Gail Simmons gives us a taste of her successful career as a culinary expert, TV personality and writer and how she manages it all.

My passion for the food industry began when…

Whether I knew it or not my passion began at a young age. My mother was a cooking teacher and food writer, long before these careers were trendy. This was in the late 70s and early 80s, when most women going back into the workforce were not spending time cooking. It was the era of TV dinners and microwave cooking. My mother was such a talented, spontaneous cook. She really instilled a love and appreciation for cooking and sharing meals together as a family.

I took it for granted until I went to college and started to write restaurant reviews for my college paper. When I announced I wanted to go into food writing after graduation – everyone said,  “You’re just like your mother,” which was not what someone in their early 20s wants to hear! I later realized that was such a gift she had given me.

How my mother measured her career…

The reason that she started was that it allowed her to work from home. She could spend time with her children while working full-time, as a writer and cooking teacher. Growing up, we would come home for lunch everyday and she would cook for us. She had passion for food and her career choice gave her the ability to be home for our family.

I balance work and family by…

Accepting the fact that there is never balance, but doing the best I can. It’s about prioritizing your life, and being as organized as you can be. I’m learning to draw stricter boundaries in my life of what I can and can’t do. I think it’s also about doing something you love, so that it doesn’t feel like work. If I am going to be away from my family, at least I believe in everything I do!

How Vogue Helped prepare me for my career today…

I learned a million skills! I was the assistant to food writer, Jeffrey Steingarten, one of the greatest writers of our time. The two years I spent at Vogue were the greatest education I ever received – more valuable than my college degree. Jeffrey is connected to every great chef in the world and I learned so many valuable lessons from him. He taught me the value of research and critical analysis – you cannot take short cuts if you want something done right. And if you do your research properly, the story writes itself.

Best advice for building your personal brand…

It’s about having integrity in what you choose to do – making decisions that demonstrate integrity and the quality of your work. Although it may sound cliché, there is no such thing as an overnight success. I’ve been working for 20 years and of that, 10 years were spent working hard for other people.

Also, be detail-oriented and prove the value of what you do. If you’re an asset to other people then that builds your own brand.

4 ways I celebrate my team’s accomplishments…

  1. Giving them credit when they succeed and taking the fall when they don’t.
  2. Always saying thank you!
  3. Encouraging my team to pursue their own strengths and foster what they’re good at.
  4. Sharing the perks I receive in my work.

Also, I think it is important to be a good connector. I’m always thinking about my colleagues, peers and team members and how I can connect them to like-minded people in my network.

I stay organized by…

  • Asking for help when I feel overwhelmed.
  • Keeping a very detailed calendar and taking a lot of notes, whether that be with a pen or digitally. The iPhone notes section in my phone has hundreds of notes. I also take a lot of pictures to remember things — like business cards, wine or event coat check tickets.
  • Making plans in advance. I believe in planning out my week in advance on the weekend. I make a detailed list of deadlines and work backwards so nothing comes as a giant surprise.

The Quality All Top Chef Winners share …

Humility. They are chefs who really appreciate the ingredients they work with and who have an appreciation for food and the craft of cooking. There’s a lot of ego in the kitchen, but that only gets you so far.

Trends in the food industry that I am most excited about…

Don’t believe in “trends.” I view it as things that I’m excited about – not trends that will come in and out. Things that I am excited about include:

  • Tackling waste in the food industry – ~30% of all food in the world goes to waste. The idea of giving back and wasting less, and being more conscious about this.
  • Revolution in the world of beverages. Tea, juices, sake, and more are all really exploding. You can now find quality in every category.
  • People are eating in less conventional places. There is so much great food all over country and in the most unlikely places. You don’t have to sit down for a four-course meal to have amazing food. You can have an incredible handmade breakfast at a local deli.
  • Restaurants open 24 hours – the conventions of meal times are changing.

Breakfast is the start of my day because…

Until well into my 30s I was never a breakfast person. Since I had a child, breakfast has now become the highlight of my day. It’s the main meal my family eats together everyday and it has become habitual. I don’t work a traditional 9-5 day, but I always find time to make and eat breakfast with my family every day.

The aspect of my work that gives me the most happiness…

Seeing that my love of food sparks passion in other people! The greatest reward of Top Chef and my work at Food & Wine is that I get stopped every day by someone telling me that I inspired them to go out and eat at a new restaurant, try new ingredients or have an appreciation for food. The reason I do my job is because I want to spread a love for eating good quality food. Knowing other people are touched by my work and my work has trickled into other people’s worlds makes me incredibly happy.

My biggest milestone in 2015…

There are a few! My proudest moment of the year from a work perspective – although a little milestone – is expanding my office space. It means we’re hiring more people and getting more work!

Also, my work at Babson College – I’m an entrepreneur in residence and work with socially conscious businesses. Whenever I go to Babson, I find it so rewarding. I get to see young entrepreneurs in the food space and seeing them succeed makes me feel really great about my contribution.

I cooked at the White House’s Annual Easter Egg Roll for 30,000+ children. Seeing the look on children’s faces was incredible.

Lessons I wished I learned when starting my career…

Part of me wants to say nothing – then I would have done it differently and I wouldn’t be in the same place today. Sometimes it’s good to be naïve because you don’t understand the risk you’re taking.

One thing is to not to be so hard on myself all the time about my work. Especially when I was younger, I was very hard on myself when things didn’t go as planned. I’ve realized its okay to not be perfect all of the time.