Behind the Scenes

18 Questions with Gail Simmons

If you’ve been keeping up with us, you have surely heard that we’ve launched an incredible new partnership with Gail Simmons—Top Chef judge, food personality, author, mom, businesswoman, everything. After cooking some delicious recipes together, we got to sit down with Gail and get the deets on the inspiration behind her brand new cookbook, Bringing It Home. Even better, one of her favorite recipes will be appearing on the Plated menu, so you can enjoy her amazing Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel at home.

From cooking tips and tricks to career advice and her favorite dishes, we’re totally inspired by our conversation with Gail. After reading, we think you will be, too!

First and foremost, why did you choose to partner with Plated?

What I really love about Plated is that the customers are so enthusiastic and passionate about cooking. They love recipes that are familiar with a twist, which is so aligned with my book. It just felt like the perfect fit!

Let’s talk more about the book! What was it like to put everything together?

It’s my very first cookbook! I’ve collaborated on others and written other books, but this is my first traditional cookbook, and it’s been two years in the making. It’s a collection of 100+ of my favorite recipes, from my lifetime of traveling the world, working on Top Chef, working for Food & Wine, and cooking with all the chefs and culinary experts I’ve had the privilege to know. It’s a lot of travel memories and stories that give you information on how to cook better, think about food differently, and be more active in the kitchen.

Photo courtesy of Gail Simmons

What’s been most surprising about working on this project?

Honestly, how much I improved as a cook myself. They’re all my recipes—things I’ve been cooking for a long time, but when you have to focus, write down every step, test and retest, gather, and codify everything…it really brought my cooking game together! I also used to cook more but with travel, having a kid, and work, I stopped spending as much time in the kitchen. Now I’m back, and I hope I never have to leave!

Who’s the book for?

Technically, it’s dedicated to my daughter, Dalia (we call her D), but overall it’s for anyone who has a passion for cooking and wants to learn more—a home cook cookbook. I didn’t include recipes with totally unfamiliar tools or ingredients. I want people to really use this book. Get it dirty. Take it into kitchen with you. Have me alongside you for all your cooking adventures.

Photo courtesy of Gail Simmons

You have such an extensive history working in the food industry. What are similarities and differences you’ve noticed across jobs?

It’s always been about getting my hands dirty. I came to every job because of food and cooking. First, I worked for the food critic at Vogue. I was doing a ton of recipe testing—it was all about food, not fashion (which is funny). Then, I went to Daniel Boulud and worked in marketing and PR, but really spent all my time with Daniel and other chefs. I’ve tried (and mostly succeeded) to never leave the kitchen!

I guess a difference would be that I was able to look at food and cooking from so many different angles across my career. It taught me so much about the food industry.

What would be some advice you have for someone interested in a job in food media?

Food media is in such a different place than when I started. Now, it’s exploded. Look at Plated! There are so many ways to be involved, and so many different ways people are consuming food and food writing. Here’s the hitch: You need practical experience. Spend time in the kitchen. You can’t just love to eat, unfortunately. Being in the kitchen will teach you about writing—you can’t be an expert in any category until you’ve lived it. I got that advice from an editor early in my career, and it really helped direct my profession. You need to be on the front lines. Put cooking first, the rest will come.

Photo courtesy of Gail Simmons

So, on another note, you’re also a mom. Many of our Plated customers also have kids. Any advice on getting kids more involved in the kitchen?

Ha, the million-dollar question! It’s hard. You want to make sure your kids are eating well and diversely. I’m definitely not perfect. The #1 thing: keep your kids engaged. My daughter is three and a half, so she’s not making soufflés, but she IS constantly surrounded by cooking. She’s comfortable in the kitchen, is comfortable watching me, and understands the process. She has her own child-safe knife, too. Keep as many types of food around as possible. When your kids see you trying new things and enjoying them, they’re more likely to follow suit.

Also, be patient.

Okay, let’s talk food. What’s your favorite thing to cook at home?

It depends, really, but I love breakfast, especially when I can cook it and enjoy it with my daughter at home.

We have to ask. Who would be at your dream dinner party?

Jimmy Kimmel for the laughs, Michelle Obama because she’s just incredible, and Drew Barrymore. She’s fun and she loves to eat and drink. That’s a start, right?

Favorite word to describe food?


Favorite food destination?

Can I do North America and international? Okay. First, New Orleans and Montreal (I’m Canadian, if you didn’t know). Then, Tokyo and Paris.

Go-to dish in Canada:

There’s actually a lot of French-Canadian food in my book! It happened organically. My favorite, though, is tarte au sucre. It’s a traditional maple syrup tarte with hazelnut crust and cold cream. So good.

Three ingredients you always have in your fridge?

Eggs, lemons, and Parmesan cheese.

Saturday night movie snack:

Popcorn! We love to make our own seasonings: dried citrus, smoked salts, dried herb and spice mixes, crushed seaweed, toasted nuts. Also, butter.

Photo courtesy of Plated

So how’s the process (working with Plated, that is) been?

It’s been truly fascinating to see how Plated takes a recipe that’s personal and special to my book and transforms it into an easy dinner anyone can cook at home. My book definitely gives you the tools to do that, but Plated’s process of boxing it up and breaking is amazing.

Has the dish (featured on Plated menus) changed at all?

No! It stays true to the original, which is so impressive. You can make this recipe at home with my book, but Plated makes it much more convenient—it comes to your door with everything you need. I’m honored it maintained all of its delicious integrity!

Photo courtesy of Plated

Why is the Za’atar Chicken Schnitzel the best recipe to share with Plated’s audience?

It borrows familiar ingredients like chicken schnitzel and gives it a little twist because of the za’atar. I also love the Israeli salad—it’s so traditional, so fresh, and has tons of gorgeous herbs, but you might not know how to make it at home. I wanted to teach Plated’s customers something new, but not too foreign. It’s a recipe you’ll feel comfortable making, while still getting surprises.

What do you hope people take away from cooking your recipe?

I hope they get a taste of what I love to cook, and want more! It’s familiar, based in solid cooking skills, and also teaches you something. You can experience new cooking adventures, and bring them home.

Now can you tell why we’re so inspired? We just couldn’t stop with one incredible conversation. For a sneak peek at the Plated recipe process when Gail came to our kitchen and cooked with our chefs, look no further. If you’re still hungry, we’ve got even more video content with additional exclusive tips and tricks from Gail right here. Eat up!

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