Gail Simmons explains the sweet success of ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts’

Gail Simmons hosts “Top Chef: Just Desserts,” airing Wednesdays at 10 p.m. on Bravo.

Canadian-born, NYC-trained gastronomic guru Gail Simmons is a master multitasker — in addition to being the Special Projects manager at “Food & Wine” magazine, she’s also relishing her second year as the host of Bravo’s “Top Chef: Just Desserts.”

The spin-off of the hugely successful “Top Chef” pits cream-of-the-crop pastry chefs against each other for a chance at $100,000 from KitchenAid, a spread in “Food & Wine” and a spot at the Annual Food & Wine Cayman Cookout. And this year, the kitchen competition is only heating up.

“The chefs on this season are really just the next level,” Simmons says. “Last year we had a much broader range of people who worked with desserts — bakers, hotel chefs, restaurant chefs, cake-makers — and this year they’re really all top pastry chefs and the challenges we give them really, really test their skills. It’s just really making them think about desserts in a different way. We’re not asking them things that they shouldn’t understand how to do; we’re just making sure that they’re doing them at a really high level.”

Simmons was coy about spilling any juicy contestant gossip, but she did give us a taste of what’s to come on tonight’s episode.
 
“We have Ad-Rock [from the Beastie Boys],” she says. “He’s a hardcore New Yorker and he was just so awesome and such a good sport. We created a challenge all around him and I think it just blew us all away.”

She credits the show’s success not to just the contestants and guest judges, but also to the audience, who she notes has become quite knowledgeable in the five years since “Top Chef” premiered.

“I’ve seen such a major explosion in interest and savvy from our audience about food,” she says. “The ‘Top Chef’ and ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts’ viewer is so smart and knows so much about food and cooking and baking. They don’t want to see amateurs because they can do better: they know more, they eat out, they cook at home, they are interested in food, they love to eat. And even if they’re not really into food, they just are into the competition and have high expectations and I think that’s exciting because it forces us to raise the bar. I’m just always impressed season to season how much they learn and know and understand.”

And it’s not just the audience that’s evolving with the show: Simmons’s hosting style is too.

“It certainly has improved,” she says. “When I first started hosting ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts’ I was pretty nervous. My big fear was that I would just sort of be a poor excuse for Padma [Lakshmi, the host of “Top Chef”]. I wanted to make it my own and I had her voice in my head, because I’d been listening to her do it for so many years [as a “Top Chef” guest judge.] I didn’t want to sound like her or try to be her in any way, so it really just was about finding my own voice.”

And although she says it’s always hard to eliminate someone each week (“We don’t take it lightly,” she says), the process has gotten easier over time.

“It’s still hard when you know that someone is really great but that they just messed up,” she says. “They always accept our decisions with such humility and with great grace and I know that’s a hard thing for them to do.”

Watch ‘Top Chef: Just Desserts’ hosts Gail and Johnny talk about the new season, and, of course, candy.


Follow Meredith Engel on Twitter @MeredithatMetro.


News
Entertainment
Sports
Lifestyle
National

Rapper affiliate of Wu-Tang Clan 'cuts off own…

Rapper Andre Johnson, who has performed with New York outfit the Wu-Tang Clan, is in a critical condition after reportedly cutting off his own penis…

National

Cleavage complaint: Disneyland staffer orders curvy mom to…

A curvy mom-of-three says she filed a formal complaint after staff at Disneyland Resort in California ordered her to cover up her boobs. Melissa Behnken,…

International

Canadian charged in 'Heartbleed' attack on tax agency

OTTAWA (Reuters) - Canadian police have arrested a 19-year-old man and charged him in connection with exploiting the "Heartbleed" bug to steal taxpayer data from…

National

Every dog has his day in court, in…

(Reuters) - Call him juror K-9.A computer glitch is likely to blame for a summons that called a German Shepherd to report for jury duty,…

Television

‘Survivor: Cagayan’ recap: Episode 8

Sure, it's called Survivor. But this season should really be called 'The Tony Show.'

Television

Jim Rash talks 'The Writer's Room' and amazing…

For Jim Rash, as the fifth season of "Community" comes to a close, the second season of "The Writer's Room" begins.

Television

'Dexter' star Jennifer Carpenter moves into producing role

The actress who played the title character's sister in "Dexter" is teaming up with producer George Stelzner to adapt Erika Hayasaki's book "The Death Class:…

The Word

Wahlburgers announce North America domination

Tuesday was a huge day for Donnie Wahlberg.

MLB

MLB video highlights: Red Sox beat White Sox…

Red Sox walk 15 times in extra innings win

NBA

Kris Humphries on free agency, future with Celtics:…

Kris Humphries on free agency, future with Celtics: 'I hope to be back'

NBA

Celtics turn attention to NBA Draft, improve lottery…

Celtics turn attention to NBA Draft, improve lottery odds with loss

NFL

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

2014 NFL Mock Draft: Updated, new April version

Wellbeing

This Week in Health: chocolate may prevent obesity…

Can chocolate prevent obesity and diabetes? Location of study: U.S. Study subjects: Mice Results: The positive health benefits of chocolate have been studied increasingly more…

Wellbeing

This Week in Health News: breastfed infants trying…

Are breastfed infants trying to prevent mom from having another baby? Theory: The act of breastfeeding not only brings mom and baby closer together –…

Wellbeing

Unexplained infertility may be caused by lack of…

Researchers have identified a protein on the egg's surface that interacts with another protein on the surface of sperm, allowing the two cells to join.

Tech

5 surprising facts about Google Glass

Your sex life could get more interesting.