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Gail Simmons Discusses...

Gail Simmons Discusses Her Rise to “Top Chef” Fame

Gail Simmons is stirring up a real treat. On February 21 the Top Chef: Just Desserts star will whip out her first book entitled, Talking with My Mouth Full. No pots or pans are needed for this page-turner. In fact, instead of offering up recipes Gail’s book is loaded with stories about her life and how she earned her coveted job. We got a taste of Gail’s newest dish:

DivineCaroline: Congrats on the new project! Because you are an amazing chef, many of your fans will expect this to be a cookbook but it’s not. This is more of a memoir.
Gail Simmons: When I started thinking about what kind of book I wanted to write the first instinct was to write a cookbook. But then I started thinking of all of the great chefs who are writing cookbooks and then I realized, it is such a crowded landscape. I couldn’t think of a cookbook that wasn’t out there already and still had my personal touch.
 
DC: What made you want to write a memoir?
GS: I wrote it because people would ask me all sorts of questions about my background with food and how I judge food. I think people think I just woke up and became a judge on TV. That is so not true. This has been a thirty-five-year journey to get here. I wanted people to know how hard it has been to work in this industry. Yes, it has been fascinating but I also hope it encourages people to pursue their dream.

DC: So we will get to know a very different side of Gail?
GS: When people think of me they know I am known for my opinions and my insight into the professional world of cooking. That is the story I wanted to tell.  
  
DC: This book is dedicated to your mentors. Who might they be?
GS: I have a lot. For starters,my brother and my parents. They are the people who taught me how to eat. They taught me about food and the greater world around me. In my professional life: Jeffrey Steingarten, the food critic at Vogue. I worked for him for two years. Not only is the man is a genius, but he gave me an incredible education. Second, Daniel Bouloud, who is one of the best chefs in the world. I did marketing, public relations and special events for him for three years. He and his team taught me how to make the magic every night. He is so extraordinary and creative. From there I came to Food and Wine seven years ago. Our editor-in-chief Dana Cowin and publisher Christina Grdovic really took me under their wing and put me on television.

DC:  With mentors like this your climb to the top must have been smooth sailing!
GS: Not at all. There is no such thing as obstacle-free. While I had great mentors I worked hard to keep them. I had to do a lot of work to do on my end. As for my personal life, that has been a horror story. No amount of success is without its obstacles and challenges. Emotionally with family and there was heart ache.

DC: Such as?
GS: I touch upon my brother’s struggle with mental health and the relationships that broke my heart.

DC:  I am sorry to hear about your brother.
GS: That was the hardest part, writing about those personal moments. Let me sidebar by saying, I didn’t do a tell all. This book is about my relationship with food and how I learned to eat. I did leave out some personal stuff. I was careful to leave them out.

DC: Does your brother know you are writing about his issues?
GS: Yes. He read it and approved everything I wrote. Look, when I wrote this I wanted to tell my story. Although I didn’t run it by my ex-boyfriends I do feel all of the stories I included had a reason for being there. I really want to teach people the lessons I learned along the way. I didn’t want to hurt anyone but instead write stories that molded who I am as a human being.

DC: What are the key ingredients to being a great cook?
GS: Patience, precision, and perseverance.  

DC: What three things do you always keep in your kitchen?
GS: Lemons, hot sauce, and a giant chunk of parmesan cheese.

DC: What’s the one food you can’t live without?
GS: There are two: pickles and dark chocolate. And no I am not pregnant!
 
DC: What is the one ingredient you use the most?
GS: Besides salt, pepper and olive oil? I use lemons and a lot of citrus. I use them to make sauces, salad dressings and brighten up vegetables.

DC: How do eat so much and stay so thin?
GS: It is all about moderation. I love good food. I won’t feel guilty for eating the rich food that I love. No, I don’t eat it every day but I do exercise. I also love healthy foods like lentils, vegetables, whole grains and fruit.

DC: Sounds like portion control.
GS: I taste food and don’t feel the need to finish my plate.

Ilyssa Panitz

Ilyssa Panitz specializes in bringing the glitz and glamor of Hollywood right into the homes of her millions of readers. Ilyssa's primary focus is conducting one-on-one interviews with the famous faces of Tinseltown by digging into their lives and asking them the questions inquiring minds want to know. In addition to sitting down with the stars, Ilyssa has also covered many red carpet premieres and award shows.

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