June 25, 2014 11:00 AM

Melanie Dunea

Her wedding day and the arrival of her first child were years apart, but the major milestones in Gail Simmons‘s life will forever be intertwined.

When the Top Chef judge found out she was expecting a baby girl, the mom-to-be didn’t need any advice on deciding on the name Dahlia Rae.

“Dahlia is my favorite flower — it symbolizes sunshine and comes in so many amazing colors. It was our wedding flower and it was on our invitation,” Simmons tells Cricket’s Circle.

“Rae is to honor my husband’s Aunt Rena, who passed away two years ago. She was so encouraging and supportive in our lives, and we love and miss her so much.”

Simmons has always been a part of the team on Top Chef, but becoming a mother only further included her in the club. “I was the only one who didn’t have kids, so they’ve been a wealth of knowledge and help,” she says.

Michelle Bernstein made me realize it’s okay to be back at work and to lose the guilt associated with it because it’s the quality of the time you spend with your kids, not the quantity.”

But some lessons that go along with being a working mom, Simmons had to learn on her own. During a live studio audience taping, the first-time mom realized she had forgotten one important breastfeeding accessory — nursing pads.

“They leaked right there. It was horrifying. You think you’re at least keeping it together on the outside,” she says. “Of course I was wearing a beautiful silk dress. And in case you didn’t know, yes, milk stains. It was a low point.”

But even a few bumps in the road of parenting doesn’t deter Simmons. Although she’s juggling a full plate, she isn’t in a big rush to see her baby girl grow up.

“Everyone keeps saying, ‘Oh, it’s going to get better,’ but we are actually loving the early days,” she explains. “It’s such a special, cozy, crazy, amazing time. Of course I am exhausted, but I don’t feel like I am trying to just get through to the next stage.”

There is, however, one stage — fingers crossed! — that the celebrity chef is really looking forward to: solids. “I hope to make Dahlia Rae’s food myself in the beginning,” she shares. “I can’t wait for her to try avocado, banana, mango, sweet potato, peaches, corn. There would be great irony if I spawned a very picky eater.”

— Anya Leon


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