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Top Chef Judge Gail Simmons’ Holiday Gift Guide

Gail Simmons knows great food. The Top Chef judge (for 15 seasons and counting!) and ICE Culinary Arts graduate has a taste for adventurous eating and the passport mileage to prove it. But what does she cook when she’s in her own kitchen? Which recipes does Gail rely on again and again when she’s on her home turf?

Readers will discover Gail’s time-tested and totally doable favorites in her new cookbook, Bringing it Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating. We couldn’t think of a better gift to give the food lover in your life. But still, we were curious — what is the Toronto-native gifting the people on her list? As it turns out, food isn’t the only thing Gail knows well — check out her great gift recommendations. 

Gail Simmons
Photo by Johnny Miller

For the kitchen gadget whiz: Joule by ChefSteps

I'm not a big gadget person — I'm more a basic tool person — but one thing in the gadget category that I have totally fallen in love with is the Joule.

It’s a really sleek, tiny immersion circulator tool. You can clip it on the side of any pot, set the app on your phone to the exact degree that you want to cook and sous vide almost anything. It is so easy and amazing. I used to scoff at the idea of a sous vide machine for the home cook and how modern chefs are so crazy for them, but I found so many great uses for the sous vide.

It’s also a great way to cook with kids because they can't burn themselves and it is easy to understand and use with them. I have made everything from poached lobster, steak and chicken to crème brulée with the Joule.

For the ace baker: Supernatural Kitchen Baking Products

Right now I am really obsessed with a new line of all-natural baking products just launched by Supernatural, a company created by a friend of mine. They make coconut sugar, which I love and use in all of my baking. Don't get me wrong — it’s still sugar, but it has a lower glycemic index than regular refined sugar and I love the flavor.

The other product that I recommend for bakers is Supernatural’s line of natural, plant-derived food coloring. They are vibrant, gorgeous, amazing colors and there is nothing bad in them; there are no artificial colors or preservatives. They have this amazing color called Magic Blackberry, which is a really deep blue. It can become almost black, but you can also adjust the amount so it becomes pinkish.

It is great for baking with kids, obviously, because it is all natural, but they also do sprinkles and sequins in all natural colors, star confetti [“starfetti”] and rainbow sprinkles.

For the curator of beautiful things:Ceramic Pitcher (That Doubles as a Vase)

I love beautiful ceramics that are functional — like a beautiful ceramic pitcher that can also be used as a vase, so it is very multi-purpose.

For the host(ess) with the most(ess): Marble and Copper Monogram Boards

For friends who are entertainers, I would get a beautiful marble slab from Williams Sonoma. Their version has a copper monogram on it, so it’s a nice personalization. It’s also great for taking pictures of your food on.

The cookbook collector:Bringing It Home: Favorite Recipes from a Life of Adventurous Eating by Gail Simmons

So my book, I think it’s the best possible gift. I worked really hard on it. It was two years in the making but really a lifetime. It has recipes that are meant for the real home cook. It has recipes that I actually cook all the time, for all levels of cooks. There are some ambitious recipes, but there are also a lot of simply delicious dishes that anyone could make — that’s what I look for in a cookbook. There are over a hundred recipes that I have created and developed from my lifetime of traveling the world and cooking with some of the greatest chefs. It was a real labor of love.

It’s also perfect for the holiday season: there’s a whole chapter in the book called “Party Time,” which is all snacks and food that I love serving when I have people over, but not for a seated meal. I do different dips like muhammara, a Syrian-inspired dip with roasted red peppers, walnuts and pomegranates. Then there’s a great basic hummus that I serve with preserved lemon and fennel seed.

In that same chapter, I have amazing fried pickles and crispy baked chickpeas. Or my latke Reubens, which is what I will be serving for Hanukkah this year. I used my mom's latke recipe and then I make a great play on Russian dressing with spicy sour cream and I serve it with pastrami slices and a really fresh, bright apple-celery slaw on top.

For the in-law who you will impress this year: Food-Inspired Jewelry from Delicacies

I try to get my in-laws something that they wouldn't necessarily get themselves. My father-in-law is tricky, but he's a sports guy so hockey tickets are what I generally go with. Hockey tickets or a really nice pair of gloves. For my mother-in-law, there is this jewelry company called Delicacies that makes elegant, food-inspired jewelry, and gives a portion of their proceeds to hunger-related charities; until the end of this year, they are donating a portion of the proceeds from all purchases to City Harvest.

They make these beautiful, diamond-encrusted eggs that are pendants for necklaces or bracelets, or they have gold and silver eggs, too. I love the egg because it’s a beautiful symbol for its shape and it’s symbolic of fertility and renewal and the New Year. They also do a line of pasta-related jewelry, which are really fun. I have a farfalle necklace that I wear all the time — that would be perfect to give my mother-in-law.

Wildcard:Essrum Egg Cups

Speaking of eggs — because I love an egg and I think they are a fun gift to get people: little egg cups. I collect egg cups and not a lot of people own them. I have a great recipe in my book for soft-boiled eggs with buttery soldiers that I serve with two different kinds of butters — these egg cups could be great for that.

Interested in learning where a Culinary Arts diploma can take you? Learn more about ICE’s career program.

Looking for the ultimate gift for the food lover in your life? Try a gift card for a cooking, baking, wine or mixology course at ICE. From homemade pasta and creative macarons to Tuscan wines and New Orleans–style cocktails, there are so many courses to choose from. Even better: when you buy a gift card, you’ll get a gift card worth a 20% discount. Then maybe you and your loved one can make something delicious together. To redeem this offer, enter the code ICEHOLIDAY17 during checkout. This promotion is available beginning at 12am on December 15th and ending at 11:59pm on December 26th. This code is not valid for previous orders and cannot be combined with gift card orders.

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