Can we borrow Gail Simmons’ kitchen already? Seriously, from her hand-picked pantry items to the contents of her shockingly spotless and well-organized (and champagne-filled, bless) fridge, we’re beyond ready to invite ourselves over for a potluck dinner party. Post-pandemic, you know.
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Since she catapulted onto the food TV scene in 2006 on Top Chef, Simmons has made a name for herself hosting Iron Chef Canada, writing cookbooks, birthing babies, being a general cool New Yorker-about town, and of course moonlighting as a speaker at our own SHE Media #BlogHer19 Food conference in Brooklyn last year.
How does she manage that chock-full career (and, um, that chock-full fridge) plus those aforementioned babies, her own tiny foodies, 6-year-old Dahlia Rae Abrams and 2-year-old Kole Jack Abrams? With the help of a key roster of mom essentials, Simmons explains. Below, she shares her go-to list of product picks that keep her afloat day-to-day, from the books that feed her mind to the foods that feed her family.
The podcast I’m listening to right now
“I listen to a bunch. I listen to The NY Times, The Daily, Mom Brain (which helps me in parenting), a food industry one called Life’s a Banquet (which is funny), Speaking Broadly (about women entrepreneurs). For the kids, we mostly listen to podcasts in the car when we’re going on long drives, so storytelling podcasts, fairy tale podcasts and books on audiotape.”
The food I always have on hand for my kids
“In my pantry I always have things I can make for pasta, a quick meal, but with great flavor and that homemade taste. My number one is a jar of Rao’s Homemade — I always have it on hand and my kids particularly love the tomato basil. I know if I have it in my pantry, I can make a million things from braised chicken to pasta, quick veggies and even mixing it into dips.”
The books my kids are currently obsessed with
“My daughter is loving a series about a little girl named Katie Woo. She really is just starting to read; The Day the Crayons Quit and The Day the Crayons Came Back are her favorites. She’s a new reader, into doing everything herself. She loves all of the Pinkalicious books and all of the Fancy Nancy ones. My son is only 20 months old so he wants to look at big, bright pictures and call out things that he can identify: cars and trucks… He loves Richard Scarry’s I am a Bunny (he can recite it with us) and loves The Very Hungry Caterpillar. We’re just getting into all the classics with him.”
The books I’m reading myself
“There are three books on my night table right now: My Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion and Notes from a Young Black Chef by Kwame Onwuachi who is a former Top Chef and friend, and whose book I’m completely enthralled with. The parenting book I’m reading is How to Talk so Kids will Listen and Listen so Kids will Talk.”
The beauty product I always keep in my bag
“My NARS concealer. And I love this product that is a little stick that’s a quick wipe-on… It is the perfect lip and cheek stain if I need to throw on and look alive at the end of the day — the brand is Olio e Osso. It’s made with olive oil… and they have a bunch of different colors. Also, an eye oil, there’s this brand right around the corner at this amazing beauty store called Follain, and all of their beauty brands that they carry are nontoxic, sustainable, and natural. I got a moving eye roller, too.”
The app that makes my life as a parent easier
“The PBS app — the games on this app. (There’s two PBS apps with games and with videos). I find that they are really great and interactive, fun, they use math and science. It is really engaging with my daughter. That is my favorite one.”
The parenting accounts I love to follow on Instagram
“These two incredible women out of Toronto, Canada, called Cat and Nat who just get it: They’re hysterical, they say everything that you’re thinking as a mom. I love reading everything they say because they completely crack me up. I follow Mommy Shorts Squad (I find it really helpful). NY Times Parenting is another huge one; they link to all their articles, and they get to the heart of the most pressing issues you have as a parent.”
The toys that keep my kids occupied for hours
“My son will play for hours with a balloon, a box, or a broom; it doesn’t need to be anything else, and it’ll make him so happy. (I should stage a broom challenge with him). My daughter is really into arts and crafts. She’s really great about if we give her markers, paint, some chalk, and anything sparkly with stickers will go a long way.”
The TV shows I actually enjoy watching with my kids
“There’s a really quirky show that’s a math and science-centered show, and it is a PBS show called Odd Squad. It’s totally quirky and weird and out-there and awesome. I used to think it was going to be irritating, but the more I watch it, I realize how smart it really is. She loves this cartoon called Butterbean Cafe, which is about a bunch of fairies who run a restaurant and they’re cooking all the time — and it’s super sweet, pun intended. They are always cooking and making things and my daughter loves it because she loves to talk to me about all the cooking she’s learning. She knows that’s what I do for a living and I love listening to her talk about all the things she’s learning just from watching the show and all of the things that they make.”
The kid-friendly music I don’t hate playing around the house
“Right now my daughter is on a Taylor Swift tangent, and I can’t get her to play anything else; my husband tries to get her to listen to other things. We have been trying to get them to listen to non-kids music. I love listening to all the classics with them, but there’s a Reggae children version called Reggae Randy that we listen to. There is also a band called The Giggle Bellies that doesn’t drive me crazy… Giggle Bellies and Taylor Swift are on heavy rotation.”
My favorite subscriptions for kids
“We subscribe to two magazines for my daughter: Chop Chop, a great not-for-profit cooking magazine for kids, and it’s really smart. Then Highlights, which is a classic kids’ magazine my dad got my daughter for Christmas. We used to have a book-a-month subscription for my daughter from the PJ library when she was younger, but it was just for the first two years of her life. And of course, their Honest subscriptions of diapers and wipes — very important.”
My favorite under-the-radar kids brands
“I love when you find a brand that really solves a problem for you: One of the most amazing gifts we got when my son was born was a subscription to a brand called Lovevery, a child-centered box that you get every two months, so it goes along with the pattern of child development, and it’s toys and games and activities and learning tools for every stage of infancy through baby through to toddler. Now we have up until the two-year box (you get them every two months) — they’re big boxes full of the most beautiful toys — all wood, beautiful color palette. They’re based off of the Montessori toy philosophy. It starts at three months; those toys are just grasping toys and learning more about shape and color. They get more and more interesting and engaged as your child ages. They always come a month before your child hits that age. There’s block tools, there’s balls, and tracks for cars and stacking games and sewing games. That has been the most extraordinary gift. Lovevery is an amazing brand.”
How I keep my mom wardrobe on point
“Clothing brands that I love right now that I think that are just are really accessible and fun — I wear a lot of Veronica Beard, Loeffler Randall, a beautiful brand called CEA (a local New York brand)… I wear a lot of Rebecca Taylor, Rebecca Minkoff (fellow Brooklyn mom and I love her stuff). I just bought myself a new bag from an incredibly beautiful leather company called Lutz Morris — I bought a really big tote, it’s a great mom indulgence bag because it is really big, so it’s great to fit anything you need… it is also really chic and sturdy, so it will hold the weight.”
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