Wednesday, June 13, 2007

A Reality Check With ... Gail Simmons (Bravo's "Top Chef")

Tonight's supersized premiere of Bravo's Top Chef 3 (10:00-11:15pm EST) brings back our favorite judges as well as a new face. We spoke to Ted Allen (from Bravo's "Queer Eye") last week about being the newest judge. Now, one of our familiar faces, Gail Simmons, sits down with RealityCheckByGina to dish on the newest season of Bravo's hit show.

RC: When did your interest in food begin?
Gail: My mother was a cooking teacher & a food writer. I spent a lot of time in the kitchen when I was younger & it was something I was passionate about. It never occurred to me that I could have a career in this. I never really thought I could do this for a living. When I was in college, I started writing restaurant reviews for my school paper. I thought to myself, “There’s something fun here!”

RC: How does someone go from just having an interest in food to being an expert in the field?
Gail: You do a lot of eating! That’s what you do! That’s the God’s honest truth. I love food, I love the industry of food, I love chefs, I love the history. My degree in college was anthropology. I read every cookbook & piece of food journalism I could find. When I finally decided this is what I wanted to do, I went to my editor at the magazine I interned for & I said, “How do I do this?” He said, “If you want to be a good journalist, you need to go out & learn your subject. If you want to be a war reporter, you have to go to the front lines”. I picked up & went to New York. I went to culinary school & went on the front lines, so to speak.

RC: You oversee the Food & Wine Magazine Classic in Aspen. What does the event entail?
Gail: Well, I’m actually calling you from Aspen & the event kicks off tomorrow. It’s the premiere culinary festival in America. It’s our 25th anniversary but let me assure you, I haven’t been working on it for 25 years. We bring with us the most extraordinary culinary superpowers from across the country & overseas as well. We have the most die hard culinary fans there as well. It’s 3 days of seminars, demonstrations, wine parties – the most amazing wines from around the world! It’s a chance for everyone in the industry to get together & play!

RC: How did you first become involved in Top Chef? Had you been approached previously about being on a tv show?
Gail: It’s my first one – I’ve done a lot of television for Food & Wine Magazine. When Bravo was looking to do a culinary show of this nature, they wanted to work with a magazine partner that they could learn from. They came to us because Food & Wine because it’s the #1 magazine in advertising & the leader in the epicurean category. We’re big in discovering talent, finding the new, young stars. It worked out perfectly.

RC: Do you have a favorite previous contestant of Top Chef?
Gail: It’s so tough, once the season is over & we can look back, we can really be proud of them. Harold, our season 1 winner, just opened his restaurant in New York. It’s a beautiful, small restaurant in the West Village and very fortunately, it’s right near my house. He’s doing exactly what I hoped he would do. Ilan, the season 2 winner, is actually coming to Aspen for the weekend. It was part of his prize to be part of the Food & Wine Magazine Classic. He’s a really young, eager passionate chef.

RC: What can we look forward to this season in Miami?
Gail: The fact that it’s in Miami is pretty hot. It’s a really sexy town. There’s a lot of good food – obviously seafood is so extraordinary there. What’s really exciting is the guest talent on the show keeps getting better & better and I get to sit besides my own idols & work alongside them. The talent & quality of the contestants are amazing – they are the most driven, hilarious, passionate people from all across the country.

RC: Ted Allen mentioned some standout chefs from this season we should keep our eyes on. Do you have any early favorites?
Gail: I have to say, the women this year were super awesome! I know from being on the other side of the table (I was a cook, too) it was the toughest job. There are certain challenges that affect women more than men. I was so impressed with the women on the show. There are a few really amazing standout women – Casey from Dallas, Lia from NY, all of them! I was really impressed with them all!

RC: Do you have any other projects in the works or do the show & the magazine keep you busy enough?
Gail: It keeps me busy enough! I’m doing as much as I can. I’m working on a lot of projects with Food & Wine that are really exciting. I play a big role in everything from organizing events to appearing at them to working on the magazine & working with the biggest chefs. I’m living my dream!

Season 3 of Bravo's Top Chef kicks off tonight at 10pm EST


Lisa said...

This was a great interview Gina! I love Top Chef! Plus now I finally know the deal with Gail Simmons LOL

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