Gail Simmons on Dana Cowin's Food & Wine Legacy: "She's Made It What It Is"

The #TopChef judge opens up about Dana's decision to leave the magazine.

When Dana Cowin announced she'd be leaving her post as editor-in-chief of Food & Wine magazine back in November, it was a decision that really affected Top Chef judge Gail Simmons. Gail joined the magazine in 2004 as a special projects manager, and has worked side-by-side with Dana, who has appeared on Top Chef herself, including in this week's quickfire challenge, for over a decade. They've known each other longer than we've known Padma's affinity for fall chili, and Gail admits that Dana will be hard to replace.  

"Dana leaving Food & Wine is a big deal for all of us. She's been at the magazine for 21 years, which is extraordinary for any magazine, especially in this day and age of media," Gail told The Daily Dish. "Dana has been our leader. She's not just a colleague; she's my mentor. She's a cheerleader. She's a brand, icon. She created Food & Wine, for all it's worth. She's made it what it is. So not having her there is unimaginable."

Dana will officially step away in mid-January to fill her new role as the chief creative officer of Chefs Club International, which just so happens to be the parent of Chefs Club by Food & Wine. It is a restaurant group with locations in Manhattan and Aspen, and its restaurants often feature chefs selected as “Best New Chefs” by the publication. "That being said I'm really proud of her for taking a new opportunity and knowing when there is a time for her to be able to spread her wings, do something different," Gail added. "She has so much experience and I can only imagine that she was really excited to get to use her brain in a different way. I've spent a lot of time talking to her since she stepped down and were gonna miss her but I also think it's an opportunity for the magazine to change directions a little bit. And she's left such an amazing foundation that whoever comes in after her, whoever that may be, will have very big shoes to fill."

Below, Gail opens up a bit about Season 13 of Top Chef, which airs Thursdays at 10/9c.

Top Chef
Padma Lakshmi and Gail Simmons on Top Chef Season 13
The judges discuss the most exciting part about the return to California.

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