Top Chef’s Gail Simmons On Her Fave L.A. Restos, New Book, And More!

Gail Simmons final cover
Sure, you hear (somewhat sparse) stories of ladies launching lucrative careers in the culinary biz, but it’s safe to say there isn’t an awe-inspiring tale quite like that of Gail Simmons. The impressive foodie is sort of a jack of all chow-related trades. Not only is she a skilled scribe and project director at Food & Wine, she's also offered her expert commentary as the judge of the beyond-famous (and addicting) show Top Chef since day one.

Well, now the accomplished food aficionado is compiling her years of experience and in-house intel into one must-read memoir,
Talking with My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater
. If you've ever wondered what goes down behind the Top Chef scenes, this is the read for you. We were lucky enough to gab with Gail about the new book, her fave dessert, top L.A. restos, and basically just get a sneak-peek into her insider-y world!


What influenced you to write a memoir?

"I found that so many people — strangers, friends, journalists — always ask me the same 20 questions about eating, cooking, judging food, how I got my job, and how I handle my weight. I realized the best way to answer them is by telling my story. It's a little unconventional, but at its base I think everyone can relate to it in some way, whether you care about food or not."

What’s your favorite go-to recipe?

"When I'm cooking at home for just myself and my husband, I love making his mom's chicken and barley stew with vegetables and lots of dill. It's hearty, easy, and satisfying. And it tastes even better the next day!"

You are a dessert enthusiast. What’s you all-time, must-have dessert?

"I love fantastical, magical desserts created by skilled pastry chefs. But my all-time favorite treat is simple butterscotch pudding or a chewy, chunky, chocolate-chip cookie, still warm from the oven. Total comfort food."

What’s one recipe you are dying to make, but haven't?

"Malaysian Chili Crab!"

What's one meal you can’t live without?

"Traditional pastrami on rye with mustard from Langer's in L.A. or 2nd Avenue Deli in New York."

Speaking of L.A., what are your favorite restaurants here?

"There are too many to count, but at the moment, I love Animal, Son of a Gun, Hatfield's, Red Medicine, Lukshon, Gjelina, A-Frame, The Spice Table, Cafe Gratitude, Jitlada, Hiko Sushi, The Nickel Diner, and Mozza."


What's your favorite restaurant of all-time?

"That's impossible to choose, but Arzak in San Sebastian, Iggy's in Singapore, Eleven Madison Park in New York, Spring in Paris, and Cibreo in Florence are all on the list!"

What words of wisdom do you have for those entering the world of professional eating?

"Learn to cook. Learn to taste. You cannot eat and speak critically with any authority until you understand the work and skill that went into making your food. Also, find a mentor who you admire and who will let you follow them around. Then, don't be afraid to ask a lot of questions. And finally, always give back. If you are lucky enough to get to eat for a living, remember that so many others go without food every day."

Photo: Courtesy of Hyperion

More from Los Angeles

R29 Original Series