Fans of Bravo's "Top Chef" and its dual spinoffs, "Top Chef Masters" and "Top Chef: Just Desserts," know Gail Simmons as the brand's cool but compassionate food critic, offering the voice of restaurant reason in the midst of head judge Tom Colicchio's technical know-how and Padma Lakshmi's educated-diner enthusiasm. And Simmons is perfectly happy with that image.
She's also perfectly happy to bust it wide open, which she recently did, at Lakshmi's behest, at the season-opening event of New York's nonprofit storytelling organization, The Moth -- and in the pages of her newly-released "third-life" memoir, "Talking With My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater."
Take, for example, the heartbreaking, hilarious and profanity-laced tale she told on The Moth stage of planning her wedding and Vietnam honeymoon to a T, only to have it all undone by her obsession with snakehead fish soup from one particular restaurant. One with infuriatingly irregular hours.
"A thousand people were sitting in that audience that night -- I did not sleep for a week and a half," Simmons recalls. "It was a really intimidating experience but one of the most gratifying things I've ever done in my professional career."
Simmons cites the 2010 Emmy victory for "Top Chef" as another high point for herself and the show's entire "pretty tight, scrappy little group" -- a group that will relocate its Season 9 finalists from toasty Texas to frigid Vancouver for the Wednesday, Feb. 29, finale.
What are you currently reading?
" 'A Game of Thrones (A Song of Ice and Fire, Book 1)' by George R.R. Martin."
What did you have for dinner last night?
"I went to Parm with my friend, food blogger Danyelle Freeman. We had fresh mozzarella with prosciutto, baked clams, calamari with Italian long peppers, killer eggplant parmesan, a three-layer slice of their famous ice-cream cake. Amazing!"
What is your next project?
"Book tour! I'll be coming to a city near you, so check my website (gailsimmons.com) for details! Once that ends, I'll start gearing up to shoot 'Top Chef Season 10'!"
When was the last vacation you took -- where and why?
"My husband and I spent two weeks in France this past August. It was glorious! The scenery! The weather! The cheese!"