Fashion & Beauty

‘Top Chef’ judge Gail Simmons on her favorite secret spices, cookbooks, fashions

On Season 21 of “Top Chef,” the Emmy-winning cooking competition, chef-testants are chopping their way through the Midwest.

And as a new executive producer on the show, with even more involvement in the ins and outs of the series, longtime judge Gail Simmons tells Alexa she still finds time to dive into the local cuisine. 

Her can’t-miss Wisconsin dish? “Frozen custard — it’s like if soft-serve ice cream had a glow up: dense, ultra-creamy and so delicious!,” says Simmons, 47, who believes that fashion, like cooking, is all about layering textures and colors. 

“I am obsessed with fitted jumpsuits,” says the mom of two (Dahlia, 10, and Kole, 5, with husband Jeremy Abrams). “Pistola, Paige and Mother all make great versions that look equally flattering with sneakers or heels.” And for day-to-evening, “I can’t get enough oversized blazers,” she says. 

To spice up a look, the Toronto-born cookbook author (“Bringing It Home,” “Talking With My Mouth Full”) adds “a bold lip or an unexpected shoe.” While she’s admittedly a big fan of pink, Barbie’s got nothing on America Ferrera, as far as Simmons is concerned. “America always looks put together, comfortable, playful and polished — never fussy.” 

Following in a few of her fashion muse’s footsteps, here’s the foodie’s shopping list for a flavorful life.

FAVORITE BRIGHT IDEA: L’Aviva Home Doma Table Lamp

Courtesy of L'Aviva

“I’m obsessed with the design of their lamps and rugs, sourced fairly and equitably from Latin America and around the world.”

FAVORITE COOKBOOK: “Dessert Person” by Claire Saffitz

Courtesy of Penguin Random House

“I’m not necessarily a baker, but when/if I ever need inspiration, or to find a trusted source for a delicious recipe, this is my go-to!”

FAVORITE PACK: Clare V. Grande Fanny Bag

Courtesy of Clare V.

“Since COVID, this has been my go-to bag for everything and anything. It always looks great, is just the right size and fits to my side perfectly. I wear it like a security blanket.”     

FAVORITE FRAGRANCE: Maison Louis Marie No. 04 Bois de Balincourt Perfume Oil

Courtesy of Maison Louis Marie

“I discovered this perfume oil a few years ago and get stopped in the street all the time by strangers asking what I am wearing. It’s intoxicating, but never overpowering.”

FAVORITE SNEAKERS: Reebok Victoria Beckham x Club C Sneakers

Courtesy of Reebok

“VB is one of my favorite designers and her reboot of classic Reebok sneaks make me so happy!”

FAVORITE FOOTSIES: & Other Stories Glitter Socks

Courtesy of And Other Stories

“A little sparkle goes a long way. They have lots of cute, subtle designs; [they’re] comfy and affordable.”


Courtesy of Soom

“We go through jars of this excellent quality tahini, using it in everything from salad dressings to sauces for roasted veggies, dips and even in baked goods.”

FAVORITE SWEET-AND-SALTY SNACK: Kolsvart Smoked Licorice Fish

Courtesy of Kolvart

“My father’s from South Africa, where he ate lots of Dutch licorice as a child. From a young age, he got me into salty licorice, which is hard to find [in the States]. These are better quality than anything else out there, and their non-traditional flavors are great, too.”

FAVORITE HEALTHY SNACK: Rancho Meladuco Medjool Dates

“The most decadent, best-tasting dates I have ever had! Packed with nutrients, a great source of energy, and perfect for baking — cookies, shakes, cakes! They are ideal when I need a sugar fix on the go. They basically taste like caramel!”

FAVORITE NIGHTCAP: Casa Dragones Blanco Tequila

Courtesy of Casa Dragones

“I don’t like sweet cocktails. I do love sipping tequila on the rocks with lime or a dirty gin martini (not at the same time).”

FAVORITE COFFEE: Nespresso Vertuo Intenso

Courtesy of Nespresso

“I take mine with steamed milk. Not an ad. I am just a Nespresso person through and through.”

FAVORITE MAKEUP: Westman Atelier Lip Suede Les Nudes Lip Palette

Courtesy of Westman Atelier

“I keep this compact in my bag and find the color palette works no matter what I’m wearing. Sometimes I smudge a little on my cheeks, too.”

FAVORITE DRUGSTORE FIND: Garnier SkinActive Micellar Cleansing Water

Courtesy of Garnier

“I take this weightless makeup remover — that doesn’t leave any grease or film — with me everywhere.”