New 'Top Chef Masters' Judge Krista Simmons Takes THR's Taste Test

Krista Summers

The journalist turned on-screen adjudicator -- whose TV debut Wednesday night -- talks frozen bananas, vegemite, Swedish meatballs, uni and more.

On the fourth season of Top Chef Masters, which bows on Wednesday night, L.A.-based journalist Krista Simmons (who has written for the L.A. Times and New York Magazine) joins Ruth Reichl and James Oseland on the Judges’ Table. Back from filming the new cycle in Las Vegas, she considers L.A.’s local scene, from Carousel in Glendale to uni at the Hollywood Farmers’ Market.

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Current Fixation
“I think I might morph into a giant vat of pork broth from all of the tsukemen [Japanese dipping noodles] I've been eating lately. I've been trying to find a place that beats Tsujita on Sawtelle, and aside from Jidaiya, no one has even come close. I'll keep trying, but only for the sake of research, I swear.”

Known For Cooking
“My favorite thing to do on a night in is to turn on some tunes, bust open a bottle of red, and roll out some hand-made pasta. I've also recently cracked the code on making the perfect kale quinoa burger. My little brother keeps bugging me for the recipe, but I'm holding out on him until he divulges his dating secrets. I am clueless in that department. Come to think of it, maybe the root of my singlehood is all those nights I spend home alone behind the stove.”

Destination Dinner
“If money weren't an issue, I'd hop on the next flight to Chiang Mai. It’s been a few years since my last trip to Thailand, and after dining at Pok Pok in Portland this past weekend, I'm really hankering to go back for more Northern Thai cuisine, like khao soi [egg noodles in a coconut curry broth] and herbaceous yam samun phrai salad.”

Go-To Take-Out
Carousel in Glendale for their ‘veggie delight’ platter with muhammara, dolmas, hummus, tabbouleh, babaganoush, and bulgur wheat pilaf instead of rice.”

Adventurous Bite
“Turkey testicles. I'm a ballsy eater, what can I say?”

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Simply Won’t Eat
“Until a few weeks ago I hated uni, which is sacrilegious for folks in the food industry. My world was rocked when I tried it live from the Hollywood Farmers Market, and I am now a convert. The only other thing I won't eat is fast food. Cheap meat freaks me out.”

Favorite Snack
“Frozen bananas blended with almond milk and a scoop of vanilla protein powder. Sometimes I add spinach if I need to get my veggies in for the day.”

Dietary Regimen
“I was a competitive swimmer through college, and after spending the majority of my life working out five hours a day, being lazy just feels wrong. I bike, hike, swim, spin and stretch as much as possible to stay healthy — ideally three or four times a week. I also try to eat vegetarian when it's within my control, and I don't buy meat to cook at home. When I'm out for work or judging on Top Chef, all bets are off though — especially when it comes to dessert.”

Preferred Company
“I love going out with my best friend Kara. She says that she loves dining with me because I eat like a stoner, even though I'm not.”

Pet Peeve
“Modernist technique being applied simply for the sake of sounding cool. Quit it with the funky, Venice Beach-looking foam already. If it's not delicious or adding to the plate, what's the point?”

Big Wish
“I wish that Echo Park would magically turn into a culinary Mecca so I didn't have to drive around in L.A. traffic so darn much.”

Embarrassing Experience
“I was doing a one-night stage at a fine dining restaurant in San Diego, and the chef de cuisine was a total dreamboat. He asked my opinion about a certain unnamed establishment in L.A., and I went on and on about how it didn't live up to the hype, dissecting everything from the food to the staff to the décor. After I'd finished flogging the place, he told me it was a restaurant he'd opened. I turned about as red as the lobster that was on the menu that night. And I wonder why I'm single.”

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Guilty Pleasure
“Vegemite. I lived in Australia for over a year, and it took a while to get used to, but now I spread it on whole-wheat toast topped with avocado for breakfast. It's got heaps of B12 and tastes a lot better than Red Bull.”

Last Meal
“My mom's Swedish meatballs and a bottle of Hitching Post pinot noir followed by an entire crack pie made by my next door neighbor Sarah Williams of Fruit & Flour. They might have to build me a larger coffin, but it'd be worth it.”