Oct 22, 2014

Top Chef‘s Gail Simmons on Getting Tough, Failed Dishes, and An All-Female Season


It’s almost hard to imagine that Top Chef is still on the air but even in its twelfth season, it’s as delicious as ever. The Bravo series, which has taken the chefs (and viewers) from New York to New Orleans, is now calling Boston home as it puts a new group of contestants to the test in what looks to be the series’ toughest season yet. Gail Simmons, who has served as a judge since the show premiered in 2006, is still amazed by the enormity of what the franchise become. “If you would have told me then that I would still be making the show and still be in this role, I would never have believed you,” Simmons says. “We’re still making great food television and eating really delicious food.”

In an interview with VH1, Simmons opens up about dishing out harsher critiques, welcoming former contestant Richard Blais to the judges’ table, and why risotto always brings cheftestants down.

VH1: In the premiere, the judges were much more upfront with critiques during tasting. Was there a decision as judges to be tougher on the contestants this season? 

Gail Simmons: No! There really wasn’t! You’re the third or fourth person who said that. We certainly didn’t do anything differently we didn’t think. But due to the nature of the competition this season — we implemented a sudden death quick fire in the very first episode — we upped the stakes right then and there. It shows the chefs that we mean business and it shows that you really can’t anticipate whatever we’re going to do next. And we need to do that. In the 12th season, we can’t go into a show just giving the chefs and giving the audience the same thing every time, so I think that set the bar for a really tough episode and then we gave them a hard challenge because we knew that this was a group of talented chefs. Every year they get better and better and we want to challenge them more and more to take them out of their comfort zone. We try to be really constructive in our criticism but we also want to be honest, so I think it just cut together that way.

This season, Top Chef made Richard Blais a permanent judge. What’s it like having him on the other side of the table?

It was great! I think it gave a lot of new perspective to all of us. What’s interesting about Richard is that he has become so successful — being on Top Chef, he has his own television show, seven restaurants, he won Top Chef All Stars — so he really has had the full experience of going from a young chef that’s trying to make it, to being a full bonafide star in the food world. So not only was it great for us because he gives that perspective to us — he really explained to us what the chefs were going through — but he can also be really empathetic to them. And now the contestants have someone to aspire to at the judges’ table, someone who’s realistic. They know where he was and they can see where he is now. He can also help draw out of them all the things that we need to know to make our decision because he knows the exact questions to ask and what’s going exactly through their brain and what their experience is like on the other side of the table. He was really valuable to have as our newest edition.

Top Chef - Season 12

Did having him on the judges’ panel make you rethink your own critiques and question whether you have ever been too harsh?

No! Not at all. It didn’t make me think of how harsh or kind I am, I think I’m consistent. I’m confident in the way that I speak to chefs and I’m always constructive even if I’m critical. What it did make me think more about is the way that a young chef thinks about a dish verses the way we think about a dish as judges because Richard brings that perspective and he’s really articulate about his metaphors for food. I love just listening to him talk because we see food in a different way. What’s so important about that guest judge rule every week is that they bring their own pallets, their own biases, but they also come in a way with a cleaner frame of reference than we do because we’ve been doing it for so long and we’re so used to the process. There’s a freshness that Richard added that I think helps us all a lot.

Let’s talk about some challenges that always seem to bring chefs down. For a long time, desserts sent many chefs home. 

Well the truth is the dessert kitchen, the sweets kitchen, is a totally different kitchen in a restaurant. Chefs who are savory chefs who work on the line are trained to be pastry chefs most of the time. They can make simple desserts. They know the basics but they don’t spend time making desserts. So asking to make a dessert is like asking, a psychiatrist to perform heart surgery. Yes, they’re both doctors but it’s just not what they do every day so they just don’t speak the language.

And each season someone always attempts risotto even though it always ends up being disastrous. 

The trick with risotto is it needs to be constantly stirred, constantly watched, and paid attention to. If you take your eyes off of it and leave it to rest it can freeze up and become tough and gluten-y and sticky. There’s also a moment when that rice is perfect — it’s cooked just to the point of done but not overcooked and mushy — and if you’re not paying attention it could go wrong. If it also sits for a long time, it can become not at all what you want to eat, so thing with risotto on Top Chef is because are so over stimulated — running around, under the gun, watching the clock, they’re distracted, they’re under a lot of pressure — it’s a difficult dish to execute. You really need to be able to tune everything out and just focus on that pot.

What is it about Restaurant Wars that seems to bring out the worst in the contestants?

