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Bravotv.com: Sang is back!
Gail Simmons: Hello, Sang. Welcome back! I thought Sang was in an excellent mood. I'm sure he felt great being on the other side of the judging situation. And I loved how different the burgers were. A lobster burger, a shrimp burger, beef burgers. Doug's burger seemed to be a bit of a catastrophe, surprisingly. Bryan's wasn't that interesting. David did his usual thing where he piled on like seven extra ingredients that I never want to eat together. But sometimes his magic works. Quail egg and burrata and lobster?! Whoah, dude, slow down. But Sang said it was good, and I believe him because Sang is very particular about his burgers. Ultimately, Jen's looked the best, so I'm glad she won. She's en fuego!
Bravotv.com: Which leads us to the Elimination Challenge. What was it like being around all the teachers? They were all surprised to be there.
GS: The whole day was really emotional, actually. We all felt so great speaking with these teachers and spending some time with them. John Deasy, the head of the L.A. Unified School Board, was a fascinating and wonderful man. We actually spent several hours with him and ate with him that day. It was amazing to learn how school boards that large run. And he's the boss of it all! The statistics of the teachers and students he oversees are staggering. I think it also got us all out of our own heads, and out of the food world, which we needed. It was really quite special.
Bravotv.com: Let's start with the top two. Douglas' dish was so rich.
GS: His dish was completely over-the-top and beautiful. I mean he piled on every luxurious ingredient you could think of --from the salmon to the caviar to the sea urchin. I guarantee that 95% of the people in that room had never eaten half of those things before, at least not all together. I worried it would come across as insincere, but it didn't. Sometimes just piling on luxury doesn't make a dish good, and it's not why his dish was good. There needs to be purpose to each component beyond just a "wow factor." I think everyone really appreciated that. It was so touching that he drew inspiration from this fairytale wedding that Emily had created for Camille, her student. That Camille could be there with her family was also just lovely. And they all loved the dish. We loved it, too -- the textures were so silky and smooth and rich, truly of the sea. It was pretty unforgettable.
Doug laid it on thick with those roses too. He's a smooth operator. Ha!
Bravotv.com: And there's Bryan who finally won something -- finally.
GS: This is Bryan's episode, and I couldn't be happier. Not only did he get immunity, but this dish was all Bryan, in perfect form. Squid ink Bolognese with miso cavetelli -- who even knows where he came up with that? But, it made perfect sense for him, it made perfect sense for his teacher. The idea that Mr. Lauchu taught math and science and Bryan's cooking is so science-based, so intellectual, but it's also really satisfying and approachable to eat, made so much sense. I think it's what this teacher aims to do with this very complicated subjects. It was so savory and so unique; I've never eaten anything like it, but it also had so much familiarity because it was a Bolognese. It was the perfect way to use all of those techniques that Bryan uses, that are at times are a little overthought and cerebral. It was beautifully balanced dish both in flavor and texture, and in the fact that it was recognizable, but also pushed you with its uniqueness. It was really one of the best things I ate all season. I feel like I say that all the time. Truthfully every season I'm asked, "What's your favorite dish you've ever eaten on Top Chef?" and I can never answer the question. But there are always two or three dishes per season that I will never forget. This is one of them, absolutely.Bravotv.com: People liked Jen's dish, but I think it sort of came down to the question of whether or not the lamb was undercooked. Even the chefs in the kitchen thought maybe it was.
GS: I thought the lamb was a little undercooked. I didn't have a problem with it personally, but I know that's a very subjective question. In general, I do think it was undercooked for the majority of people there and for how lamb really should be. It was just a little too pink in the center, almost blue. I think that was daunting for a lot of people. I also wish it had been more seared on the outside, that she would have developed a little more crust or char, which would have given it more flavor and also helped the texture. There's a lot of fat on the outside of a lamb chop like that. If you don't render it down, it becomes chewy and fatty to eat.
But the grains and fennel she paired with it were absolutely outrageous! I loved that she started with the idea of porridge and, just like Mama Bear's, it was just right.
Bravotv.com: And David ultimately goes home.
GS: David made it to the final four and did so with incredible finesse. I've always known how talented he was, obviously from his reputation and from knowing him over the years. But this whole season he has impressed me for so many reasons. He's a total wild man in the kitchen. You never ever know what you're going to get from him; his creativity knows no bounds. Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn't. But he's fearless, has the best sense of humor, and he's generous too -- and all of those things are what you want in a chef.
His dish in this challenge was a soufflé. All of a sudden, out of nowhere, he chose to do something completely classic for the first time all season, which makes me think he should always just be adding 17,000 things to food instead. He took a big risk because even though it is a simple dish in its components, it is a very complicated dish in its execution. You have almost no time between the time it comes out of the oven to the time that it has to be served, or it will collapse. They looked beautiful coming out of that oven in the camera. The issue for the soufflé, especially making it for a challenge like this, is he seemed to forget that we're actually making television at the same time. In your own kitchen making a soufflé should never be a problem because you can control service, but you can't control service with a television show the same way. We're pretty good about serving the food as soon as it's hot; we take it very seriously on our set. But things happen, and there are delays. You just never know. So David took that risk, and because everyone else's dishes were so strong that day, when it got to the table, it had collapsed. The texture was a little bit funny, and of the four dishes, it was the weakest. That's not to say that it wasn't good, but it was just the weakest of what we had in front of us, which is how we had to judge it.
So, goodbye, David. We will miss you. I cannot wait to see what he does next because there's no doubt in my mind, it will be spectacular.
Bravotv.com: Final thoughts?
GS: The next week is the finale! I wear orange. It's a really great episode, and I'm excited to finally see it all come together as well.