Gail Simmons

Gail discusses why she occasionally preferred Brooke's dishes over Shirley's, but why Shirley took the Duel.

on Aug 13, 2014 We start with Shirley's self-professed "Weird Seafood" challenge. Both ladies end up cooking Geoduck.
Gail Simmons: I liked that Shirley went for it with a very Shirley-challenge. As far as seafood goes, I'm generally a fan, but I will say Geoduck is one of my least favorites. It's sort of disgusting to look at when it's raw -- but it's just a giant clam. Both chefs ended up doing really well, although in a way they did similar things. They both made salads, which was smart because they didn't have a lot of time.

I was actually surprised Brooke won the challenge. I thought Shirley's was more elegant and delicate. Her flavors were strong and bright, and she showcased the Geoduck in two different ways, fried and sliced thinly. Brooke's dish was really flavorful, but you couldn't taste the actual product because she coated it and fried it. But it was two against one. So Brooke wins, and her challenge to Shirley is a pretty direct -- "you're not good at dessert so I'm going to give you not just a dessert but a vegan dessert."
GS: I thought that was very bold of her to say "I'm doing this challenge because I've done research on you. I don't think you’re going to be good at this, and I am." Vegan desserts are hard. All the things you fall back on when you think of dessert -- butter, egg, dairy, milk, cream -- go to the wayside.

I was really impressed with both desserts, as I said. I'm not talking about Top Chef Just Desserts, but over the years on Top Chef proper we have not had very many excellent desserts. These two were delicious -- creamy, imaginative, fresh, and satisfying.

It’s funny, I was against the grain for both of these challenges. Again, I loved Shirley’s dish. I loved that it wasn't heavy. The tapioca worked well. The coconut and green tea were a delicious combination. It was refreshing, not super decadent, as some people expect when they think of dessert. I know Curtis has a serious chocolate addiction, so Shirley’s dessert might not have been for him. Brooke certainly played to that chocolate addiction, whether she knew to do it or not.

Brooke's dessert was fantastic. It was rich and creamy. There was pistachio, torched orange, and banana mixed in with the chocolate mousse. It was a really beautifully executed dessert. My preference was Shirley's, but again two out of three. Brooke is now $20,000 richer!

By the way, I don't want people to think I didn't like Brooke’s food. I loved everything. I just liked Shirley's food a little more that specific day. Brooke did a phenomenal job and made very successful dishes in both challenges. It was a very even "duel" all the way through. They come from different backgrounds, but their food somehow has a lot of similarity. I think their skills are on par so it was a very exciting episode for us all.