Bravotv.com: The Quickfire Challenge was all about consistency -- what did you think of that concept?
Gail Simmons: I liked it a lot. I thought it was very much an exercise in cooking for a banquet. That's how chefs work when they cater a big event, which happens a lot. There are always private parties and large-scale events in the restaurant world. I thought it was a really useful exercise because it made these chefs think in a way that they usually don't have to think on this show when they just have to prepare two dishes at a time. Even when they have to prepare 20 dishes at a time, it's different than preparing a hundred portions of a small plate. And we're never tasted more than one consecutively, so I don't know if mine tastes just like yours. If I'm a customer and I come two nights in a row for example, I want my favorite thing on the menu to taste the same both times. It's an important thing for chefs to know how to do.
Bravotv.com: The women won with their cold dish, and the guys were kind of bitter. Do you think the girls took the easy way out doing a cold dish, or do you think they were just smart?
GS: I think it was smart. You don't get points for taking a risk if it's not as good as everyone else's. Although the boys' dish was more complicated in the preparation and the cooking process, the girls' plating process was more complicated. They had three different components. First they laid down the sauce on the bottom, then they laid down the salad, and then they placed the beef over it. So it actually took three passes to plate. They had different challenges, and while the girls' food may have been simpler in preparation, we weren't judging on complexity. That wasn't the challenge -- consistency was the challenge. When I'm in the dining room and I order a complicated dish for the main course, and you order a simple piece of grilled fish with a vegetable for your main course, do I like mine better because it's more complicated? No.
Bravotv.com: On to the Elimination Challenge, which was a little bit Survivor-style. The chefs had to make a conch dish, but they had to catch their own conch. What did you think of that?
GS: It was awesome! I thought it was hysterical. I thought it was fantastic and perfect for a deserted island. It added another element for them to work at and was really fun to watch. It was interesting for us all to actually see where conch comes from and see them pull it out of the shell, which chef never has to see when they buy it and just pulls it out of the freezer. The island was over an hour boat ride from the mainland. The location was beautiful. There were rocky cliffs and gorgeous water, and all these little islands in the distance, Gilligan's Island-style. Our guest judge Lorena, who's on America's Next Great Restaurant, was super fun to work with. I've never worked with her before, and she had this great energy. I loved listening to her talk about food. We were so worried about how they were going to cook, because we only gave them fire and boards and food, and not much else. They had a big variety of ingredients, but the fact that they did not get sand in the food was sort of a revelation. That never happens. It reminded me a little bit of the episode in the desert on Season 6 when they were cooking over an open flame; that was a disaster. Mostly because on top of it all, it was 110 degrees. We were really impressed overall with the food in this challenge, especially coming off the last challenge where the food was pretty weak. We worried that we were in for a very sad finale. But I think they were energized by swimming for the conch, the atmosphere, and by the challenge itself. I was really proud of them; they did a fabulous job.