Fathom Questionnaire

Meet Top Chef Host Gail Simmons

by Gail Simmons

Gail looking pensive, blissed-out, and afloat at Amandari in Ubud, Bali

Hometown: NYC (but born and raised in Toronto)

Occupation: Special Projects Director, Food & Wine and Judge/Host, Bravo's Top Chef and Top Chef Just Desserts 

Favorite destinations: Bali, Tokyo, Montreal, Gloucester, Barcelona, Cape Town.

Dying to visit: Buenos Aires, Oaxaca, Cambodia.

Bizarre travel rituals: When I pack, I often lay out four times what I really need, then go day-by-day to edit it all down, and somehow still bring way too much. Also, I've been known to rearrange the furniture in my hotel room if I'm not feeling the layout. 

In-flight relaxation regime: Classical music on my headphones, a few good snacks (dark chocolate, almonds), my favorite scarf, and a large pile of magazines.

Always in carry-on: Clean Well Natural Hand Wipes, Eucerin Aquaphor and Eucerin Hand Cream, Blackberry and iPhone (yes, both), notebook, Cinnamon Altoids, sunglasses.

Concierge or DIY? A little bit of both. I decide where I want to go and when, but in countries where I don't speak the language, it's a luxury to have someone else help coordinate the details.

See it all or take it easy? I like a day or two on each end of a trip to totally take it easy, read, sleep, and relax. In between I can't help but do a lot of running around. 

Drive or be driven? Be driven! Ideally by my husband. I am map-obsessed, so I like being the navigator while he does the driving. I swear I was a cartographer in a past life. When we are in Asia or South America we seek out a driver/private guide. It's a great way to see the country through a local's eyes — and stomach. 

Travel hero: My dad. At 74, he has more stamina, does more research, and takes on more ambitious itineraries than anyone I know! He's a true adventurer. His travel hero is Bill Bryson, whose travel writing I love, too.

Weirdest thing seen on travels: Balinese tooth-filing ceremony, cod sperm for breakfast, Ho Chi Minh's embalmed body. (Not all at once.)

Best hotel amenity: At Alila Villas Uluwatu, Bali: sarongs, beach hats, beach totes, sunscreen, vaporizers, as well as separate men's and women's customized lip balms and toiletries in different transportative scents.

I dream about my meal at the Ben Thanh night market in Saigon and Etxeberri near San Sebastian.

Everywhere I go, I check out the farmers' markets and local drugstores — they're treasure troves!

When I arrive in a new place, I learn the lay of the land by asking the locals where they eat breakfast.

I always bring home local candy. 

If I never return to the Seoul aiport, it'll be too soon because how many Burberry stores does one terminal really need?

I travel for the thrill of getting lost, and found! 


Twitter: @gailsimmons
Talking With My Mouth Full (Hyperion), coming early 2012

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