Gail Simmons' Instagram Post Shows Just How Close Top Chef Alumni Really Are

The current season of "Top Chef," set in Portland, Oregon during the COVID-19 pandemic, turned the restrictions of quarantine into an advantage. Judges Padma Lakshmi, Gail Simmons, and Tom Colicchio hunkered down in a COVID-safe bubble with several "Top Chef" alumni who served as guest judges and advisors for the current crop of cheftestants, per the Los Angeles Times. The L.A. newspaper's TV editor pointed out that the limitations imposed by lockdown ended up creating a more intimate sense of community among those on the show.

That bonding was apparent in a photo Simmons posted to Instagram on Thursday, June 24. You might consider it a "throwback Thursday" post, except Simmons didn't use the #TBT hashtag. Her post shows scenes from Cannon Beach, Oregon, with the famous Haystack Rock in the background. The photos and video were no doubt taken while the "Top Chef" cast was filming Season 18, back in September and October 2020 (via Variety). Simmons was jumping on Instagram to promote the Season 18 finale, which started June 24. (The show wraps up next week, per Oregon Live.) "Pawned childcare off on my @bravotopchef village of uncles and @verytikigirl," Simmons wrote in her Instagram caption — @verytikigirl being Tiki, Colicchio's retriever. "Cue zany Goonies-inspired adventures on the Oregon coast. Finale begins tonight at 8pm ET." In addition to Colicchio's dog, the photos show Colicchio himself, along with "Top Chef" alumnus Melissa King, Kwame Onwuachi, and Dale Talde.

'Top Chef' alumni bonded on the Oregon coast

Gail Simmons' Instagram post shows Simmons, Tom Colicchio, his pet dog, and three "Top Chef" alumni cavorting on the Oregon coast with Simmons' son Kole, who would have been two when "Top Chef" Season 18 filmed last fall, per People. In one photo, Kole swings his legs up in the air while chefs Kwame Onwuachi and Melissa King hold his hands. "Highlight of the trip!" King commented under the post, with the hashtag #UncleMel. King is the "Top Chef" reigning champion, having won the hearts of the judges during the Season 17 finale in Italy (via Food & Wine). King made it all the way to the finals in Season 12 of "Top Chef," too, but came up short.

Onwuachi, author of "Notes From a Young Black Chef," competed in "Top Chef" Season 13, according to Bravo. Chef Dale Talde, who also joined Simmons and Colicchio on that outing to the Oregon coast, finished in sixth place on "Top Chef" twice, in seasons 4 and 8, according to a separate article on Bravo's website. Talde wrote the cookbook "Asian-American" and is opening a noodle and dumpling restaurant at La Guardia Airport.