The Couture Palate

   I humbly submit to you that I have a borderline rambling disorder. Which means I easily fall prey to breathless tangents and enjoy the occasion tumble down the rabbit hole. If you continue to follow this blog you will notice that I follow my curiosity, and will deep dive into a subject relentlessly until that gnawing in my brain discontinues its persistence. It could very well be the cause of my rich nightlife (let's revisit my ongoing battle with insomnia at a later date). I’m never quite clear on where my chase is headed, typically my quests for answers is for no other reason than to find more questions. 

      The changing of any season always brings with it a renewed interest in the countless number of fashion videos or the newest crop of culinary documentaries available on YouTube, Netflix, or Amazon Prime Video. These two industries are giants of the pleasure trade, capitalizing on the idea that necessity is a luxury. As a peddler in the trade, I believe it’s wholly necessary to spend a few lines of this post unpacking the concepts of luxury and pleasure. There’s a great reflection about luxury by Chef Laura Calder from an episode of French Food At Home, a show that used to air on the Cooking Channel. It was Season 2 Episode 10-Life’s Luxuries, during the opening of the episode she says

“..true luxury should mean rare, authentic, exquisite.” Luxury should mean special, like really rich bubble bath." 

I’ve always felt this way about luxury or luxury items, I just hadn’t managed to articulate it yet. Luxury doesn’t have to be an elitist or inaccessible, it’s really driven by the user experience. How many times have you spent more money on something simply because it was marketed as luxurious and were deeply disappointed by the experience?

      Before my entry into professional cooking, I spent time pursuing a degree in design and advertising at The Art Institute of Philadelphia.  After high school, I spent a lot of hours working on desktop publishing projects for my mom and some her colleagues. I had a natural talent for it and I enjoyed the creative process so much I decided to turn my hobby into scholarly pursuit.  After 10 years of design, advertising and marketing I wanted to get away from hours behind a computer screen, so I moved to Nashville (more on this later) and spent time considering my options and looking for a new curiosity to pursue. Cooking began to slowly emerge and quickly became all-consuming, which was a surprise to me as well as everyone else that knows me.

     The transition into culinary from design felt and still feels very organic to me. If you talk to enough chefs you discover that many have spent the earlier parts of their lives chasing other passions. I’m not vocal about my love of fashion, mainly because it doesn’t fit the mental profile people have for chefs. Fashion designers and chefs have numerous commonalities. Chefs look at raw materials, goods that are grown and cultivated, and we search out what they want to say in a dish. I imagine fashion designers look at the raw materials in their own world in a similar way.



I left Nashville and moved to Brooklyn in August of 2010, it was the beginning of New York Fashion Week, and the irony was not lost on me. My stagiaire  [an apprenticeship or intern] consisted of catering a rooftop after party for a designer. The Fat Radish was well known in the fashion world and had been a part of the fashion week lexicon for a few years. Within the first weeks of opening, we fed some of the biggest names in the industry. It was incredible to see how the two worlds seamlessly connected over the months that followed.My very first job as a line cook was at a restaurant in the Lower East Side of New York City called the Fat Radish, a beautiful restaurant started by chef Ben Towill and Phil Winsor.

At the very beginning of the culinary fashion trend, and not long after the opening of the restaurant  the staff of the Fat Radish/Silkstone became the design inspiration for Gant Rugger (sophisticated American sportswear) designer and Creative Director Christopher Bastin 2012 Fall/Winter collection  Bastin used the "The Chef” and “The Restaurateur” as archetypes to inform his designs. Back of House [the kitchen staff of a restaurant] casual meets front of house [the dining room staff of a restaurant] polish. 

The Fat Radish and their sister company Silkstone Hospitality still have a great connection to the fashion world, and a piece of my culinary heart and deepest gratitude, my time there showed me what I could aspire to become.

I wanted to create a wardrobe for an imaginary chef and co-owner of a restaurant on this New York scene”, says Bastin, “Once I started looking into what they were doing, (Ben and Phil) became the campaign guys… They’re two Brits changing the game in their own way.

If you're actively participating in social media or pay attention to any type of celebrity news, you’ve noted a growing trend of models and fashion-forward thespians quickly becoming some of our cultures most vocal culinary influencers.  Chrissy Teigen, Carol Alt, Gwyneth Paltrow, Padma Lakshmi [Bravo's Top Chef], and Lorraine Pascale all have cookbooks and active blogs. The numbers continue to grow of fashion professionals writing food blogs, opening restaurants, and creating food-centric YouTube channels.

In the September 2013 issue of Vogue Australia, Zara Wong wrote a great piece about the “merging of food and fashion results in mutual lifestyle-ification,” it furthers highlights this connection, and hopefully, makes it appear less unusual. There is a shared attitude about how members of the fashion community engage with food and cooking, simply put …they don’t.We’ve successfully managed to fetishize beauty and eating.

Remember this gem for Carl's Jr?

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A beautiful model consumes this enormous burger, the basic advertising principle at play is “sex sells” which is blatantly obvious; the less obvious principle at work is the “normal woman shouldn’t eat this way, because you don’t look sexy, you look hungry”

There’s this space of shame that exist between the worlds of fashion, beauty, and food. The ongoing social dialogue about how the natural, human need to eat is accepted in the world of fashion, beauty, and image is a layered one…like a Vidalia onion. There have been contributions from both sides of the conversation that have given us permission to question our own judgments and challenge the shame. …..dammit..this post will need a part two, I hope you're prepared for a deep dive.  

Learn more:

The Fat Radish NYC

SilkStone Hospitality

Images Credit

Chrissy Teigen from Eater

Gwyneth Paltrow From Eater

Lorraine Pascale Amazon

Padma Laksmi Reign Magazine

Carol Alt Daily Beast