You grocery shop for not just yourself, but for your client Marc Jacobs and your catering business bigLITTLE. You must spend a lot of time shopping for food!
It’s basically what I do! For the most part I am usually grocery shopping or schlepping groceries from place to place. It’s a challenge, because as someone’s private chef you ultimately have to buy what they want. Though I will say I have had a big impact on what Marc eats.
What groceries stores in NYC can we find you at most often, and why?
I go all over, but mostly Whole Foods, Manhattan Fruit Exchange, and Chelsea Market. Chelsea Market, for me, is an amazing one stop shop. They have a cheese place, a spice shop, a butcher shop, and a fish market- all top quality.
Speaking of quality, have you ever shifted your routine in order to seek out shops with higher quality products?
Yes- I will not buy seafood or meat from Whole Foods. I won’t do it. If I’m in a total bind I’ll buy chicken from them. I will do Whole Foods produce and dairy, but in the larger scale grocery markets there is just so little attention to detail. Also I won’t ever buy produce from Trader Joe’s. If I need snacks, I will go there because they have a ton of them. Nuts are less expensive there. Things like that. I really advocate for spending the extra money on the things you don’t need every day, like meat, fish, dairy, and sugar. If you’re going to do it, go for something of high quality.
How often do you cook for yourself and how often do you cook for Marc?
I’m on call to cook for Marc every day. Some days are lighter in cooking than others, like today was a turkey sandwich kind of day. (laughing) Like I said, he is a huge snacker, and as his snacking habits change, he becomes very committed to one thing for an extended period of time and then phases it out.
“I really advocate for spending the extra money on the things you don’t need every day, like meat, fish, dairy, and sugar. If you’re going to do it, go for something of high quality.”
For me that’s fun because I can forecast where something is going to go and I can try and give him some options that are new. If I was cooking for someone who was super health conscious and cared about every single thing that was going into their body, it would be way different. But I’m cooking for someone who likes the flavors and textures of processed foods. You can’t take that away from somebody. You can integrate new things but you can’t change that.
What are some of your favorite dishes that you feel you have mastered cooking for Marc over the years?
I have totally mastered meatloaf and mashed potatoes. I make my own beef stock. I use dried herbs instead of fresh ones and different types of mustard. I reference America’s Test Kitchen a lot. They are so thorough with their recipe testing and I tend to take cues from them. I made a really great homemade peanut sauce with noodles, added a big herb salad on top, and asked him to give it a try, and now that’s a regular dish. When you make a homemade peanut sauce, you can taste the garlic, ginger, sesame, and peanut instead of just tasting sugar and salt, which is mainly what people taste in processed peanut sauce. He grew up on New York Jewish food so I also go to Russ & Daughters. I can do cured salmon, but when there is an institution that makes that stuff to such a high level of quality, I’ll just add it into the menu. (Acme is their smoked fish supplier) That is what makes New York so great- all of these specialty markets that have been cooking a few things for a hundred years and have mastered it.
Are there any dishes that you made for Marc but now incorporate into your own home cooking?
Pasta. Marc loves pasta, and although I love eating pasta in Italy, I never really grew up with it and therefore I didn’t normally cook it for myself. But now I really appreciate the process of making pasta, making a sauce, and bringing it all together. Something as simple as a buttered pasta or pasta in olive oil- that’s now a type of comfort food for me. My biggest take away from being a chef is learning to be consistent in how I cook. I think it’s what separates home cooks from professional cooks. You notice the difference and you start to educate yourself on the subtleties; and know how to achieve the same quality and taste every single time because you are being so diligent with your ingredients and cooking times.
If you could change one thing about the food industry what would it be?
Honestly, I think it would be to get rid of processed foods, and that’s a huge umbrella, right? It’s large scale food companies that rely on additives more than whole foods. I think we could solve so many world problems if you took the element of large scale processing and shipping out of food. More people would have direct interaction with cooking and what they are eating. As a starting point, we should work with whole ingredients. If we took the big snack, cereal, and frozen food industries out of supermarkets, it would change our footprint but also change our health across the globe. There is no way that will ever happen, because it’s too big of a business, but the positives would be that people would be healthier, more educated, and proficient in cooking for themselves. It would force people to take the time to eat. I just watched a great documentary called Sustainable . It’s a thought provoking film!
“That is what makes New York so great- all of these specialty markets that have been cooking a few things for a hundred years and have mastered it.”
You have found ways to work around the raisin.
Yeah girl you don’t need raisins! I try to buy bulk when I can, especially for specialty items or at markets that are part of my regular rotation each week. That’s why places like Carmel and Kalustyan’s are so great.
What items do you splurge on at the market?
A good ice cream, believe it or not. My friend Sara Kramer (Kismet and Madcapra in Los Angeles) got me hooked on Mcconnell’s Marionberry & Eureka lemon. Victory Garden Salted Caramel Goat’s milk gelato is another one. Superiority Burger gelato/sorbet seasonal combos blow my mind every time! Last but not least, Odd Fellows Miso Cherry or Chai. The other thing I splurge on is good olive oil. A good friend of mine Nick Perkins (owner of Harts in Brooklyn) uses this amazing olive oil that he buys in bulk called Pianogrillo. We tag on to his order from Gustiamo so we can get it at a better price.
“You should always buy at least one thing that you wouldn’t normally buy, just to try it out…”
Did your parents ever make a special dish that you had when you were a kid that you find yourself making now?
My parents did a lot of entertaining when I was a child. My mom was an incredible cook and her signature dish was this carrot souffle that I have now adapted as a canape base. In it’s original form, it’s boiled carrots blended with eggs and melted butter and spices and a little bit of flour, and then you cook it in the souffle dish. We’ve adapted it now with squash and pumpkin. On top, we add ground nuts, spices, sugar, and salt.
If you were stranded on an island and could only bring 5 ingredients with you, what would you bring?
It would have to be a coconut- in all of it’s forms. So…coconut water, coconut meat, coconut milk, and coconut oil. You can survive off of coconut! You stay hydrated, moisturized, and it’s a natural antibacterial, so you can use it for mouthwash.
Thats a great answer. The coconut. I always wondered why Tom Hanks didn’t just utilize the coconuts in Castaway more fully.
Thank you coconut for existing!
Lauren Gerrie’s Chewy Tahini Cookies
So this is one of my favorite cookie recipes that is so damn easy and the cookies are easily adaptable with different nut flours. This time of year I like using Hazelnut Flour or Almond flour and serving them with fresh strawberries & cream or yogurt! These cookies are so damn delicious and in the summer they are perfect for ice cream sandwiches because they are chewy and easy to bite through even when frozen!
- 1/2 cup (white or black or both) sesame seeds(for rolling)
- 1 1/2 cups almond flour or Hazelnut Flour
- 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
- 1/2 teaspoon sea salt
- 1/3 cup honey or high quality maple syrup
- 1/3 cup SOOM tahini
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract or almond extract
- I also love adding spice to my recipe, so sometimes I will include 1/2 Teaspoon of chili or cardamom