The 'top' judge - Gail Simmons

Gail Simmons is a trained culinary expert, food writer, and dynamic television personality. Since the show's inception in 2006, she has lent her extensive expertise as a permanent judge on Bravo's Emmy-winning series 'Top Chef', currently in its 16th season. She also hosts 'Iron Chef Canada' and was the co-host of 'The Feed'. Her first cookbook 'Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating' was released in October 2017. Nominated for an IACP award for Best General Cookbook, it features recipes inspired by Gail's world travels—all made with accessible ingredients and with smart, simple techniques for successful family meals and easy entertaining. Gail's first book, a memoir titled 'Talking With My Mouth Full', was published in February 2012.

Excerpts from an interview:

Why did you decide to become a chef?

Well, I will not call myself a chef. I mean, the word chef means that you've got a restaurant and I don't run a restaurant. But I've been in the food industry. And I'm a food writer and food media expert. And I've been working in food for over 20 years. You know, I originally decided because my mother worked into, she wrote about food in Canada when I was growing up and she had a cooking school. And when I grew up and when I went to university and started cooking for myself, I realised that food was such an important part of culture and understanding people. And I decided that was what I wanted to pursue. And I've been working, you know, with chefs, magazines and writing on food, media, and television for the last over 20 years.

What is your favourite cuisine?

I don't have a favourite. I love everything. That's why I love what I do so much. And especially because I live in New York. I don't even have to eat the same cuisine twice a day. I can eat Vietnamese food for breakfast and Indian food for lunch and Japanese food for dinner. And then the next day I can eat Italian food for brunch and French food for dinner. That's why I love so much that my job allows me to travel. Because when I travel, I get to explore all different cuisines around the world.

What is your favourite food in Indian cuisine?

I love Indian food. I've never been to India. But I have many Indian friends and I know lots of great Indian folks and I certainly have been to many fantastic Indian restaurants all over. And I know; I find it beautiful and nuanced and spicy. It's such a rich cuisine and because it's such a big country and for me, there's so much to explore I love learning about the regionality of Indian food have food is so different in Goa then it is in Madras. It's such a huge, vast cuisine and I love sort of learning a definitive all over the country, and the traditions of Indian cuisine, but also very inspired by so many young, modern Indian cooks, who are coming to America and starting Indian restaurants, and combining the food of their childhood with, you know, their the techniques they learned in America and giving us their interpretations of Indian food. I think that's a very exciting thing.

The culinary industry is fast changing. How do you keep up with new food trends?

Well, being on 'Top Chef' helps a lot because every season, we have 15 young chefs who come to our show and show us everything they're cooking. And they're so talented, and they're coming from all over the country, that it is inspiring to see where they're getting inspiration and the new cuisines that they're cooking. You know, and in New York, part of my job is to eat out at restaurants and spend time with Chef and learn what people love to eat and are going out to eat for whatever those trends are. You know, I try not to focus too much on trends that I think will come and go but more movements that gain speed and traction, I will stick around along on different cuisines that we might not have been eating a couple of years ago that is finally being explored. Right now, in the United States, there are so many exciting ethnic cuisines from immigrant communities that were never elevated until now. There's always been great Indian food, there's always been good, you know, Chinese food, Italian, Japanese, Thai food. But now in the United States, what I love is we're getting amazing Caribbean food, amazing Filipino food, amazing Malaysian food, you know, incredible Haitian food and African food. And now very regional, Middle Eastern food. And those are immigrants' cuisines that have never come to the forefront.

When is your next book coming out?

I do not know when the next book will come out. The books that I wrote were two very different books. The first book was a story, it was my story of how I found my place in the food world and how food and popular culture combined. At the time that I was figuring out what to do when I was younger, coming out of university and I was very lucky enough to be sort of in the middle of that moment and find my love for cooking and my love for the restaurant industry. And my second book was a cookbook. And that was the story of you know, it was recipes from all of my travels and how I take all of my favourite recipes, and adapt them and bring them home to my own kitchen to cook for my friends and family and to cook in a very home cooking way. My process is very different for both in-band but both you know, it's just enormous labour of love both books, almost two years to write. And an enormous amount of research and detail and, homing in on design and voice and figuring out who I am and how I want the world to see me. And you know, I love them both two different reasons that I'm very proud of them. But my second book, my cookbook, it came out the week that I found out that I was pregnant with my second child. Hopefully, I'll write another book soon. But I'm taking a break from some diving into another book to enjoy my baby.

- Top Chef season 15 airs on AXN

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