Photography: Stephen Gunn
A master of two industries, Rōze Traore has successfully tackled the worlds of modeling and cuisine, in one breath jet-setting across the globe to walk in major runway shows and in the other, preparing meals for an impressive lineup of private clients. After graduating from Le Cordon Bleu in 2012, the 24-year-old multi-tasker signed with Elite London and soon after began booking jobs with international names like Greg Lauren, Eidos Napoli and ASAUVAGE.
He’s armed with a remarkably sophisticated palette and, of course, insanely good looks, piecing together elevated menus with dishes ranging from angus short ribs to chilled poached salmon. With goals to bring his culinary expertise to the upper echelons of the entertainment industry and one day launch a television show, this interdisciplinary talent is uniquely ambitious with the virtuosity to reach his goals.
BULLETT recently caught up with Traore to talk about working with penis-baring provocateur Rick Owens and how fermentation is the food trend to get behind, now.
How do you see fashion and food intersecting?
Fashion and food are both about pleasing the eye and the senses. Despite the fact that we as models have a strict diet, we’re still drawn to the beauty of food, especially when done well. Now more than ever, there are so many amazing cuisines that simultaneously look beautiful on a plate and taste amazing. Food art or ‘food porn’ is a huge trend. It’s all about the convergence of art and utility, which is exactly what both food and fashion are about.
You recently prepared a meal for Rick Owens. Tell me about that experience.
I was invited to cook at Rick Owens’ kitchen by his personal chef and my friend, Dieuveil Malonga. Dieuveil has created quite a routine of incredible cooking in the Owens home both for the family and for those who work there. The Owens are really into African cuisine, so my expertise in this area was helpful. I only wish you could have smelled some of what we made—heaven on earth. The Owens really embody this ‘food is art’ theme that I live by and their everyday menus could easily be seen as the inspiration for much of what Rick puts out on the runway.
What’s your secret to finding the best ingredients?
The best ingredients are always the ones that are the freshest, which often means local, so they haven’t had to travel far from vine to table, as well as the most in season. I never go to the grocery store or a farmers market thinking, ‘I’m going to cook X tonight.’ I let the ingredients guide me. It’s also really important to know how to use your pantry and what you’ve already got at home. I’m obsessed with getting the most out of what I buy and leaving nothing to waste. It’s a great feeling when you create something out of seemingly nothing. Exotic ingredients can’t hurt, as well. You’ll often find me in places like China Town looking for bizarre ingredients to test out and learn from.
As a personal chef, I’d imagine you have some pretty amazing stories. Who’re some of your more notable clients?
In New York, I’ve had the great pleasure of cooking for some big names in fashion, including the guys behind Salvatore Ferragamo, Ralph Lauren, Diesel and executives at Macy’s. My search to find great clients is often in fashion. In London, I’ve diverged a bit from this theme and entered the sports arena, cooking for my friend [and] Arsenal soccer star, Hector Bellerin. Everyone comes at food from a different angle and I love understanding where their passions originate. It’s a constant learning experience cooking for people in a personal setting, much more so than cooking at a restaurant. It’s a real pleasure getting to know more about my clients and making food that really inspires them based on our conversations and experiences together.
Considering your modeling schedule is so packed, what’s the key to on-the-go culinary sophistication?
It’s a tip I know most busy people use: shop at the beginning of the week, so you know exactly what you will cook when you get home at night. Lately I’ve been into making some bad ass smoothies, which you can always take to go and it’s basically a full meal in a cup. If it’s been a really busy day and there’s not much energy left when I get home, a nice salad with lemon juice, olive oil, salt and pepper is my go-to. I leave the fancy stuff for the weekends usually.
How do you describe your aesthetic as it pertains to food and fashion? Are they the same?
They are totally the same—simple and classic. I’m not into frills, whether it be with my clothes or with my food. I tend to think simple, streamlined approaches to both are the best way to go both from the way they look and from the way they taste. Simplicity is the key.
What’re some of your favorite restaurants across the globe?
My friend Pierre Sang has an amazing restaurant in Paris called Pierre Sang, which is my go-to spot every time I arrive in the city of lights. Pierre is a man after my own heart and executes his food with simplicity and tons of flavor. Everything is super fresh and done right. I’d love to own a restaurant like that one day. Another favorite of mine is Sketch in London—The Lecture Room & Library—which currently boasts a 2 Michelin Star restaurant upstairs. The food is always sensational and done in the classic French way, which is hard to find these days. When talking about mixing food and art, Sketch will not disappoint. The entire place is filled with décor that really adds to the experience. In New York, I love The East Pole. This spot is so homey and filled with class. It’s essentially an up-scale English pub. The food is on-point and the drinks are killer. It’s a great go-to for a weeknight meal out.
Do you have a favorite dish to prepare?
I think at this point in my career almost everyone knows my favorite dish: Sea Bass. As long as you have an amazing cut of fresh Sea Bass with some colorful veggies—very often Brussel sprouts in my case—then I’m a happy man. Pair it with some great Sauvignon Blanc and that’s the way to my heart.
What culinary trends do you see happening, right now?
We all have our favorite go-to’s and those are staples of our diets (until we get totally sick of them). But, of course it’s impossible to deny the ever popular ‘food trend’ and personally, I don’t see a reason to fight them because it’s a lot of fun to try new things. One food trend I am totally behind is the resurgence of fermentation. Kimchi is one of my favorite foods of all time, as well as pickles, of course. I’m really into making the most of my ingredients and the whole ‘no waste’ kitchen is definitely a trend to get behind. Plant-based diets are really hip these days, and I will admit I’m intrigued, though I still eat fish and chicken. Lastly, I’m noticing a resurgence in bread. As a model, we all know the gluten-free, carb-free lifestyle is still alive. But people are really starting to take notice that bread isn’t all bad, especially when it’s made artisan style and with really wholesome ingredients. I’ve been reading about these ancient grains that are now making their way into fine baked breads. I will break the no-carb rule for that any day.