You could say the worst or you could say the best. I think Restaurant Wars is just a chance for them to really strut their stuff and prove that they can take leadership. It’s such an iconic episode and they know it’s coming every year — they’ve all been anticipating what they would do — but when you get a bunch of people in a kitchen who all think they’re the boss — and all have their own vision of what their dream restaurant would be — it’s a very heated place. Everyone is fighting for his or her life. I think Restaurant Wars is also the only time on the show usually when we demand that they work the front of the house and it’s uncomfortable. Sometimes they’re not used to playing the role of server and waiter and manager. They’re pulled in every direction and it gets complicated. It’s a really tough thing to do in 24 hours.

And then there’s Fabio Viviani, who competed on season five. He certainly handled the front of house with ease. 

Fabio, our reoccurring lovely Fabio, is definitely one of the few, who is a master host. There have been some good hosts — some good front of house people that come to mind — they weren’t necessarily as precarious as Fabio but they had the front of the house under control and that is the important thing. It’s all about that conversation between the manager who’s getting service done in the front and the chef who’s executing in the back — that’s most important moment of Restaurant Wars.

Speaking of Fabio, are there any previous contestants that you miss or wish would come back for Masters or All Stars?

Oh my god, for sure! Kevin Gillespie from season six — he was a finalist — for years I said, “Why wouldn’t he come back?” I loved him and I want to see more of him. That’s an amazing competitor. He’s a brilliant chef and an articulate speaker and I had been wanting him to come back for so long. Finally, for this past season of Top Chef Duels, which just finished, he did come back and I was so thrilled to have him on the show with us again! But there’s so many chefs that I love and wish I could see more of. There are a lot of great women that I don’t get to see enough on the show.

There have been a number of great female competitors. An all-female challenge would be a lot of fun. 

That would be kind of great, just do an all women’s season as well! Let’s think about that. Thank you, that’s a good idea!

Top Chef airs Wednesdays at 10/9 c only on Bravo. 

[Photos: Bravo]

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Oct 22, 2014

Renee Zellweger’s New Look Shocks Hollywood

Renee Zellweger surprised fans when she stepped onto a red carpet Monday night. The actress’ face looked quite different from the days when she played Bridget Jones. The Gossip Table details the speculation surrounding Zellweger’s possible facelift.

In other news, our panelists have been keeping up with the Kardashians and the Jenners. In the video below, get the latest on Kim, Bruce, Kris, Kylie, and Kendall.

For more celebrity gossip and entertainment news, go to VH1 Celebrity.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

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Oct 22, 2014

Johnny Depp Makes His Debut as the Big Bad Wolf, Marvel Releases First Look at Mockingbird Suit + More in Today’s Last Lap


Johnny Depp continues to enchant the big screen, Adrianne Palicki makes a badass Mockingbird, Orlando Bloom may be trying to steal Selena Gomez away from Justin Bieber for good and more in today’s Last Lap.

  • We finally get a peak of Johnny Depp as the Big Bad Wolf in Into the Woods. [EW]
  • Marvel releases the first photo of Adrianne Palicki as Mockingbird in Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. [Marvel]
  • Selena Gomez and Orlando Bloom were spotted together at LAX. Romantic getaway for two? [E!]
  • Sarah Hyland is “doing great” after all of the boyfriend drama. [US Weekly]
  • Shark Tank‘s Daymond John tells GQ the most important investment one can make. [Daymond John]
  • Kim Kardashian may be a momager in training and says North West will “have to work for what she wants.” [Huffington Post]
  • Billy Bob Thornton reveals why Angelina Jolie made him wear her vial of blood. [Too Fab]
  • Back to the Future will return to the big screen with a live orchestra for its 30th anniversary. [Variety]
  • Khloe Kardashian can’t seem to track down Lamar Odom to sign the divorce papers. [US Weekly]
  • How does Dancing With the StarsTim Bergeron really feel about the show?

[Photo Credit: EW]


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Oct 22, 2014

Black-ish Is the Best TV Show You’re Not Watching


by Phoebe Robinson

1) I’m not just writing that because VH1 is paying me the big bucks to do so. Although, later on, I am looking forward to balling out of control at Forever 21 even though I’m ghorghor years old. What? VH1 isn’t paying me that much in order for me to reveal my age. 2) Yes, some of you are watching — ABC did recently give ask for a full season order — but the show is now hovering around the 6.5 million range, which is pretty decent, but I’m waiting for this show to become the breakout hit of the season. So without further ado, I present to you the seven reasons why Black-ish is the best TV show you’re not watching.


