish is the opposite of Jamie’s — the conception was the problem. The succotash was overcooked and there were a few other problems, but the truth is that it was the idea that fell short. If they had looked at it, thought about it and done some editing, they would have been able to eliminate two or three of the components and made it a really strong dish. But because they only chose to do one dish with three very strong personalities, they all wanted to leave their mark. They kept adding and adding, and I think they got excited and carried away. It just ended up being this blown-out dish, that not just had succotash but also had a grape gastric and then a jamon foam! It was served in a vessel where everything just became like a soup and the fish itself, which was supposed to be the star, just ended up getting lost.
Bravotv.com: Speaking of the strong personalities... Marcel?
GS: That little rap he does... I can’t believe he still gets in that mode. He did that in Season 2 and it would crack us up, and I was watching the episode with my husband thinking, “I can’t believe he still gets so excited that he starts to like 'rap,' and think he’s from the street all the sudden,” which is sort of hilarious. You know he just needs to calm down, not worry so much about everyone else. He was getting mad at someone else for their food, but it’s our decision that mattered, we had reasons for making those decisions. Just calm down, Marcel, and just worry about your foam!
Bravotv.com: What about Mike, Tiffany, and Angelo’s dishes?
GS: Their dishes were pretty good. I liked the striped bass with the corn and Aleppo rub more than the pickled blue fish, but both of them were solid dishes. Nice, refreshing, appropriate. But really Dale’s dish and Carla’s dish were the strongest of the evening. Tre’s dish was sort of weak as well. It got cut off in the episode, but we talked about him, and actually we weren’t sure where to put him, because it was just somewhere in the middle. It didn’t impress us in any way, but it didn’t insult us either I guess.
Dale and Carla really stood out and did something interesting and beautiful, and we were really excited about those two dishes especially.
Bravotv.com: And then do you want to tease next week at all?
GS: I will tell you this: I knew it was a crazy episode. I couldn’t be there for it. I was traveling, but I was getting updates from everyone while it was happening. And in a way I’m glad I wasn’t there, mostly because the venue where they hold Restaurant Wars this season is where I got married. And it is a sacred and special, magical memory for me. It would have just been destroyed had I gone to Restaurant Wars....