Bravotv.com: We start with the ginger Quickfire Challenge…
Gail Simmons: Brooke’s looked the best, and I assumed it tasted the best too, so it won. I feel like we’re getting down to the wire now, with eight people left, it was a tough one.
Bravotv.com: Wolfgang had some harsh words for the bottom chefs. Is he the toughest judge?
GS: His comments were harsh. I think he’s just snappy. The man is a walking sound bite; it’s unbelievable. His tan is really amazing too. I adore him, he’s a teddy bear at heart.
Bravotv.com: On to the Elimination Challenge, which ended up being the first part of Restaurant Wars.
GS: It was more like Restaurant Concept Wars. I thought it was a really good way to introduce Restaurant Wars. It gave them a little more time to create their concepts, and think about a signature dish to base their concept around, which really helps finalize and tweak what your concept should be. I think Danny Meyer was the perfect person to guest judge as he’s been a trailblazer for 30-plus years in the New York restaurant world. He created Union Square Café, Gramercy Tavern with Tom of course, and now owns everything from to Shake Shack, which makes the best burger in New York City, to The Modern at MoMA. He does fast-casual and he does fine dining at the highest level. He is not a chef, but he has a mastery of hospitality, understanding what customers want from a dining experience, and what keeps them coming back. He taught me so much I have to say, even in just those four or five days we all spent together in Seattle. It’s hard to believe we’ve never had him on the show before.
Bravotv.com: On to the dishes! We’ll start with Josh and Bistro George, a sweet concept to pay homage to his father.
GS: Compared to a lot of the other concepts that our chefs had, Josh’s seemed simple. But, a restaurant doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles to be great. There are many different reasons people go out to restaurants: of course for special occasions, but people also need to have restaurants in their neighborhood that are casual enough that they can afford to eat there often, but nice enough that it’s not something you could just make at home; more expertly-made. Most importantly, people need restaurants that make them feel like they want to eat there several times a week, or at least a month, where you can be a regular. A perfectly-run casual restaurant is such an important thing in a local community. I think Josh really was able to, in one plate, give us just that. We understood it -- he knew what he wanted, it came from the heart, he kept it simple, and he knew when to stop. He didn’t feel the pressure to do a German-Thai fusion, for example. He knew what people in HIS neighborhood would want, he knew what his father liked, and he had the sense to stay true to that. At the same time, the rib-eye was cooked perfectly, seasoned perfectly. It was delicious. The cauliflower puree was great, the mushrooms had tons of flavor, the sauce was velvety and rich. It was a great plate of food and that doesn’t go out of style. And I would go back there, weekly, if it were in my neighborhood, and that was EXACTLY his concept.