Most food celebrities boast a collection of their published works. Which is why it might surprise you to find out that Chef Gail Simmons, only recently published her first cookbook, Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating in the Fall of 2017. It has been a labour of love in the making for about five years now; giving her fans something that has been truly worth the wait. North American Traveller chats with Chef Simmons on her travels, recipes and her new cookbook.
Chef Gail Simmons: Bringing it Home
NA Traveller: Your new cookbook Bringing It Home: Favourite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating was obviously inspired by your travels. Being that we are a travel magazine would you mind telling us what city or town has influenced your recipe collection the most?
Chef Gail Simmons: It is not just one place. It is a collection of a whole lot of everything with influences from my entire life traveling the world, most of it being in North America. I grew up in Toronto, I have lived in Montreal for college, I have lived in New York for the last 18 years. But you know the cookbook is about my travels all over the country and all over the world.
One of my favourite places is New Orleans with its music and culture and with so much to offer not just its many flavours. It is a very special corner of the world for me.
NA Traveller: You have also been travelling a lot in the last few months to promote your new cookbook, are there any new dishes that have inspired you while on tour? Ones that might make it in a follow up publication perhaps?
Chef Gail Simmons: That is my job, traveling and eating and everyday I am inspired while I am working. I have tasted a million different dishes. Sometimes it is the restaurant from the night before or eating at a friends house or a diner I had breakfast in. Obviously I travel a lot, I am constantly gathering ideas and inspiration and I already have a lot of recipes I want to start making. That is part of what I do all the time. It is ongoing. But will I write another book, we will have to see. If I do I am not quite sure it will be about the same thing. I may want to take a different twist but that is what I love about what I do everyday, and not just for the book. I get to taste so many different things all the time. I love to tweak them, evolve them and cook them for my family and friends. It is definitely an ongoing process. It is a lot of fun.
NA Traveller: It is no secret that Top Chef is a roaring success. Would you attribute part of that success to exploring different locations, allowing your backdrop to be inspired by the areas own unique culinary offerings?
Chef Gail Simmons: Definitely, that is the whole reason why we travel. It is what lends itself to being the success that it has become and is still becoming.
NA Traveller: Being a Canadian gal at heart, do you get back to Toronto much? If so what are your favourite places to dine when visiting?
Chef Gail Simmons: There are a lot of great places, I only get to Toronto about twice a year. I wish I could go for longer but I travel so much for work that it is hard to do that. I also get to visit my husband’s family in Montreal. But we do not get to spend that much time in Canada anymore. Sure, everytime I go to Toronto I do try to check out at least one new place and it is such an amazing city. It has changed and grown even since I lived there. The restaurant scene is incredible. There are so many great places. I love revisiting my favourites but I really do try to eat at a new place every time I am there because there is much to discover.
It is such a huge city and I do spend a lot of time with my family in the area I grew up in. This past trip when I was there for my book tour I went from Roncesvalles all the way to the Danforth. There are places to eat in every corner of the city.
NA Traveller: Bringing things back to your cookbook, did you include any uniquely Canadian recipes that have inspired you along the way?
Chef Gail Simmons: There are a lot of Canadian recipes in my book actually. A lot of Quebecois recipes. I spent time living in Montreal for college and I married a Montrealer. My moms family are from Montreal as well. I find the food of Quebec to be the most unique food in Canada. There are great specialties across the country, great produce and amazing food sources from coast to coast but I find that as a different cuisine Quebecois has many incredible and very special dishes that you really cannot find anywhere else in North America. Or in the world. I have a few of them in my book. I have a soup recipe, I have a pouding chômeur and I have a very distinct pork and bean stew that I make with maple, black pepper cream. All these are connected to my life in Montreal.
Gail Simmons Headshot Photo Credit Guerin Blask.