What Top Chef fan could forget CJ Jacobson’s soggy, brown Broccolini from Season 3? When challenged to prepare the dish for an airplane meal, CJ overcooked his vegetables so badly that they were unrecognizable—and he got kicked off the show. Gail Simmons reinvents the recipe by blanching Broccolini quickly, then sautéing it on the stove with a shallot and adding spicy, lemony, homemade bread crumbs at the very end.
Jennifer Zavala’s downfall in the first episode of Top Chef Season 6 was her insistence on using seitan (made from wheat gluten) for vegetarian chiles rellenos, but not in a way that improved the classic stuffed peppers. She also covered her clunky, overstuffed poblanos in a thick, unappealing crust. Instead, Gail Simmons fills poblanos with a traditional mix of cheese and jalapeños, then tops them with a bright, fresh salsa.
Patrick Dunlea was booted off Top Chef Season 5’s first episode because his salmon and bok choy were lackluster and his black-rice noodles were mushy. Gail Simmons amps up the broth with soy sauce, rice wine vinegar, ginger and garlic and uses white-rice noodles instead of black (they’re easier to find), cooked briefly to keep their texture firm.
Gail Simmons was so disappointed during the Top Chef Season 5 finale when she learned that Carla Hall’s soufflé never made it to the plate: It had curdled in the oven. To make sure her soufflés rise, Gail folds lots of fluffy whipped egg whites into a Roquefort- and-Parmigiano-Reggiano base.
Richard Blais crashed in the final moments of Top Chef Season 4 when his pressure-cooked pork belly did not turn out to be as delicious, or nearly as tender, as he had hoped: He didn’t leave the meat in long enough. Gail Simmons chooses to stick with a more classic cooking method, marinating the pork overnight and braising it in a savory soy-and-mirin broth.
In a reality-TV moment that shocked us all, Tre Wilcox of Top Chef Season 3 was eliminated after preparing a dense, dull apple bread pudding in an epic Restaurant Wars. Gail Simmons rescues his recipe by sautéing the apples in brandy and butter, then soaking both them and brioche in lots of vanilla custard before baking.