Even though I’ve been taking dozens of such interviews, there’s always a surprise. Whether in the person I’m having a conversation with or in his particular story, I have something to learn or unlearn.
When it comes to Roo, a chef living in Chamonix and celebrates her roots by making delicious food, the discovery was even more profound. From the radical candor she’s expressing through narratives on the website to the huge respect she pays towards her family by the way she cooks, Roo’s transmitting a strong feeling of authenticity. It simply goes through the screen. No wonder why the food is love saga is so fierce.
I got in touch with Roo after several attempts. The first time, I reach her via her email, provided by Alin, my customer support teammate. The second time, through her website, on the contact page. I think the first time was the lucky one when she emailed me back. Why is it important for what you are going to read next? Well, because little things get right from the first try.
Roo knows that better than anyone.
You are half British, half Gujarati. How does the mix impact your becoming?
It’s everything. My love for food started from day one with a family that shows love through food and feeding. Both my English and Gujarati grandma may have fed me in different ways but without them, I wouldn’t be doing what I’m doing today.
Talking about today, I’m planning on finishing off a few recipes to publish on my site. Then I’m going to sketch out some compositions for a painting commission and hopefully find some time for a little bike ride this evening to make the most of the glorious sunshine that we have at the moment!
What I do is an extension of the way we worked on that course, but innately just who I am.
As for values, generosity is something I’m grateful that my parents instilled in me. My parents are giving, generous people…especially when it comes to food.
What makes this eclectic universe yours?
It’s a mish-mash of everything I’ve experienced; my background, the friends I’ve made, people I’ve been with, different cultures I’ve had the pleasure of spending my time with, places I’ve lived and traveled to, conversations I’ve had.
Nobody else has had those exact same experiences which make my food universe uniquely mine, as yours is uniquely yours.
Creating makes me feel like myself and when I neglect it, I feel unhappy.
What’s one dish that speaks the loudest to you?
Bread! Whether it’s fresh chapatis from my daddyma or a thickly sliced white loaf from my nan—bread is my soul food!
It’s magic isn’t it?! With flour and water you can make the most deliciously comforting thing in the world.
What are the flavors that stick to you? Feel free to partner them with Radiohead lyrics.
Onions, garlic, and ginger are the holy trinity and the starting blocks for almost all of my Indian cooking (which I do the most.)
I’d partner them with the whole “In Rainbows” album by Radiohead because I put it on almost every time I start a giant prep list. It gets me in my kitchen groove and bobbing along like Them Yorke himself.
In which way does food highlight who you are?
Food highlights not only my wish to nurture and care for people, but also my desire to control situations. Above all else though, I think it highlights my innate need to constantly create and make.
Without running the risk of therapizing myself too much, I’m the eldest sibling, and a perfectionist—both of those things make you want to control situations to some degree.
And creating isn’t s much a drive, as a need. Creating makes me feel like myself and when I neglect it, I feel unhappy…That’s enough to keep the wheels spinning.
Which are the emotional connections that your food enables?
The deepest, most primal emotional connections that you can think of: feeding and caring for people!
There must also be an untranslatable word somewhere for the feeling that you get when you push your hands into the fresh dough, wash the dirt off of vegetables or pick fresh herbs.
When I develop a dish I can envisage how it will be served, what the ideal lighting is, and the general tone.
You are debunking the world of cooks by making it more humane. What drives you?
I feel incredibly privileged with how I was brought up to eat delicious, homemade food but I don’t take it for granted.
I grew up in an area of the UK that isn’t so affluent so saw the direct connection that circumstance, wealth, and upbringing had to the food that people eat.
It sounds so basic but I just want everybody to enjoy great food because it’s where I get so much of my own joy from.
You juggle with multiple creative arenas (cooking, painting, photography). What brings you this combo?
I have a degree in Illustration & Visual Media from Brighton University in the UK. The course was incredibly varied and eclectic, encouraging anything from creative filmmaking, photography, printmaking, graphics, prop design, painting…on that course, anything goes!