Yes, this show is vehicle for Anthony Anderson, but in my eyes, Tracee Ellis Ross is killing it as Rainbow, who is a doctor and Anderson’s wife. She is consistently charming, nails every punchline, and looks amazing. I really think this is the show that will get her some Emmy nominations, but if she doesn’t, her consolation is that she is absolutely cute – and funny! – while asking for a little pleasure down there.


[Credit: Tumblr]


[Credit: Tumblr]

For this reason and several others, I want to be Ross’ friend. And I’m not talking casual friendship. You know, the kind where you bump into someone on the street and the both of you pretend like you’re not counting in your heads how long you have until you can exit the conversation without looking like you didn’t want to leave the convo. I’m talking inside-joke having, clothes swapping, can-you-look-something-up-for-me-on-WebMD-and-tell-me-I’m-not-going-to-die-because-I-trust-my-uninformed-best-friend-forever-over-some-Harvard-doctor kind of friendship. Can we do that, Gabs? I know I’m standing in a long ass line of folks who also adore and wanna go halfsies on huevos rancheros sometime, but I’m putting out there. Let’s. Do. This.


In episode three entitled “Crazy Mom,” Dre’s (Anderson) status as the cool dad at his younger children’s school is taken away by another dad who brings popcorn. Suffice it to say, Dre does not handle it well:

Not only is him pointing out that no one would eat popcorn on the Underground Railroad because it’s too loud such a funny and specific joke, but I also like the running theme that is being carried throughout the episode: even though Dre is black, he does not know more about Harriet Tubman more than the white teacher does. I totally forgot Harriet was a spy! Well, not that one.

We’re not done yet! More on race, gender, and political correctness

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Oct 22, 2014

Bethenny Frankel Gets Naughty At New York’s Angel Ball

Bethenny Frankel may be stirring the gossip pot ahead of returning to The Real Housewives Of New York. She attended the Angel Ball, a fundraiser for cancer research, and took the opportunity to cause a scene. Watch the clip above to find out how Frankel stole the show.

Sofia Vergara also attended the Angel Ball and had an awkward moment on the red carpet. In the video below, find out who randomly ran into the Modern Family star as she did an interview.

For more celebrity gossip and entertainment news, go to VH1 Celebrity.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

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Oct 22, 2014

Big Morning Buzz Live Challenges Tom Bergeron To Judge Dancing Disasters

Dancing With The Stars host Tom Bergeron knows all about busting a move. But was he ready for today’s video challenge from Big Morning Buzz Live host Nick Lachey?

Bergeron played “Perfect 10 Or Try Again,” where he guessed whether video participants would perfectly execute dance routines — or if they’d make major mistakes. Did the DWTS host fail our challenge or did he pass with flying colors? Watch the clip above to find out, and catch Big Morning Buzz Live weekday mornings at 9/8C on VH1.

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Oct 22, 2014

Hollywood’s Hottest Hispanic Men


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Jon Seda

Jon Seda

On the heels of Hispanic Heritage Month, we’ve been thinking about the gorgeous Latino men who’ve been heating up Hollywood for years. What better way to celebrate than compiling a list of the sexiest Hispanic hotties around?

We included actors like Esai Morales who’ve had places in our hearts for decades, while sultry stars like Mexico’s Diego Luna are becoming more familiar to U.S. audiences. Some of the guys even have VH1 ties, like LeAnn & Eddie star Eddie Cibrian and William Levy, who had a recurring role on Single Ladies.

Who else earned a spot on our list? Browse through our gallery to find out.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

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Oct 22, 2014

Fashion Pioneer Oscar de la Renta Dead at 82 + More of Today’s First Dibs

oscardeadcopy Celebrities honor the late Oscar de la RentaBlake Lively and Ryan Reynolds make us even more jealous of their lives (yup, that’s actually possible), Teresa Giudice wants her prison time to be like Orange Is the New Black and more of today’s First Dibs.

  • Fashion legend Oscar de la Renta passed away at 82. [Forbes]
  • Blake Lively flaunts her baby bump, this time with her man by her side, and they’re basically perfect in every way. [Perez Hilton]
  • Teresa Giudice requested to go to the Danbury federal prison in Connecticut, which inspired Orange Is the New Black. You can imagine how that went down… [E!]
  • Jennifer Garner made a moving speech about sexism during last night’s Elle Women in Hollywood event. And yes, everyone you love was there. [E!/PopSugar]
  • Bryan Cranston has his own way of dealing with the mom in Florida who protested the Toys R Us Breaking Bad toys. [USA Today]
  • Zac Efron jams out with Alesso on set of the “DJ movie” We Are Your Friends. [Dancing Astronaut]
  • After HIV testing, the porn production moratorium has been lifted. [Huffington Post]
  • Russian tennis official Shamil Tarpischev has been suspended for a year for referring to Venus and Serena Williams as “the Williams brothers.” [USA Today]
  • The Big Morning Buzz Live crew allows us to relive that really awkward moment from Family Feud. You know which one.

