Gail Simmons is perhaps best known for being a judge on the insanely popular series Top Chef since season one nearly 10 years ago, but she’s also an accomplished writer and the special projects director at Food & Wine Magazine. With Top Chef’s 13th season premiering later this year, we caught up with Simmons to discuss what fans can look forward to, as well as her partnership with Pure Leaf iced tea.
“We’ve covered most of the country by now, but for this season we’re finally heading back to California,” Simmons told us. “We’re going to be all over the place this season, from San Francisco and Los Angeles to San Diego, Santa Barbara, Oakland, and Palm Springs, and of course somewhere unexpected for the finale.”
As opposed to previous seasons, when the contestants were stationed in one city, this will be the first time that they’re traveling throughout the season. “It was so much fun to go on a road trip and see the state’s culinary cultures,” she added. “The food culture is so different in all different parts of the state, and I really enjoyed the experience. It’s such a great place for produce, especially.”
Returning for each new season is a homecoming of sorts of Simmons, who’s grown tight with hosts Tom Colicchio and Padma Lakshmi. “I’ve been doing it so long that it’s hard to imagine a life without it,” she said. “I love meeting the chefs, and they’ve just gotten more and more talented as the series has progressed. Everyone on the show is a real professional, and I get to judge it with old familiar faces.”
Simmons has spent the past three years working with Pure Leaf, an iced tea company that she says "has a passion for real food.” She’s developed a host of recipes that incorporate Pure Leaf iced tea, including pickled radishes (“The sugar replaces the tannic flavor of the vinegar,” she told us), lemon-ginger tea pomegranate sparkler, and charred pomelo twist.