4. Judging Top Chef in your spare time
Who does it: Gail Simmons, food personality, producer, author & consultant, New York today, Charleston tomorrow
What she does: Gail Simmons wears a lot of hats, each more fabulous than the next. She is the special projects director at Food & Wine, author of Talking with My Mouth Full, entrepreneur-in-residence and teacher at Babson College, founder of Humble Pie Productions (yes, she's behind the camera, too), and perhaps most famously, a permanent judge on Bravo's Top Chef. At the moment, she is filming and producing the first season of Star Plates, her production company's celebrity-and-chef-paired show. By the end of the month Simmons will be off to Charleston to shoot the 14th season of Top Chef. Oh, and she's also writing her first cookbook.
How she got the job: Simmons started writing restaurant reviews for her college paper. After graduating, she worked for a Canadian newspaper, but quickly moved to New York for culinary school. From there, she spent six months working in some of New York’s best kitchens. When Jeffrey Steingarten, the food critic at Vogue, needed a new research and recipe development assistant, Simmons fit the bill and carefully tested recipes and helped him with his next book for two years. She moved on to the marketing and events team at Daniel, because when Daniel Boulud offers you a job, you take it. Then, three years later, Simmons got a job at Food & Wine magazine where she was able to combine all of her food and media knowledge. One year in, a producer from Bravo approached the magazine to see if they had anyone to do a screen test for a new reality food show. After a heartfelt and intense critique of a diner omelet, Simmons became the third judge.
Advice: You need a backbone to differentiate yourself in the marketplace. Seek out mentors you trust and admire, and don't let your ego get in the way. Or best put, "keep your mouth shut so you can listen, but open so you can taste."