I suppose what I do is an extension of the way we worked on that course, but innately just who I am. I like to stay busy and keep fresh creative ideas constantly flowing.
Switching between different creative arenas helps me feel as if my ideas aren’t going stale of being overworked. I enjoy it all as well!
When I develop a dish I can envisage how it will be served, what the ideal lighting is, and the general tone. I want to be the one to capture all of that. (God, I sound a bit like control-freak Monica from Friends, don’t I?).
As for painting, I fell back in love with it at the beginning of the Coronavirus epidemic when I had more time on my hands, and through lots of encouragement from friends and strangers, I’m now selling my paintings as prints!
Is creativity in the food industry overrated or, on the contrary, people lost the playfulness on the go?
Creativity is what makes the food industry go round and keeps it fresh. There would be no fusion food, no restaurants, no new menus, no food fads, no cookbooks…no Chef’s Table (what is a world without Chef’s Table?!) without creativity.
The emotional liaison comes from the connection that I felt to my mum, my grandma’s or aunties when they taught me to cook.
I’m always creating. My problem is I can’t stop and just switch that part of my brain off sometimes. I express it through the menus I create for my private clients, how I put ingredients together, the way I plate the food, the way I choose to paint the thing I love the most, the way I compose food to photograph and play with light and hopefully the way I express myself through writing. It’s all on my site!
What’s the emotional liaison to your cooking classes? How do they make you a better chef?
My cookery classes keep me on my toes and I feel make me a better chef. They force me to take off my metaphorical professional Chef’s hat and don a home-cook cap instead. I learn a lot about my own processes when I stop to share them with others.
I’m not a natural performer so I always get stage fright before teaching but as soon as I start, the excitement and love for sharing food with others take over.
On a deeper level, I think that the emotional liaison comes from the same connection that I felt to my mum, my grandma’s or aunties when they taught me to cook certain things, such as a classic Victoria Sponge Cake which I made with my siblings every time we visited my nan on the weekend.
You see the Alps in Chamonix from your window (lucky!). What does the landscape whisper to you?
I do feel incredibly lucky. Most of the time the landscape is whispering, “put down your knives down and come out to play!”
I get to look at them every single day! I get to see how the face of them changes with the seasons but they remain the same. Stoic and strong.
People of all backgrounds would be sat together, eating with their hands, passing food around, drinking, and laughing.
What’s your relationship with nature, and how it fuels your creative tanks?
Nature and food are my number one loves. It’s no surprise really, without one there isn’t the other. A muddy ride on my mountain bike, a slash around on my snowboard, a walk up a mountain, swim in a lake or forage through the woods is just the ticket to refuelling the creative tanks.
If you should share a message with the world through food, how would it taste and look?
It would be a endless patchwork of picnic blankets spread across the biggest park you could ever imagine. The sun would be shining, the sky blue and the air warm.
People of all backgrounds would be sat together, eating with their hands, passing food around, drinking, and laughing. It would taste whatever gave you pure, unbridled joy as a child.
Mr. Whippy ice cream, fresh tomatoes picked from a vine, rainbow sprinkles, warm bread and butter, cereal as a midnight snack, birthday cake, fish & chips by the seaside, cheese sandwiches in the back of the car…anything goes.
That entire feeling from that scene is what I want to share.
Watch out and make sure you’re not hungry when you visit Roo’s website (which, btw, is made with Felt, our beautiful WordPress product). Her digital crib is a delight from top to toe. The images and illustrations are coherent and aesthetically pleasant, the writing is engaging and inspiring, the colors and overall branding reflect her personality and system of values.
Roo succeeded in doing what we aim to see to everyone collaborating with us in a way or another: a digital playground that’s tailored to specific needs and highlights the essence of the person behind the curtain.
Similar to a theatre piece, it’s always mesmerizing when you can relate to the character on stage, right? This is when the magic happens.
We’re food lovers always in touch with people who cook in a sustainable and meaningful way. Thankfully, some of them are our customers. Cristina is a pastry chef who talks honestly about the story behind the curtain. Read our interview to find her learnings along the way.