If Top Chef Masters' first season had you salivating, Season 2 (premiering Wednesday at 11/10c on Bravo) is sure to kick your cravings into high gear.
TVGuide.com caught up with the show's newest judge, Top Chef's Gail Simmons, to find out if she'll be harsher on the renowned cheftestants and to get the scoop on an upcoming challenge involving the Modern Family cast. Plus: See why she thinks her new culinary competition series, Just Desserts, will give fans "a real sense of satisfaction."
TVGuide.com: How did you get in involved in Top Chef Masters?
Gail Simmons: The first season, they asked me to be on it for just a few episodes. And it was funny because I remember being at the table for Masters in the first season, and I was sitting in my regular seat and thinking, Well this looks like Top Chef, smells like Top Chef and it tastes like Top Chef — although even a little bit more delicious — but it wasn't. It has a different look and feel and its own personality. And when they decided to renew for the second season, Bravo asked if I'd get a little more involved.
TVGuide.com: Considering the skill level of the Master chefs, are your critiques harsher than on Top Chef?
Simmons: It's on par with Top Chef in terms of our honesty, but there are definitely differences to the show itself, which leads to a different feeling at the judges' table. First of all, it's all for charity and much more in the name of fun because there's not as much at stake for these chefs. They already have empires and have proven themselves, so it's not as grueling and cutthroat, and our critiques don't need to be. All these people are my idols and are the biggest names in the industry, so it's much more intimidating for us at the judges table to critique them. We all have relationships with them. That said, their food isn't perfect — not because they're not geniuses, but because the conditions are just as difficult for our Masters as our younger chefs. So, there are flaws to their food and we talk to them about that.
TVGuide.com: Was a celeb challenge exceptionally fun for you?
Simmons: The one that stuck out for me for sure was working with the cast and crew of Modern Family. They're just the most lovable group. We had this extraordinary day with them ... But sadly, we shot this in the fall when the show just came out and I hadn't seen it yet. So when I came home from shooting, I was totally hooked on the show.
TVGuide.com: How is Just Desserts going?
Simmons: I will tell you that I'm really excited about it, and it's been a long time in the making. I think it will answer the call of so many of our viewers and talented pastry chefs of the world who have been waiting to show what they can do. As you know, on Top Chef, desserts have never been their forte. And inherently, desserts are beautiful, and I'm hoping there'll be a real sense of satisfaction in seeing the creations because cakes and cupcakes and sundaes and soufflés are really beautiful to look at — more so than roasted pieces of meat.