Gail Simmons gives us an inside look at the new Food Network show, premiering tonight, that turns celebrities into line cooks for some of the country’s best chefs.

By Christine Quinlan
Updated May 24, 2017
Food Network Star Plates
Credit: Courtesy of Food Network

Star Plates premiers tonight at 11:00 p.m. with an episode that pairs Mindy Kaling with chef Marcus Samuelsson.

“Mindy was obsessed with Marcus and his fried chicken. She’d go to Red Rooster whenever she was in New York but they had never met so this isn’t a case of best buddies. She said she was doing this just so she could meet Marcus. Not sure she really needed us for that but I still feel like a matchmaker,” says Gail Simmons, a fan-favorite judge on Top Chef and one of the producers of the show (Drew Barrymore is also a producer).

Simmons had the idea for the show and turned it into her first producing project for Bumble Pie, the company she started a couple of years ago with Samantha Bryant, a producer and casting director on Top Chef.

Here she shares some more behind the scenes scoop:

Will we see you on any episodes?
No, but you may recognize my voice on the show’s open.

Where did the idea for the show come from?
Celebrities would stop us all the time wanting to be judges on Top Chef or to talk about food when we’re at the Emmys. Huge celebrities, and they were obsessed. And they love the world of chefs and love to cook. There are a lot of similarities in production in the media space and production in the kitchen. It’s a lot more getting your hands dirty than you think with producing television and the work and sense of urgency is similar to a kitchen. We thought it would be funny to take all of these people that you know from unrelated genres and plop them into the kitchen and see how they do.

How did you hook up with co-producer Drew Barrymore?
We took this idea of fish out of water and pairing up great minds and first spoke to Drew’s company (Flower Films) about it since we loved what they did with Knife Fight. They worked on that show with Authentic Entertainment, who is also involved with Star Plates.

What can we expect from the show?
Everyone loves seeing behind the scenes at restaurants and Top Chef does that really well. This show also gives you a look at that top secret world behind the kitchen door.

Did the celebrities really work hard?

Yes! It’s a little like Bear Grylls’ Running Wild, except it’s in the kitchen. You’ll see a different side of all of these people under pressure. It’s not them being their perfect beautiful selves the whole time. In the kitchen none of us are perfect and you don’t get to yell cut during filming. There will be some bleeped language, lots of funny moments and some revelations. Having a number of comedic actors was great because comedians are fearless! The kitchen can be a scary place. But being a comedian is also scary. They know that being able to laugh at yourself makes the kitchen a less scary place.

Why found your own production company?
Samantha and I started it because we felt like there were a lack of female voices in the food media space. The majority of food content in primetime is male driven so we’re excited to be involved with this project.

Where does the name Bumble Pie come from?
Bumbleberry is very Canadian but I feel like I never hear it here. A bumbleberry pie is my favorite kind of pie. It’s a mixed berry pie and when we were trying to decide what to call our company we liked Bumble Pie. It has a Canadian symbolism but also evokes the idea of happy accidents and bumbling into this. There is a certain serendipity to it.