Before she catapulted to Top Chef fame, Gail Simmons was in charge of running the Food & Wine Classic in Aspen, so it's no surprise that when we caught up with her there, she was completely in her element. She was, in fact, minutes away from hosting a seminar with Tom Colicchio and had just hosted her Last Bite Dessert Party with Johnny Iuzzini (that's the two of them, above, at said party) the night before. We grabbed her in haste to talk about Top Chef Masters, the Cronut craze, season 11 of Top Chef, and this Summer's coolest dessert trend.
POPSUGAR: Top Chef Masters 5 premieres July 24, and you'll be the head judge this time. What can you tell us about the competition level compared to previous seasons?
Gail Simmons: I've never been on Top Chef Masters full-time before, so this was new for me to see it through a whole season, and I loved it. The chefs are so solid this year. What's amazing about Masters, compared to the regular Top Chef, is that they're in it for different reasons. They're doing it for charity, and they're doing it to kind of be together. They all know each other, and we all know them. So it's not about the same level of stress and competition, but the good cause and the camaraderie. It's a chance for them to really be pushed and challenged again as chefs, which is great to see.
PS: You're the host of Top Chef Just Desserts. I have to ask: have you tried a Cronut? What do you think of it all?
GS: I've been living in New Orleans right now, because we're shooting Top Chef 11. The Cronut chaos erupted after I had left New York City. But I do know the Cronut. Dominique Ansel, who invented the Cronut, is an alumni of Daniel Boulud, and I worked for Daniel Boulud too, so I have known Dominique for a long time. He really is one of the most powerful and talented pastry chefs in America. Look, everyone loves a craze, and this is kind of the new thing. It's sweet and it's buttery and it's fried: I mean, what can be bad? But people are getting a little crazy. It's just a piece of dough, for God's sake. Calm down!
Dessert trends, Top Chef: New Orleans, and more, right this way.