Gail Simmons Talks Just Desserts
As we bid farewell to season 7 of Top Chef this week, we welcome the latest franchise in the TC series, Top Chef: Just Desserts. We got to chat with host and judge Gail Simmons on what to expect from the show.
How did Top Chef prepare you for hosting your own show, Top Chef: Just Desserts?
I have to say my job as host is completely different on Just Desserts especially because — and I’m the first to admit it — my role on TC until now has been pretty easy. I’m not saying it hasn’t been exciting and challenging and interesting. But my job really until now has just been to sort of show up, eat, talk about it and leave. On Just Desserts, the hours are double the time, so now I’m in every single day shooting. And then also, being the host really forces you to make a different role because you are the person who needs to deliver the business, you’re the one who makes the plot go forward.
Can you tell us about the new judges?
Hubert Keller — is it not enough that he’s a total dreamboat? Not only did he start in the pastry kitchen but he actually grew up in a bakery. His family is from Alsace and his father was a baker, so he grew up above a bakery and watching bakers his whole life. It’s sort of bred in him, in his blood. Johnny Iuzzini is head judge, and I think without a doubt one of the greatest most talented young pastry chefs in this country right now. Johnny is a sort of wonder kid, he really is so talented and has such an amazing understanding of the processes of pastry, sugar, chocolate and butter. And he happens to be super attractive and stylish. And then there is Dannielle Kyrillos, who brings a totally fresh perspective through being the editor-at-large for DailyCandy. Dannille brings a brightness, a knowledge as a real diner, as a real person who’s passionate about pastry, who loves it.
We know from TC that the chefs are reluctant to do desserts in fear of going home — is there an equivalent on Just Desserts?
I think the equivalent is when we ask them to make savory food actually, ironically. We know that savory chefs and pastry chefs are two totally different people with two different skills. In general pastry chefs can cook savory foods better than savory chefs can cook pastry because in order to be a pastry chef, you still need to have basic fundamentals of cooking and that doesn’t apply the other way around. In the few moments when they do have to use savory ingredients, I think it really is a challenge for them because it’s just not what they do every day. It takes them out of their comfort zone.
What are the biggest misconceptions about pastry chefs?
In the food industry at least, I think there is this underlying thought that pastry chefs are holed up in a dungeon somewhere and all a bit crazy, and I think that is a misconception. That said, they certainly are volatile creatures and artists at the truest form. They have their moments. At the same time what amazed me the most about doing the show and spending so much time with a group of pastry chefs was how sensitive and truly creative they are in a way that regular chefs I just don’t think are.
How do you deal with eating so much sugar?
I never get sick of it, amazingly. I thought I would, that was certainly a concern. With Just Desserts I was never eating a meal, I was always just eating sugar day after day so I would try and control my intake of what I wanted to eat because I knew I’d be eating so much. I would finish a day of shooting and realize I just went though a whole day without anything nutritious at all in my body, and then I would be craving a cheeseburger and fries, which are not a good combination after eating 17 ice cream sundaes.