Lauren Gerrie, the designer's private chef, talks sweets, style and stocking the fridge
California native Lauren Gerrie moved to New York City to become a dancer-but ended up with her own catering business instead. And then she met Marc. The two were introduced by friends, and as luck would have it, Marc Jacobs-familiar with Gerrie's catering company Big Little Get Together-asked her to be his private chef in his New York home. Two years later, she spends her days in the designer's stunning kitchen while still continuing to run Big Little Get Together with her partner Flannery Klette-Kolton.
DuJour sat down with Gerrie at 9th Street Espresso early one morning to chat about cooking for Jacobs, the city's best spots for savory and sweet treats and her sexy kitchen "uniforms."
How did you wind up with a gig in Marc Jacobs' kitchen?
I did not go to culinary school. My first job was in Southern California as a hostess at a place called BJ's Chicago Pizza and Brewery. I moved to New York to go to college and become a dancer. When I got here I instantly started working in various restaurants and bars, cocktailing and stuff like that. After I graduated college I was traveling through Europe and trying to figure out what I wanted to do as a career. I met an amazing family in Italy and ended up working for them in Tuscany one summer. I love the whole kitchen lifestyle and have always appreciated learning the craft.
When I got back from Italy I met my best friend-who's now my business partner-at the coffee shop 9th Street Espresso. We started cooking just for fun and then ended up doing a big Great Gatsby-themed birthday party. After many bottles of wine we came up with Big Little Get Together and then a week later we had an LLC. Yeah, so that was seven years ago. I got the job with Marc through his old assistant who I'd befriended. About two years ago he was building a house, and when it was finished he was like, "Well, you know he's going to need a chef here." Marc knew I was capable and so he asked me to do it. At the time, I had done personal cheffing before but never private.
What's the difference between personal and private?
Some people would say there's no difference, but for me, I feel like a personal chef's job description is a bit broader. You're not doing every meal for them. It's kind of like a come-and-go sort of thing. As a private chef, you're stocking their fridge, doing every meal, and if they have parties, you do the parties.
How would you describe the kitchen at Marc's?
It's really, really beautiful. There are actually two kitchens. One is a downstairs pantry that is fully stocked. I don't really cook in that kitchen that much but do a lot of prep work in there. The main kitchen is a dream, you know, beautiful equipment and the counters are marble. It's obviously not commercial at all. It's a home kitchen and was beautifully designed by Bulthaup. This is his house and his baby. But now it's my kitchen [laughs].
Do you have a sous chef?
No, I do it all on my own. I am the kitchen staff. When we do larger parties, Flannery-my business partner-will help me.
What do you stock the pantry with?
He's a huge snacker. There's always a lot of almonds-chocolate-covered almonds, regular-covered almonds-and a lot of nuts. Always cookies. I make his favorite cookie-a homemade almond butter cookie with spelt flour-and I've become known for these cookies. He really loves almond butter, and so I adapted a snicker doodle recipe and used fresh-churned almond butter, which I get at Whole Foods or at Lifetime Market. The carrot cake-he loves having carrot cake. He loves sweets.
What about savory?
He's a really healthy eater-everybody knows that at this point-but he eats oatmeal for breakfast. I make Irish raw oats with honey and cinnamon, very simple, and he's a big red meat eater. He eats a lot of filet mignon, a lot of hamburgers, chicken. I make pasta and homemade pasta sauces, marinara sauce or different olive oils. He doesn't eat a lot of acidic foods, so like tomatoes on a small ratio.
What is a regular day like for you in the kitchen?
It depends. In the morning I'll go to the farmers market depending on what day it is, but let's pretend it's a farmers market day. I'm a really early riser. I usually get there at eight because I hate the crowds at Union Square. I go and work out, go to the market and get my pick, I come and have coffee at 9th Street Espresso, and then I go to the Juice Press. Marc has wheat grass everyday. Marcus Antebi is really killing it. He's one of my good friends. The juices there have broadened Marc a lot. I usually get him this thing called the Fourteen Hour-which is maca and fresh-pressed apple juice-he'll have that in the afternoon instead of coffee. It's a great source of energy. He also loves the cardamom milk there. Around show time he gets really, really run down and so I keep him on something called a Volcano-it's lemon or lime juice, ginger, cayenne, and oil of oregano-it's really good for your immune system and keeps him energized so that he won't get sick.
Do you and Marc discuss what he wants you to prepare?
No, no, he doesn't plan anything. He wants me to handle all of that.
What do you wear in the kitchen?
What I'm wearing now [laughs] high-waist denim shorts and a halter-top! I do not wear a chef uniform-which is a great thing about working for him-he hired me because of who I am and the food that I cook. It's actually become kind of a joke, because both my partner and I did not get into cooking so that we could wear ugly chef's coats and stuff. We dress sexy in the kitchen. It was funny, last year I did a lot of barbeques for Marc on the roof. For one of them I was wearing African pants and this lace crop top, and you know, a lot of his friends are in fashion. [laughs] It became this huge joke, the fact that I was basically wearing two bras. He doesn't care though. I think there's a part of him that gets a bit of a kick out of it.
What are some of your favorite places to eat in New York?
One of my favorite restaurants right now is a friend of mines-who I used to work with at Marlow & Sons-it's called Amali on the Upper East Side. His name is Junior and it is Mediterranean influenced. He is doing amazing, amazing stuff. For pastry, I love The Good Batch. If I'm not eating my cookies, I'm eating their cookies. I love the desserts at the Juice Press. Their key lime pie and truffles are so delicious. Like fucking crack! Serious crack! I love Granddaisy Breads. I order a lot of breads from there. I usually go to places where my friends work. I go to Minetta Tavern a lot, because my friend Chino is the chef there. It's a great late-night spot. Also, my friend Sam Mason just started this ice-cream shop called Odd Fellows. Their ice creams are amazing!
You said that you came to New York to dance, what happened with that?
I still dance. But I realized I had all of these other passions and, you know, dancing is something you've got to give your all to. You have to dedicate your whole life to it. It has a shelf life, and I had injuries.
It'll age you quickly.
It does [laughs] but so does cooking! Standing for twelve or eighteen hours each day. I'm really glad that I have the dance background. I work out everyday and I feel like mind and body are very, very connected. Cooking is great for meditating as well and takes a lot of focus. It's just like dance: there's a lot of endurance, creativity, and focus involved. I still dance for passion and my mental sanity.
Photo: Matthu Placek