[Photo Credit: Getty]


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Oct 21, 2014

Will Chase on Bringing Bombshell to Broadway and the Whereabouts of Debra Messing’s Smash Scarves

Gersh New York Upfronts Party

Any Smash fan who spent two seasons following the progress of a fictional musical about Marilyn Monroe has to wonder: What the hell happened to Debra Messing‘s scarves? Famously reviled by TV fans, the show cut down on the cozy accessory in season two, but sadly never made it to a third. In hopes of cracking a Hollywood mystery for the ages, VH1 spoke to Will Chase, who played Michael Swift, the on-screen fling to Messing’s Julia Houston.

As an actor who came from Broadway himself, the current Nashville star discussed his musical theater legacy, and what he thinks of the recent trend of televised musicals (like NBC’s The Sound Of Music Live and the upcoming Peter Pan). Most importantly though, we talked about Smash, if there’s any hope of bringing Bombshell to Broadway, and where in the world Debra Messing‘s scarves might be today. People need to know.

Coming from musical theater, it seems like you are really lucky to have been in a lot of musical TV shows.

Will Chase: Yeah, but the difference with Smash was there really wasn’t ever an opportunity to do a live show. And the fact that our characters on Nashville sing live, that’s what they do. I think we blew a lot of people’s minds, the fact that we actually came out and sang. And I think even people didn’t realize until [the Nashville cast] actually went on a tour and sang, that we actually sing. The group of people they’ve assembled blows my mind, and I come from performing live. On Smash, it was like all of a sudden we’d be in a scene and we’d be singing like in musical theater. Our singing is practical on Nashville. So they do a great job of finding writers who write songs for a moment at a concert but they’re also specific lyrics to that character, and that’s hard to do. I think they do it really well on our show.

Because of the success of The Sound Of Music Live and now Peter Pan, it seems like there’s a lot of TV and theater being paired up. Would you ever have aspirations to do something like that?

Oh, absolutely. The thrill of that is everybody’s waiting for something to go wrong when you’re watching.

Well, sure.

But no, I mean it’s thrilling. My friend Christian Borle did The Sound Of Music Live, and we come from doing stage, and he said he hasn’t been that nervous in a long time — this is in front of 18 million people, this isn’t 2,000 people in the theater. I would absolutely love [to do it] if anyone’s listening!

What would be your dream role to perform?

I would love to do Billy Bigelow in Carousel. That’d be great. I’d love to do that onstage eight times a week. You know, just a good meaty, big vocal. Something like that. Eventually Sweeney Todd at some point, but by that point everybody will have done it. But I would love to do a classic like Carousel.

It seems so hard to do something so old-fashioned like Carousel for a modern audience.

It’s hard to do. Movie musicals in that genre are hard to do. There’s something about live, when you don’t have a live audience, that, for me, defeats the purpose of live. So watching Sound of Music was thrilling because my friends are on it and I’m watching it. But there are those jokes that are set up, that writing, that there’s no reaction to [the material]. And that can only come from live theater and live performance.

I wish somebody would do — I don’t know how you do it, I don’t know where you do it — a true live television tele-play and still use different sets, but have some audience in this portion and some audience in this portion to really make it live. That would be incredible to have the thrill of audience reaction and actually shoot audience reaction. I know it gets into a different thing then, but for me, that was the only thing that I was missing ’cause I love live theater. There’s a line or there’s a moment and when you’re on stage, you feel the audience feel that connection or you hear their reactions. That’s palpable and I feel like that’s missing so I think it would be great to somehow to get the audience in it.

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Oct 21, 2014

Does Zac Efron Have A New Girlfriend?

Zac Efron recently partied in Europe for his 27th birthday. He brought along his rumored girlfriend, Sami Miró, making fans think the hunky star has finally found love. The Gossip Table’s panelists have the details.

In other news, Kris Jenner is reportedly staying strong as her estranged husband, Bruce, is back on the dating scene. However, our hosts think there’s more to the story. Watch the clip below for the full scoop.

For more celebrity gossip and entertainment news, go to VH1 Celebrity.

[Photo Credit: Getty Images]

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