Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons explains why she was almost happy to see Jennifer Carroll react the way she did.

on Dec 8, 2010

Unlike the Quickfire, in which we allowed the kids to decide a winner, we judged this challenge ourselves. And here is where I feel the need to explain a few points in our decision-making process. I hate to think we need to justify who we chose to send home, but I have a hunch this dismissal will incite more than a quiet outcry from our dedicated viewers.  

First among our guidelines, the food must be appropriate to the audience eating it. But, as cheftestants have discovered, our top priorities are always what tastes best, and what is made with the most efficient skill and precision. We surveyed our diners that day, as we always do, to gain insight into what worked for them and what didn’t. Often our opinions differ greatly from those of our guests, but after tasting all the options, this was not the case. It was absolutely unanimous as to the dish everyone liked least (personal preferences, like a child’s refusal to try tomatoes or aversion to fish for example, aside).

Second, remember this: The outcome of any previous challenges or seasons, as well as what we think the chef may be capable of, can never come into play. We must judge on what is in front of us and what we tasted that day only. Otherwise, we are basing our decisions on their previous accomplishments and not on the results of the challenge at hand. This defeats the purpose of having new challenges at all and diminishes any incentive for the chefs to cook in the moment.

We all agreed the dishes from Team Brontosaurus were stronger, more creative, and all-around more delicious than their competitors’. Fabio and Stephen’s Gnocchi was pillowy, moist, and light; their spinach and mushroom garnish was flavorful too. Carla and Spike’s Fruit & Vegetable Gazpacho was bright, fresh and balanced, while Dale T. and Mike’s Corn Grits were creamy and satisfying, with just the right amount of stewed peppers and salsa verde on top. The silky smooth Banana Parfait with Seasonal Fruit & Tandoori Maple, by Marcel, Angelo and Richard, was crafted beautifully, despite its simple appearance. It had rich, layered flavor and so many perfectly placed pieces of both raw and carefully roasted fruit that it almost looked too pretty to eat. Almost. For all of that, we decided the Banana Parfait was the challenge winner!