January 9, 2017 • FOOD, PEOPLE

Top Chef’s Gail Simmons’ Favorite Southern Restaurants

Gail Simmons, a judge on Bravo’s hit cooking show Top Chef, had never set foot in Charleston before filming the show’s 14th season, currently airing on Thursday nights. Yet she was quickly besotted with the city. “I love how tropical it felt,” says the culinary expert, who was raised in Canada and now lives in New York. “We shot there in May and June and the whole city was covered in palmetto trees.

gail simmons from top chef holds glass of wine

“I also loved the food. I learned so much about Southern hospitality and culture shooting there. And I tried so many dishes native to the area that you really can’t find anywhere else (or aren’t nearly as good elsewhere), from tomato pie to Perloo, She-Crab soup, Hoppin’ John and of course, boiled peanuts. I was amazed at how genuine and kind everyone was to us—eager to share their stories and their unique culinary history.”

During breaks from overseeing the show’s 16 contestants—split, for the first time, between rookies and returning veterans—Gail tried out plenty of Charleston restaurants. Quite a few of them made it into the list of favorite Southern restaurants she shared with us here:

Gail Simmons’ 16 Favorite Southern Restaurants

1. Blackberry Farm in Wallund, TN (See our feature on Blackberry Farm here.)

2. Compère Lapin in New Orleans (Chef is Top Chef finalist Nina Compton.)

3. DAI DUE in Austin

4. FIG in Charleston (See our feature on FIG here.)

Ricotta Gnocchi & Grass-Fed Beef Bolognese #chseats

A photo posted by FIG Restaurant (@eatatfig) on

5. The Florence in Savannah (Chef is Top Chef judge Hugh Acheson.)

6. Hattie B’s Hot Chicken in Nashville

7. Hog & Hominy in Memphis

Lovin' from the wood-fired oven. Grits Al Forno | @hanna_farm grits, garlic, mushrooms, amatriciana

A photo posted by Hog & Hominy (@hogandhominy) on

8. Husk in Charleston & Nashville (See our feature on Husk here.)

9. Leon’s Fine Poultry & Oysters in Charleston

10. La Petite Grocery in New Orleans (Chef is Top Chef contestant Justin Devillier.)


11. Lonesome Dove in Fort Worth

12. Olamaie in Austin

13. Restaurant Eugene in Atlanta

Shrimp and grits never looked so good #atlantaeats #local #shrimp #grits #finedining

A photo posted by Restaurant Eugene (@restauranteugeneatl) on

14. Seewee Restaurant in Awendaw, SC

15. Willa Jean in New Orleans

16. The Wreck of the Richard & Charlene in Charleston

You can catch Top Chef every Thursday at 9/8c – only on Bravo.