Gail Simmons was born in Toronto, Canada in 1976. The daughter of a food-writing mother, Gail began to write about food in college. In 1999, she moved to New York to attend culinary school, then worked for New York legends like Jeffrey Steingarten (at Vogue magazine) and chef Daniel Boulud, before landing a job with Food & Wine. This led to become a judge on Bravo’s Top Chef and a host of the show Top Chef: Just Desserts.
Gail Simmons was born in Toronto, Canada on May 19, 1976, the third of three children in a Jewish family with a rich culinary tradition. Her mother, Renee, was a food columnist for Globe and Mail, and conducted cooking classes in their home. Though Simmons’s father, Ivor, rarely cooked, he made a few specialty items that were revered by his brood, including pink applesauce and sour pickles.
After high school, Simmons went to McGill University in Montreal, where she majored in anthropology and Spanish, and spent a post-graduate semester in Spain. She began writing about food for the McGill Tribune during her last year in college, and then returned to Toronto after graduation to write for Toronto Life and the National Post. She then decided that she wanted a more in-depth culinary education, and in 1999, moved to New York City to attend culinary school at what is now the Institute of Culinary Education.
As part of her education at ICE, Simmons trained in the kitchens of Le Cirque 2000 and Vong. She then landed a job as a research assistant at Vogue, under legendary food critic Jeffrey Steingarten, before moving on to a position as special events manager for Daniel NYC, Chef Daniel Boulud’s restaurant empire.
In 2004, Simmons returned to the magazine world as the special projects director at Food & Wine magazine, working with marketing and editorial departments to put on special events like the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen. It was a fortuitous move. When Bravo later partnered with Food & Wine for a new television show, Top Chef, Simmons was called in for a screen test. She told a story of about her worst restaurant experience and nabbed a spot as a regular judge when the show first aired in 2006. In 2010, she began hosting a spinoff of the show, Top Chef: Just Desserts.
Throughout her career, Simmons has made several TV appearances, including on the Today show, Good Morning America and Fox and Friends, and has contributed to several cookbooks, including It Must’ve Been Something I Ate, Chef Daniel Boulud’s Cooking in New York City and The New American Chef. Her memoir, Talking with my Mouth Full, was published in February 2012.
In 2008, Simmons married Jeremy Abrams. The couple had met through mutual friends and their wedding, which featured a farmer’s market theme, appeared in Martha Stewart’s Real Weddings magazine. Simmons wore her mother’s wedding dress from 42 years earlier, a Carolina Herrera gown.
Philanthropy is important to Simmons, and she is an active supporter of Common Threads, a nonprofit oragnization that works to teache children how to cook healthy, inexpensive meals. She also helped found of the Wine’s Grow for Good Campaign, which works to raise money to fund sustainable agriculture programs; and she sits on the boards of charities such as City Harvest, Hot Bread Kitchen, the American Institute of Wine & Food, the Institute of Culinary Education’s Alumni Committee, and the Women at NBCU Advisory Board.
Although a broad palate is necessary for her work, Simmons has her favorite—and least favorite—foods: She doesn’t eat black beans because they upset her stomach, or veal because she thinks it tastes bland, but she loves butterscotch pudding, ice cream and dark chocolate.
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