We fell in love with Gail Simmons way back in 2006 when she first appeared on Bravo’s Top Chef. Now, sixteen seasons later, the mother of two has also become a cookbook author, host of Iron Chef Canada and all-around culinary badass. Simmons effortlessly tackles the demands and hectic schedules of her career, but it’s when she’s at home in her New York City apartment with her husband and two kids that her love and passion for food really shines. Simmons, who will be speaking at SHE Media’s #BlogHer Food conference in New York on Wednesday, recently chatted with us about all things food and she even let us take a peek inside her fridge.
SheKnows: Tell us a little bit about what’s in your fridge right now.
Gail Simmons: I’ll start at the top of the fridge. It’s not so sexy but on the top left are the probiotics I give my children. Beside them are two bottles of maple syrup. One is maple syrup with bourbon and that ceramic jug is our maple syrup jug. It’s handmade from Canada and we always keep our syrup in there. We’re from Canada and maple syrup looms large in our lives and our house. Beside it is some coconut milk leftover from a soup I made and underneath it is some sour dill pickles in a jar.
To the right, everything on that side of the shelf is fermented or preserved things that we’ve made or use. There’s some lemons that I quick-preserved in salt and olive oil and chili that’s from a recipe I got during a recent trip to Israel. Beside the lemons is some jerk sauce that I smuggled home from our trip to Jamaica and we slather it on everything. It’s super hot! To the right there’s a little jar of anchovy paste that I made called anchoiade — it’s a French anchovy and lemon paste that we do all sorts of things with. Next to that is my favorite fish sauce which has been aged in bourbon maple barrels. There’s a jar of kimchi and mango pickle in that section too.
The next shelf is generally where we keep our dairy and baby stuff — cottage cheese, yogurts, apple sauce, cream cheese, baby food. To the right is our pink box of eggs from a farm-to-home delivery service called Local Roots NYC. There’s some cheese and smoked salmon and almond flour in the back. A lot of people don’t know you should be keeping your almond and coconut flour in the refrigerator.
SK: I had no idea. Be right back, putting my almond flour in the fridge.
GS: Yeah, a lot of people keep them in the pantry but just like nuts, they do go rancid. They’re much more perishable.
The bottom shelf is always our leftovers or homemade food. That black container is my friend’s homemade chopped liver that he sent me for Passover. We’ve got some spaghetti squash that I roasted that we eat and give to our kids. Underneath that in our crisper we have citrus, herbs and more delicate fruits and vegetables and below is all of our greens. A lot of it we get from Local Roots — we got scallions, lettuce, asparagus and dandelion greens. There’s beets and huge stalks of rhubarb toward the front. Yesterday I took all the rhubarb and cooked it down with a little sugar and cardamom and made a big pot of rhubarb compote that we mix in our yogurt in the morning or put on top of ice cream. I try to use much less sugar than most recipes call for and if we need to add a little more sweetness for the kids I’ll put maple syrup or agave in there.
Now the door of the fridge is really telling! On the top left is Pickapeppa sauce — it’s a traditional Jamaican condiment that we love. There’s some chili oil in the front that was sent to me by my friend Mei Lin who won the Boston season of Top Chef and she now has an absolutely amazing restaurant in downtown L.A. called Nightshade. To the far right is some Nando’s peri peri hot sauce. Nando’s is a South African chain of peri peri chicken restaurants. I’m South African and I used to eat at Nando’s in South Africa so it’s very nostalgic for me.
SK: What’s your go-to healthy snack?
GS: We try to keep things like carrots and celery and lots of fruit. We have a lot of cottage cheese because cottage cheese has much more protein than yogurt. We always keep hard-boiled eggs in the fridge. My daughter is not a big meat eater but she is a big egg eater.
SK: What would you consider the ultimate comfort food?
GS: There’s so many! I will sit and eat a warm chocolate chip cookie, that’s all you need. Also, a big cheesy bowl of cacio e pepe pasta. Sometimes I’ll even put a soft-boiled egg in there and that, to me, is very comforting.
SK: Is there one ingredient you hate to work with?
GS: Yup. There’s a couple of things but the first one that comes to mind, because I generally avoid eating them, is black beans. It’s totally irrational because they’re a good ingredient and if I have to eat it professionally I will, but I have an aversion to black beans only because I got sick from them twice in my life. I just have this association that I can’t shake.