My Travel Tales: Gail Simmons

The Top Chef judge and author of the new cookbook Bringing It Home shares her favorite travel memories

WORDS By Gail Simmons
October 2017

Christmas in London

My husband and I decided to spend the holidays in London last year with our daughter, Dahlia. It was a really lovely vacation. As hectic as London can be, Christmas is such a magical time to be there. The streets are all lit up. The one thing I loved that was very British was how every restaurant we went to had those holiday crackers filled with little treats and toys, which was so fun for our daughter—but also us!

Blame Canada

I grew up in Toronto. I spent all my summers canoe tripping and all my winters downhill skiing in northern Ontario, so I’m more of an outdoorsy person than most people know— since I now live in New York City and spend most of my time eating in a cocktail dress on television. Truthfully, when I have a chance, I love being outdoors.

Rocky Mountain High

Whenever I had time off [while filming the upcoming season of Top Chef] in Denver, I was fly fishing, zip lining and mountain biking. I went to the Red Rocks Amphitheatre. I went running along the Cherokee Trail. It was very different from anywhere else we’ve ever filmed.

Getting Lost in Japan

My husband and I went to Asia for the first time for our honeymoon. Japan was the first place I’d been that really felt like I was traveling to the future. We didn’t know where we were going half the time. Back alleys led into extraordinary little bars, restaurants, food stalls and underground food courts. We just couldn’t believe how much there was to discover. That’s part of the fun of getting lost.

Where to Next

I’m dying to go to Fogo Island, off the coast of Newfoundland. It’s become an amazing destination. There’s so much happening there in food, architecture, design and ecotourism.

Gail’s Must-Pack List


I always wear a scarf when I travel, even in the middle of summer in New Orleans. I’m wearing one right now. They’re so versatile, which is great for when you don’t know what the weather will be like where you’re traveling.

Buddha Statue

I keep this little black Buddha in my suitcase. It goes with me everywhere I travel. It was actually given to me in Singapore by Eric Ripert, the famous chef in New York from Le Bernardin. We’ve traveled several places together—from Aspen to the Cayman Islands.


I always keep some dark chocolate in my carry-on bag. It’s my favorite little snack. I used to work for a food writer named Jeffrey Steingarten who always had a bar of 70 percent dark chocolate in his carry-on for, you know, emergencies.


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