The Austin Chronicle Guide to SXSW 2017

Talking With My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater

Food for Thought: Summer Reading

Talking With My Mouth Full: My Life as a Professional Eater

By Gail Simmons (Hyperion, $26.99, 270 pp)

Gail Simmons would probably be the first to acknowledge that she is the least famous of the three judges on Bravo's Top Chef. While people have gushed over Padma Lakshmi's voluptuous good looks and Tom Colicchio's lovable crankiness, Simmons has confidently asserted her expertise on the show without garnering much chatter, apart from gossipy speculations about whether she's pregnant, or simply gained weight. Talking With My Mouth Full, then, enacts a correction to that relative silence, recounting the career trajectory that landed her at Judges' Table for nine seasons of Top Chef and as host of Top Chef: Just Desserts.

Simmons' voice is approachable and eminently readable; she seems like a very likable person, someone who'd be fun to share a bottle of wine and a leisurely meal with. That said, the audience for this memoir is probably quite narrow, limited to Top Chef fans, or Food & Wine magazine fans, or food writers looking for a role model. (Simmons went to culinary school to lay the groundwork for her food journalism career.) Simmons' chatty reflections swing from engrossing, including her thoughts on the online sniping about her weight, to eye-roll-worthy, such as when she declares that she and her fellow Top Chef judges "don't take the responsibility lightly." It's a reality show, for crying out loud, not the search for a cure for cancer. That said, this memoir would make for a breezy companion in the car or airplane en route to some fabulous vacation destination, one that, it goes without saying, will feature exquisite food.

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