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Bravotv.com: Let's start with the curry and beer Quickfire.
Gail Simmons: I loved it! I thought the Quickfire was so smart. First of all, I happen to love Goose Island beer -- not that I'm drinking any right now in my pregnancy! -- but it's really delicious, and I think it was a fun challenge to pair it with curry, and have Jason from KCRW be the judge. He's super cool.
Sidenote: When I was shooting Top Chef Masters, I went to KCRW and I did two spots on the radio -- one with Evan Kleiman, who's their food host, she has an amazing show called "Good Food." I also did their Guest DJ Project, where you have to choose five songs that represent your life. I love KCRW. It's a legendary radio station. I really wanted to eat Lynn's vegetable curry, Sang's Northern Thai curry, and Franklin's mussels, even though it looked like a bit of a jungle in there.
Bravotv.com: What was it like on set for Curtis' surprise? How did this remain a secret?
GS: We found out just a few days before -- that's why they were able to keep it a secret. They didn't tell us! Our producers and Lindsay Price were so great about hiding it from him. There was a beautiful secret ballet going on around Curtis for three days. We were all really excited to make it a surprise. I believe Lindsay told him that she had an audition that day, so she could get out of the house early. It was really fun and I was just so happy that we could do it. He genuinely was surprised, and those really were all their closest friends, which was an emotional moment. It reminded me of when I had my wedding shower on Top Chef years ago. Actually, it will be five years ago this week! I also love that this episode showed some of that backstage action. You can see glimpses of our producers and Assistant Director's team managing everyone, getting everyone on-set, and a little bit of what goes on behind the scenes.
Bravotv.com: The chefs were broken up into these three teams and made dishes based on what Lindsay told them was important to them as a couple and what Curtis likes.
GS: Yes -- Korean food, Thai food, chocolate.
Bravotv.com: Let's start with the Blue Team, which found itself in the middle.
GS: They did a really nice job. But I wasn't a huge fan of their dessert, unfortunately. The cake just had very little flavor for me. But Sang and Bryan created dishes I really liked. We just enjoyed the red team's food a little better, but the blue team seemed to break up the work really evenly, and they delivered on what Lindsay had said, so I thought it was strong team effort.
For the winning red team, when I first came to the table, I would not have thought I would like some of their dishes so much. They were not necessarily the most beautiful dishes. They looked a bit helter-skelter and felt a little disjointed, but they#mce_temp_url# all just tasted great. It just goes to show you can't judge a book by its cover. In usual David Burke form, he gave us this crazy outlandish dish, but David's so hyper-creative and obviously Doug is such a perfectionist, that they came together as a team in a really beautiful way. The two things I remember about the dishes the most were Doug's shitake broth. It woke you right up -- it had this delicious umami, really savory spiciness to it that I thought was fantastic. And the cheesecake pops? I wanted to hate them with all of my might, but I couldn't. They wooed me, they seduced me. They're like that guy at the party that you kind of pass over because you don't really find them attractive, and then you start talking to him and you learn that he's actually super-intelligent and funny, and all of a sudden becomes so much more attractive once you get to know him better. . .
I'm really glad we split the win three ways between the red team because it really was a team effort. They all get money for their charities, which gave everybody a lift.
Bravotv.com: On to the Green Team. You and James actually had sort of an interesting conversation about being penalized for doing too much.
GS: That is a constant discussion we have on Top Chef. I'm really glad they showed it because it does come up a lot. We're always saying, pick one thing and do it well. But you also want the chefs to be ambitious, and if they make one thing well all the time and aren't pushing themselves, then that's sort of a waste of their talent, too. We want them to push themselves, we want them to be challenged, we want to see what they can do. That is our constant battle.
In this particular case, I felt Franklin really did take on too much. I applaud him for it because I know he really was behind every dish he made. But he stretched himself too thin. It's a problem that I think all professionals have, all talented, creative people. He made the salmon, then he made this really bizarre cocktail that went with the salmon, and then he baked the donuts. He knew it -- he said, "If I just hadn't done that cocktail, I wouldn't have gone home." And that's not just because we didn't like the cocktail, but if he didn't do the cocktail, he would have also had more time to spend on making those donuts better. Those donuts were a huge disappointment. What was puzzling with the donuts was that Lindsay said that they love chocolate and that Curtis loves chocolate, so he made these donuts, and then he did this melted chocolate on the bottom that you couldn't even scrape off. It was painted so thinly, it just stuck to the plate. The salmon was totally, absolutely fine. And if he kept it to the salmon, it would've been very different but he did three things so we had to account for all of them, and it was not his day.
I didn't have as much of a problem with Neal's pasta or Jennifer's lobster, although you really didn't get the lobster in that thick pasta dough. It was the odd combination of Franklin's dishes that stood out as the most flawed.
I love Franklin; I've known him for a long time. He's a friend and he's a super talent; he's really ambitious. What I admire about Franklin more than anything else is his commitment to his son and his ability to use his voice raising autism awareness and funds for research, treatment, and education, supporting families and children with autism. He has an upward battle, his son is a special child, and he has dedicated his life to making sure his son has the best quality of life possible. Above all, I think that is something to applaud, and I admire him greatly for it.