It has been an exciting past two years as I’ve developed the recipes and pored over the creative direction for Cook Beautiful. During this same timeframe, I’ve also been renovating my townhouse. The process of creating the cookbook has paralleled the overhaul of my home. All the recipes in the book were developed pre-renovation, just one floor above my house, in a janky, tiny rental kitchen with 1940s appliances and an oven that was perpetually 200 degrees off. So, it’s only fitting that I threw a Cook Beautiful celebration right in my own, still-under-renovation home.
I learned so much on this journey, and the coming together of so many incredible people gathered around the table to celebrate the book meant the world to me. At this very special dinner, the crew was comprised of my family, friends, colleagues, creative collaborators, and supporters who straddle my many walks of life – food, design, fashion, and lifestyle. These are the people who inspired me creatively and supported me emotionally, giving me a gentle push when I needed it, offering advice, and acting as a sounding board, or even a shoulder to cry on.
Food is a powerful thing, and it offers me so much. It’s a creative outlet as I layer and develop flavors. It provides a feeling of purpose and joy as I feed my loved ones. It brings about an education spanning seasonality, farming, and the importance of eating locally and knowing where our food comes from. Food has the power to nourish our bodies and our hearts, and it’s at the center of so many memories. This gathering was certainly one I’ll not soon forget.
I say in Cook Beautiful that my love of cooking brought my entire life into focus – and that really is true. The kitchen has always been a safe place for me. It’s been my space to discover new flavors and techniques, to take risks, to challenge myself, to trust myself, to riff, and to explore. I’ve always been an intuitive cook and my cooking relies on playing with opposition, shocking the palate, and combining bright, clean Mediterranean flavors with sweet, spicy, briny, and crunchy components – sometimes all in one bite. Yes, I like bold flavors. My cooking also relies on seasonality. Even at the outset, it was absolutely clear to me that I would organize Cook Beautiful seasonally because that’s the way I eat and I make meals for my family and friends.
Not gonna lie, I love to make things look beautiful. I am a visual person and I always have been. Because my background is in design, visual presentation plays a role in all I do. Flavors and beauty – they are always working in tandem in my world. I cannot have one without the other. This book’s core focus is taste, but it’s also a book about presentation. Our eyes are what first lure us into meal. So in thinking about seasonality with respect to the book, I wanted to explore what seasonality tastes like – and what it looks like.
I try to engage all of the senses when I cook. With this prospect in mind, in creating Cook Beautiful, I began by taking inspiration from the natural world. I realized that the time of year not only informs our produce and recipes, but it also dictates the tonality and vibe of my gatherings.
In the book I approach seasonality holistically, from the produce to the table décor to the flowers. Each season in Cook Beautiful has its own hue attached to it. For this celebration I worked with florist Fox Fodder Farm to express autumn’s splendor – a warm, all-encompassing glow that only fall’s abundance can offer. In lieu of traditional flowers, the tablescape became an artful mess of seasonal delights from the farmer’s market. Gourds, grapes, pears, and purple broccoli spilled over into the décor and onto the plate. The table reflected the same integrated seasonal theme present throughout the book.
Adorning the table were breathtaking pieces from Georg Jensen. Travel, with its new cultures and flavors, has been a driving force along my culinary path, and this continues today. I recently went to Copenhagen with Georg Jensen where I was able to explore my dueling passions of food and design and learn more about the history of the Georg Jensen brand. Working together with Georg Jensen was a dream partnership, as we mirror one another’s core values with regard to style, design, and function – and also quality, craftsmanship, and elegance.
The room was utterly decked out in Georg Jensen treasures. I utilized the bold and shining Manhattan bar and wine collection for all things boozy. The lustrous Manhattan Champagne Bowl dramatically displayed the bubbly Krug while vessels in a variety of heights housed the cocktail accoutrements. The dinner table similarly channeled the bountiful spirit of the season. To introduce a bit of juxtaposition, I paired the finely-detailed Art Deco-style flatware from the Pyramid collection with the clean-lined, organically-shaped white Cobra plates. And of course, the heart, (and height element), of the table, was the plentiful compilation of candles. I lavished groupings of candlesticks down the center of the long expanse – so much so, in fact , that I used nearly the entire Georg Jensen vintage silver candelabra collection! The fruit and florals surrounding the flames completed the centerpiece, with green and golden gourds spilling over from Georg Jensen vintage silver holloware onto the table. The scene was autumn plentitude, personified. So much gratitude to Georg Jensen for outfitting the table so elegantly and making this dream dinner party a reality. The guests even went home with a trio of pieces from the Manhattan barware collection, a stunning memento of the meal.
And, that brings me to the feast. I was honored to collaborate with Poppy’s Catering to bring Cook Beautiful to life for the launch dinner, and to work together with Krug on the champagne pairings for the meal. Krug’s cuvee was served with the Jeruselum Artichoke, Celery and Pair Salad and their rosé was coupled with the Slow-Roasted Arctic Char with Cranberry Chutney entrée. I also collaborated with Casa Dragones on a signature autumn-inspired pear tequila cocktail we fittingly titled “Beautiful Dragon”.
I’ve spoken about creating the book while my townhouse was also under construction, but hosting the launch of Cook Beautiful in my house was apropos in another way, too. Gathering in the home with friends and family is simply where it began for me, and where it stays real. It is where laughter and community abound. I have seen time and time again how food has the power to connect. It has connected me deeper to myself, to my family, to my creative instincts, and to so many friends. In a way, Cook Beautiful is a celebration of this connectivity, and being in my home makes it all come full circle.
Many thanks to my thoughful partners who offered incredible delights for the gift bags — Georg Jensen, Aplat culinary tote, Staub cookware, Cobram Estate Extra Virgin Olive Oil, and scented Diptyque candles.