Toronto-born food writer and Top Chef judge Gail Simmons recently got involved with #TakeOutHate, a social campaign to combat the discrimination facing minority-owned restaurants. We asked her about the campaign’s origins and what she stocks in her New York City pantry – including ingredients inspired by a trip to Japan last year.”
enRoute On top of the crisis all restaurants are facing, Asian restaurants are suffering from pandemic-driven discrimination. How did you get involved?
Gail Simmons I’ve spent the last few months watching my industry in turmoil. As someone who is a cheerleader for this community, I was outraged by the added layer of suffering that Asian restaurants are facing. It is within our ability to change this, and I felt lending my voice to the #TakeOutHate campaign was a way to help.
ER Where did the idea for #TakeOutHate come from?
GS #TakeOutHate came from a Japanese company called Ajinomoto that I’ve worked with over the last year. We produced a video featuring funny non-food people, including Margaret Cho, Harry Shum Jr. and Jenny Yang, putting a comedic but purposeful spin on how important it is to support Asian businesses. We must all actively play a role in fighting racism, and as a white person I’m very conscious of the privileged position I’m in.
ER How can we all help?
GS Get takeout from your local Asian restaurant. Buy a gift certificate. Make a donation to a restaurant relief fund. It isn’t only Asian restaurants, it’s all minority-owned, small-scale restaurants. All you have to do is order takeout to help them survive.
We also asked what summer looks like in Simmons’ home kitchen. Get inspired by the dishes, international ingredients and fresh, local foods in her New York City pantry – and her seasonal secret weapon.
ER What’s a pantry staple that elevates the everyday?
GS Furikake is a dried fish, seaweed and sesame spice mix and we go through it like crazy. We put it on popcorn, over avocado, on eggs, in rice – we make sushi handrolls and sprinkle it all over. My daughter is obsessed.
ER What food reminds you most of summer?
GS We are eating as many berries and stone fruits as we can. Cherries and strawberries and blueberries. Besides eating them fresh, if they’re starting to get soft we roast them; put them in the oven with a tiny bit of oil at 375°F for 15 minutes. It intensifies their flavour and transforms the fruit into a perfect topping for pancakes, yogurt and ice cream. We also make rhubarb pound cake and strawberry muffins. And peaches in a salad with cucumbers, mint, feta and fresh jalapenos is delicious.