Before joining the ranks at Food & Wine and Top Chef , Gail worked alongside culinary giants like critic Jeffrey Steingarten and chefs Jean-Georges Vongerichten and Daniel Boulud, both of whom have restaurants in Las Vegas. Gail says the number of world-renowned chefs who set up shop in Vegas also sets this city apart.

"Every major chef in the world, pretty much, has a restaurant in Las Vegas, so our judging talent is over the top," she says. "If you don't have a restaurant there, you have a show. You've been there, you party there, you play there. There's the amalgamation of so many different industries that all come to Las Vegas to be at the top of the world."

Since Top Chef premiered in 2006, Gail says the series has become more legitimized and respected by industry insiders. Season 1 winner Harold Dieterle went on to open Perilla , a Zagat-rated restaurant in New York's Greenwich Village, in 2007, while other Top Chef champs have restaurants in the works.

Now, competitors know what's at stake. "Every year the bar gets raised," Gail says. "Every year the food gets better, the talent pool gets wider."

Gail says Season 6 features the most talented group of chefs yet. "We've never had this many great chefs cooking all together," she says. "That made our job really difficult, but it made our stomachs very happy."

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