“I have a fryer on both coasts,” she tells me solemnly, her eyes twinkling. “I really couldn’t live without them.”
Deep within the elegant bowels of New York’s famed International Culinary Center (home of L’Ecole, the restaurant of the French Culinary Institute), Sports Illustrated model Chrissy Teigen is getting primped and prepped for her big kitchen debut while discussing the finer points of fried junk food. The petite bundle of energy seems unaware of her own beauty, completely swept up in the excitement of a highly choreographed shoot filled with epicurean surprises and the potential for a long-awaited foray into culinary super stardom.
At 26, Teigen is probably most famous for her bikini-baring spreads, high-wattage relationship (she’s engaged to singer John Legend) and her goofy sense of humor. A Twitter darling in her own right, this Utah native turned pin-up girl isn’t afraid to tweet the ridiculous (“He went to Jared” was her cheeky response following news of her engagement), but at the heart of it all is a serious love affair with eating and cooking that stretches back to her teen years.
“I always wanted to go to culinary school,” the bubbly brunette explains. “But then my father took a look at the price. After that, I let my interest die down a little bit. It wasn’t until I was in a position to really appreciate the time and dedication it takes to commit to it as career that I started rethinking my future.”
Teigen candidly admits that modeling was never her ultimate goal, but having the opportunity to travel and meet many a food legend along the way only continued to peak her culinary appetite. “That was my dream. [John and I] get to do all sorts of fun, amazing red carpets and stuff, but he senses that I really shut down. But I get so nervous when I get brought back to meet a chef — more so than Beyonc or someone like that.”
The hustle and bustle of a busy kitchen and being in the presence of such talent made her realize that she needed to be a part of that world — hence the launch of her popular food blog, So Delushious. Food porn at its most pure with the literature to back it up, Teigen’s online musing provide a glossy image of her world travels as well as recipes and personal anecdotes. Naturally, she’s had her share of strange food throughout her adventures.
“My mom is Thai, and loves to take us to those night bazaars in Thailand, and I’ve had fried ant salad there before,” she offers nonchalantly. The look of disgust on my face quickly leads to a peal of laughter. “It doesn’t really taste like anything,” Teigen insists as her smile widens. “It’s just like crunchy protein.”
Fearless food consumption may seem contradictory to her day job, but as I quickly learn, not all models prefer to subsist on a steady diet of cigarettes and champagne. “A lot of girls you see on the runway, they don’t really have a passion [for eating],” she clarifies. “But the ones of us who have it, we’re pretty proud of it and we love it. Genevieve Morton, one of my fellow Sports Illustrated girls, also loves food and loves to cook. But we’re lucky because we’re of a different breed. We get to eat and not feel ashamed about it because a little extra curve is good for us.”
If curves are good, then so is a down-to-earth attitude and lack of guile. Teigen is the kind of on-screen personality that has no problem making fun of herself if it makes you laugh OR makes for good television in the process. Following a special on the Cooking Channel called Cookies & Cocktails this past December, I can safely say that even after a mere hour that it’s clear that it works. Although she has certainly dabbled in some of the priciest haute cuisine the world has to offer, this is one girl that’s totally relatable. “A lot of times you look at people and think, ‘They must never fail!’ Ina [Garten] and Giada [De Laurentiis] are perfect,” she exclaims. “But I’m the kind of person that posts picture on my blog when I mess up.”
While rumors continue to swirl that Teigen is quite possibly being groomed for a long-term TV project, right now all this culinary star-in-the-making can think about is her impending wedding. She squirms in her seat at the mention of the word “fianc,” turning a pretty shade of pink when teased about her sudden loss for words. “It’s too new,” she protests as she rolls her eyes. “I’m not giving up ‘boyfriend’ yet!”
Not surprisingly, when talk of the wedding menu arises, she immediately perks up as suggestions are tossed around about food and (more importantly) drinks. “I want everybody drunk,” she deadpans. “A cocktail session before the ceremony, and in between the ceremony and reception as well.”
In Chrissy Teigen’s world, humor is a key ingredient to her recipe for her success. But ultimately the road ahead will need to be filled with delicious mix of food, fun, learning and love to make it a truly worthwhile proposition for both her and her fans alike.
Photographs by: Spencer Wohlrab
Produced by: Marni Golden
Art Director: Patrick Biesemans
Makeup by: Ashunta Sheriff using Dior Beauty at The Wall Group
Hair by: Charley Brown using Bumble and Bumble atStarworks Artists
Styled by: Dawnn Lee Mitchell
Location courtesy of theInternational Culinary Center