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We Ranked Gail Simmons’ Most Jewish Moments on ‘Top Chef’

Like any good Jewish girl, she has strong opinions on matzah ball soup.

Watching TV was one of the very few things we’ve been able to do over the last year due to COVID-19, so my boyfriend and I decided to binge-watch “Top Chef,” and we seriously devoured it —  no pun intended. If you haven’t seen the show, a handful of culinary professionals are pitted against each other in various challenges, and one by one, they’re voted off until the last person standing takes home “the coveted title of top chef.”

The three regular judges include Padma Lakshmi, who is gorgeous and sophisticated, Tom Colicchio, whose sheer excellence and talent is unmatched, and Gail Simmons, a former Food And Wine editor who I have grown to love like family.

Gail is a Toronto native who is Jewish, bodacious and a total spitfire. As a longtime food journalist, her knowledge is beyond compare, and she has a sense of humor that almost always shines through. As a fellow Jewess with both an ass and an attitude that simply do not quit, I feel like we are distant relatives (and heck, we probably are). I’ve ranked Gail’s most Jewish moments on Top Chef.

6. Gail vs. Brisket

Season 6, Episode 14

Photo via Bravo/Top Chef

Sweet southern gentleman, Kevin Gillespie, considered himself to be a connoisseur of all meat — but did he really think he’d get away with serving Gail what she described as “rope-y” brisket?

“I thought it was pretty bold of you to serve brisket that way,” Gail says, eviscerating Kevin’s hopes and dreams at the Judge’s Table. “Did you really think your beef was tender enough?”

“I thought it looked beautiful, but it was tougher than I expect MY brisket to be,” she continued. Gail has clearly made and tasted quite a bit of brisket in her time —  all hail the brisket queen.

5. A Bagel and Schmear Travesty

Season 9, Episode 5

Photo via Bravo/Top Chef

Most of us take a good bagel and lox quite seriously, so when Chuy Valencia presented the judges with a dish involving salmon, goat cheese and vegetables, which he described as “kind of like a play on bagels and lox,” Gail expected it to live up to its name. Sadly, it didn’t. “I too thought of bagels and lox and cream cheese,” she tells him at the Judges Table. “But that is not what it tasted like. The overcooked salmon was one major issue and the goat cheese, when cooked, takes on a mealy-ness.” Seriously, leave the bagel and lox comparisons to us, and us only.

What Gail deems a proper lox and schmear platter:

4. Mazel Tov!

Season 5, Episode 5

Photo via Bravo/Top Chef

During Season 5, Gail gets married and the chef-testants have to cater her bridal shower and impress all of her wildly famous friends from the food world — oy vey! At the end of their meal Gail does a toast and responds to someone shouting “MAZEL TOV” with the a wide smile #relatable.

3. Speechless Over Schmear

Season 11, Episode 6

Photo via Bravo/Top Chef

This episode was literally sponsored by major schmear corporation, Philadelphia Cream Cheese, which means that we (and Gail) were totally in our element. That season’s runner-up, Nina Compton, whipped up an eggplant cream cheese “that was just SO silky and smooth,” Gail said, passionately shaking her head, at a loss of words. We’ve all been speechless for some schmear, and Nina ended up winning the challenge — TBH, we weren’t surprised.

2. Offended By Matzah Ball Soup

Season 10, Episode 10

Photo via Bravo/Top Chef

At some point in our lives, we’ve attended a seder at a friend’s house or at our college hillel, and had disappointing matzah balls… but Season 10’s Brooke Williamson presented the judges with one that was unacceptable. “I really can’t get past this matzah ball — it’s offensive to my people!” objected Gail. Yikes! Did those matzah balls come from a box?

Luckily, the dish was (slightly) redeemed by a slice of homemade rye bread. “It IS impressive that she baked her own dark rye bread… and it tastes pretty good!” Gail commented. Maybe Brooke would have been better off serving that slice with a handful of pastrami or corned beef — one could only dream.

Matzah ball soup that doesn’t offend Gail and her people:

1. Nini’s Masa Ball Soup Redemption

Season 17, Episode 2

Photo via Bravo/Top Chef

Although Brooke’s matzah ball soup was unforgivable, Gail was seriously thrilled by Top Chef All Star contestant, Nini Nguyen’s matzah ball soup (er, masa ball soup) in Season 17.

Initially, when Nini swapped the matzah meal for massa, a dough made of ground corn flour, we were a little worried it wouldn’t live up to Gail’s standards. But, it ultimately blew Gail away. “It was a fun play on a matzah ball soup!” she exclaimed. “I love that you used masa, and that broth to me was everything.” Although Gail’s grandma’s recipe is evidently great, we’re down to try any take on the classic Passover dish.

Gail clearly always brings chutzpah to the Judges’ Table — although we know she’d be an extremely tough critic, she always has a seat at our seder.

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