Gail Simmons: ‘I love what I do’

Steve Pardo
The Detroit News

Celebrity gourmand Gail Simmons has had a busy year. The trained culinary expert, writer, Food & Wine projects director, and “Top Chef” judge crisscrossed New York to Los Angeles for the filming of season 13 of the Emmy-winning food show on Bravo.

She’s working on new partnerships and new programs, and was grateful to have a couple of days off over the New Year’s holiday to spend with her husband and baby, who just turned 2 in late December.

Simmons, 39, a Toronto native who now lives in New York, published the book, “Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater” (Hachette Books) in 2012. Now, she’s working on her own cookbook.

When asked how she balances her home, work and life, Simmons said a key is “having a great husband” and a child who is a good traveler.

“I love what I do so often it doesn’t feel like work,” said Simmons via phone call from New York. “How does anyone manage anything? I work really hard, but I feel really lucky that I have a lot of great support.”

Simmons has been with the show since its inception in 2006. The shoots for “Top Chef” take about six weeks out of the year, which includes five weeks of shooting almost one entire season and another week, months later, in another location. This year, the show was shot in California, which meant long flights and time away from home.

“Our crew and cast works six-to-seven days a week during shooting,” she said. “Fourteen, 15 episodes takes longer to shoot than a lot of people think.”

The tight schedule keeps the cast contained on-site for the most part and allows the competition to be more fair and balanced. And over the years, the competitors — and the dishes — have gotten better.

“These days, it’s rare to get something really terrible,” she said. “Every season it gets stronger and stronger. But the first few episodes in every season the food is never as strong. There are eight cameras, people don’t know the kitchen, they don’t know where the pots and pans are — it’s never good quality in the first episodes; it’s just about getting food on the plate.”

Still Simmons admits there have been “pretty awful” dishes.

“I never remember them. It’s kind of like pain — you don’t remember it when it’s gone. I certainly came close to spitting things out.”

This year, she’ll work on creating and gathering recipes for her cookbook, scheduled to come out in 2017. She’s involved with Pure Leaf Tea. The first series “Star Plates,” features actors teaming up with chefs and recently premiered on the Cooking Channel. And she’s working on developing a production company she co-founded a year ago. The first series “Star Plates” recently premiered on the Cooking Channel.

“We all multitask. Everyone is busy and everyone is pulled in different directions,” Simmons said. “So it’s all about multitasking and doing what I love to do.”

Pure Leaf Lemon-Ginger Tea Pomegranate Sparkler

By Gail Simmons

2 tablespoons fresh ginger, thinly sliced

1 cup Pure Leaf Lemon Iced Tea

1/2 cup pomegranate juice

Cold club soda

2 tablespoons pomegranate seeds, for garnish

2 cinnamon sticks, for garnish

In a saucepan, combine the ginger and Pure Leaf Lemon Iced Tea and bring to a simmer.

Remove the pan from the heat and set aside to steep, about 10 minutes. Allow to cool in an airtight container in the fridge.

Fill two highball glasses with ice. Pour 1/2 cup ginger-infused tea, then 1/4 cup pomegranate juice into each glass. Top each with club soda, garnish with a tablespoon of pomegranate seeds and a cinnamon stick to stir.

For alcoholic version, add 2 ounces gin or bourbon before adding tea. Serves 2

Tart Apple Crumble with Pecans

Pair with Pure Leaf Lemon Iced Tea


5 pounds Macintosh apples, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch pieces

1 tablespoon lemon zest

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1/2 cup brown sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon vanilla


1 stick butter plus 1 tablespoon, softened and cubed

1 cup pecans

1 1/2 cups quick cooking oats

1 cup brown sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 1/2 tablespoons lemon zest

Vanilla or cinnamon ice cream for serving (optional)

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 9-by-14-inch oval baking dish with 1 tablespoon butter.

Place the pecans in the bowl of a food processor and pulse until coarsely ground, about 10 pulses. Do not overwork.

In a large mixing bowl, toss all filling ingredients to combine. Pour apples into prepared baking dish and set aside.

In a medium mixing bowl, combine pecans, oats, sugar, salt, cinnamon and lemon zest. Using your fingers, work the stick of butter into the topping ingredients until uniform. Topping should hold together when pressed. Scatter mixture evenly over apples and pat down gently to smooth.

Place baking dish on a sheet tray and bake until topping is lightly browned and filling is bubbly, 50-60 minutes. Serve warm with vanilla or cinnamon ice cream, if desired. Serves 8

Per serving: 550 calories; 23 g fat (9 g saturated fat; 38 percent calories from fat); 89 g carbohydrates; 68 g sugar; 34 mg cholesterol; 263 mg sodium; 4 g protein; 9 g fiber.