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Gail Simmons Talks Working With Andy Cohen During Top Chef's Early Years

"He’s a part of our family, for sure," the Bravo's Top Chef judge said of the Watch What Happens Live host.

By Laura Rosenfeld

When you think of Bravo's Top Chef, the people that immediately come to mind are usually Padma Lakshmi, Tom Colicchio, and Gail Simmons. However, there is one person who was just as much of a mainstay behind the scenes in the early days of the culinary competition: Andy Cohen.

We now know Andy as the host of Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen and an executive producer of The Real Housewives, in addition to his many other high-profile gigs. But of course, Andy first got his start at Bravo as an executive, where he was responsible for bringing many of the network's most beloved series to air, including Top Chef, which first debuted on March 8, 2006. Andy even received an Emmy Award when Season 6 of Top Chef was named Outstanding Reality - Competition Program at the 2010 ceremony.

Gail recalled the days when "Andy was our boss" during an exclusive interview with Bravo Insider in March. "Those first seasons, I mean, Andy really was a big part of creating Top Chef. He was there with us going through every episode and guiding us, and, you know, was really one of the forces behind the franchise in every possible way," Gail shared. "And it’s just funny ‘cause he was one of us. And he was on our crew, and he still is in many ways."

Andy brought his signature enthusiasm to Top Chef, according to Gail. "I have so many memories of Andy on set. He always was positive," she said, adding that "he was always so genuinely excited about" Top Chef. "There were so many major moments that he was there for and witnessed and sort of shepherded us through."

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Gail remembers dinners with Andy while on location filming seasons of the show, including Season 4 in Chicago, where she recalled him being confident that Top Chef would become a long-running and beloved series on Bravo. "He’s a part of the story," Gail said. "He’s a part of our family, for sure."

He may not be working on Top Chef these days, but Andy is still a part of the judges' lives, according to Gail. In fact, when you see the four of them get together, such as when Padma, Tom, and Gail appeared on WWHL in March 2020, they still seem very much like old friends.

"We all think of each other the same, I think. We never could have known that we’d be doing this so many years later — same with [Andy]. His life took so many turns along the way. And we’re still all very much in touch," Gail said. "I mean, look, Tom, Padma and I spend many months of the year together, and I think of them as my siblings, you know, in a lot of ways. We’ve all been through so much. We’ve spent so much time together over the years. And we’re very comfortable in each other’s presence. And Andy just falls right in whenever we’re all together ‘cause we have a long history."

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Believe it or not, that history began more than a decade ago as Top Chef celebrates its 15th anniversary this year. "I was, like, a baby," Gail said of herself in Season 1 of Top Chef. "It’s amazing. We had no idea what we were doing 15 years ago."

Gail reflected on how much Top Chef has evolved in that time, in addition to her own personal growth. "I see how nervous I was. And we were really trying to figure out this show, and I was in my late 20s. We’ve all grown up with the show. I mean, I think about what has happened in my personal life in 15 years. It’s sort of mind-blowing to think of how much the world has changed, and we’re still there sitting at that same table. I’m very grateful for it," she shared. "But we could have never have known what was to come. And that’s sort of the beauty of looking back at your former self, because you know what’s ahead, and at the time, we were just kind of along for the ride. And that’s pretty great."

Now, 18 seasons in, Gail couldn't think of her life without Top Chef — and we have to say, vice versa. "I never would have imagined that I would still be doing this so many years later. And enjoying it and getting so much out of it in my own career, but also in the friendships we’ve built and the places we’ve been and the way that it has shaped our own lives," Gail said. "This has changed all of our lives in ways we never imagined."

Want more Top Chef? New episodes air every Thursday at 8/7c or catch up on the Bravo app.