Top Chef's Gail Simmons on Miami, Just Desserts

Categories: Interview
Courtesy South Beach Wine & Food Festival
Gail Simmons, of Top Chef and Food & Wine, returns to Miami in a few weeks for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival. This year, she'll host the sold out Dolce Brunch at Blue Door Fish. She co-hosts with James Beard winner Michael White (of Marea, Osteria Morini, Convivo, and Alto in NYC), who will prepare an Italian-inspired brunch.

Of course, Simmons will be at other events, too: "I would never call [South Beach Wine & Food Festival] a vacation. I'm up at 8 a.m. and in bed at 2 a.m. and there's not a moment of rest in between. I'm running around a lot representing Food & Wine and Top Chef. So it's work, but it's amazing--having this be my work. I look forward to seeing so many of my friends, attending the parties and events. It's the tenth anniversary so this should be a special one."

I chatted with Simmons about her favorite Miami restaurants, Top Chef: Just Desserts and Jimmy Fallon as a Top Chef judge.

New Times: Where do you enjoy eating in Miami?

Gail Simmons: When I'm in Miami for the South Beach Wine & Food Festival, I don't get to eat at so many restaurants. We filmed season three of Top Chef in Miami so I did get to spend some good time then. Whenever I'm in Miami, I always go see Michelle Bernstein at Michy's or Sra. Martinez. Michael Schwartz is one of my favorite chefs, so I try to go there too. His cookbook comes out next week. I've already had a chance to preview it and I love it.

I also love lunch at Joe's Stone Crab -- it's my favorite thing in the world.

Every year at the festival, a couple of girlfriends and I meet up at Puerto Sagua for medianoche sandwiches and tostones.

My husband's family has an apartment in Hollywood, so whenever we visit, I love to go to Le Tub for peel and eat shrimp or a burger.

Are there plans for Season 2 of Just Desserts?

There are! I can finally tell people! We worked hard and proved that it was not just a one-season wonder.

What do you think Top Chef: Just Desserts taught people about pastry chefs?

I think it taught viewers a lot. It taught me an enormous amount about pastry chefs and I already knew a lot. There's just so much difference in the skill and technique. It's so precise. As a savory chef, you're not trained that way, which is why on Top Chef there are so many dessert failures. You can't just feel and taste as you go; you need to be in control from the very beginning. So pastry draws a different sort of person. It's like a general practitioner and a brain surgeon. They both excel at what they do, but you don't one doing the other's job.

Will the screening for contestants be any different, seeing as how things went with certain participants last season?

We already have a very thorough screening process. I mean, I'm sure we always learn as we go along, but as far as last season, that's just the way things happened. I don't work at all with that part of the process -- I try to stay as far away from it as possible.

So Jimmy Fallon was too nice as a Top Chef judge? On Tuesday's Late Night, he said he didn't want to crush anyone's dreams and you replied, "I'm in the business of crushing people's dreams."

We were joking around. I really don't think I crush dreams. I think I make them. But you have to be practiced and disciplined at giving people critiques.

Jimmy Fallon was guest judge on last night's episode of Top Chef. Here, Simmons and Fallon discuss how he did as a judge on Late Night. My favorite part is Fallon's impression of his mom doing Top Chef critique.

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