To a foodie (or anyone, really), Gail Simmons is living the dream. As a trained culinary expert, critic, cookbook author, and judge on Bravo’s Top Chef, it’s literally her job to eat delectable food on the daily. But let’s face it: Plenty of that food isn’t the healthiest. So how in the world does she stay fit? We caught up with Simmons at the Food & Wine Best New Chefs event to find out her secrets.
Yes, it’s Simmons’ job to eat, but that doesn’t mean she’s devouring every last morsel of every meal. “You don’t need to finish everything on your plate,” said Simmons. “On Top Chef, it’s all about tasting, not eating the whole dish—I mean, you couldn’t possibly!” she said, laughing. When you dine out, she recommends dividing your meal in two, and either sharing half of it with a friend, or boxing it up for tasty leftovers. When it comes to super decadent food (we’re looking at you, chocolate lava cake), Simmons suggests taking a bite or two for the taste, to avoid going overboard.
“I feel like if part of my job is to eat, then the other part is to stay healthy,” Simmons said. “I consider it part of my job to exercise.” So she fits in movement whenever possible, by walking to work, for example, or choosing to take the stairs. She’s also serious about prioritizing her gym time. “If it’s not on my schedule to work out, things will come up and I’ll never get a chance.”
Although she’s bombarded by rich food during the day, Simmons knows super healthy food awaits her at home. “You can’t always control what you’re inundated with by the world every day,” she said. “But you can make a choice about what’s in your fridge and your pantry.” Simmons and her family “don’t bring anything bad into the house”—meaning they keep sugary and processed foods out of sight and out of mind. “Because, if they’re there, we’ll eat them,” she explained. “You don’t want to be too tempted.”
Food doesn’t need to be fussy in order to taste good, Gail explained. When she cooks for her family, she always uses simple, healthy ingredients like grilled vegetables, lean protein, quinoa, and faro. Her key to making those meals delicious and satisfying? Tons of seasoning! Think fresh herbs and spices, lemon juice and vinegar, and plenty of hot sauce. “You want to add things that will up the flavor, but still keep your food healthy,” she said.