The ingredients of Zac
Photo by Alex Antitch
Zac Posen was 21 when I first met him in Los Angeles in 2001; as charismatic and assured as the star of a musical. We talked about everything but fashion: that being cooking, movies and books. I met him again in 2012, with his partner the French writer Christopher Niquet, and our triple friendship was finally sealed one Christmas day when our planned treats were cancelled and Zac had to haul the heavy blue Le Creuset saucepan I’d given him across the frozen wastes of Central Park as we hunted for lunch.
I love his taste, his intelligence and his showmanship and the clothes he designs are masterful. He’s also the creative director of Brooks Brothers and has been a star on TV’s Project Runway for five years. Now comes his delightful book, 'Cooking With Zac'. It’s a delight.
Try Zac's Arugula - Hazelnut Pesto recipe below.
Buy Cooking with Zac here
Joan Buck's The Price of Illusion is available in paper back on Nov 7, '17
Joan Juliet Buck: It’s such a generous cookbook; it’s like having you cook for me!
Zac Posen: Thank you! As much as I adore and love fashion — and I’m very passionate about my craft and what I do — there’s a certain intimidation because people don’t really dress up so much in today’s world. But everybody eats! We have a much closer relationship to style and personal taste within food — and when you cook, it becomes a tactile, loving experience. Food is a much more diverse communication tool.
JJB: You clearly know your stuff, where things come from, how things react together.
ZP: This comes from years of being a depressed student watching tons of a PBS show called Great Chefs. I was awkward, discovering myself, so I watched it religiously. It was chefs from all over the world making their signature dishes. I listened to their voices, watched their hands create these spectacular taste sensations — without actually tasting anything because they were behind the screen — things I could try to replicate at home.
JJB: How did your mother feel about you cooking?
ZP: My mom was very excited. She was tackling my reading and learning disabilities so anything that connected me to books was good. It led me to read the New York Times food section, The Silver Palate Cookbook, Joy of Cooking, and to the original Entertaining by Martha Stewart, which was my version of Harry Potter. Martha was this amazing wizard and mythological creature! Cooking also connected me to my early experience of visiting my godmother who lived in the Berkshires, which was an incredible, magical country experience. I slept on a futon in a converted glass greenhouse, went to sleep staring at the stars, woke up and walked into the most beautiful garden built into the old foundation. That was my early experience with nature, with produce, and this idea of how to entertain.
JJB: So you learned how to cook, how to massage a turkey?
ZP: Yes, I probably was four. My little hands were perfect for tenderizing a turkey. Massage a turkey as if you were massaging a human being — without breaking the skin!
I remember stuffing the cavity with rosemary — rosemary is such a poetic herb, it smells like perfume. Food is so evocative. Then we baked it with slices of pineapple. I also remember learning how to make chocolate chip cookies. You let them cool down on a tray for barely a minute — then you spread them out on brown paper bags for the paper to absorb the butter. I made big batches, laying them out on a large Nakashima-like dining table.......Read the full interview in Issue 5, available here.