Lauren Gerrie is the co-founder of bigLITTLE Get Together, a NYC-based catering company that has helped her grow her love of culinary perfection. She’s also the personal chef for Marc Jacobs, where she spends her days creating health-fueled creative meals for the designer (when he’s situated in NYC). After a trial period and a chance encounter, she’s been working with the designer ever since in what can only be described as his “dream kitchen.” Here, we speak to the gastronomical artist from her Alphabet City digs.
Life+Times: First and foremost, how do you describe your company bigLITTLE Get Together? What is it exactly that you do, considering there are so many facets to what you do.
Lauren Gerrie: bigLITTLE Get Together is an intimate catering and personal chef company based in Manhattan’s East Village (Alphabet City, to be exact). We like to think of ourselves as bridging the gap between the restaurant and the diner. Our events, or get-togethers if you will, can range from a two-person multi-course intimate dinner in a private home to a 250 person event for Hendrick’s where the food is created to be paired with very specific cocktails and is displayed in unique and imaginative ways. We do everything in between, but we specialize and absolutely love doing themed invite based dinner parties. We decide on a specific theme, be it literary/cinema/season/etcetera. inspired, and then we find a space which is usually an awesome home in or around Manhattan. The host or hostess eat and drink for free so we now have people offering their spaces in order to attend our dinners more frequently. Once we have the space we design a menu reflective of the theme, figure out table and space decor, design an invitation, and then eventually throw a dinner party not to be forgotten. All of the guests as well as ourselves dress up which is so playful and offers a wonderful ice breaker for strangers. We have now begun doing more consulting work for menus and restaurant concepts as well as having a TV show in the works!
L+T: You’re clearly a foodie – were you a picky eater growing up?
LG: I have never been a picky eater. My parents make jokes to this day about how I would try anything and everything as a kid and would make responsive noises based on whether or not I liked what I had just consumed. I am fortunate enough to have a wonderful mom and dad who appreciate food and dining out, so my choice to enter the culinary world was no surprise to either of them. I have been a dancer my entire life and my mom is a very healthy eater so I have always leaned towards the healthier side of eating. That being said, I can kill a pint of ice cream like no bodies business. In my world, there is always room for dessert. I certainly go through phases, as I think most do, where I don’t really crave certain things or I’m less inclined to eat specific cuisines. But for the most part I’m game for anything.
L+T: When did you learn that your passion for food could be translated into a business? One in which you could also make an income from?
LG: I decided to be apart of the food world as a chef without really thinking about making money. I began the company on the whim with my best friend and all we had in mind was to succeed. There have certainly been trying times and periods filled with working many jobs, but when you love what you’re doing it all seems worth it at the end of an exhausting day. Once we started to build momentum with clients and more frequent jobs I think it became clear to me that the food industry was an exciting and ever-changing world that one could both be spiritual and financially successful in. My sanity is important to me, some might think that a 14-16 (sometimes more) hour day of standing on your feet and cooking is crazy, but I can’t imagine anything else. I found the shoe that fits and not a day goes by that I am not totally amazed and completely stoked that I get to do what I love for a living.
L+T: You’ve defined yourself as a “sensualist.” What exactly does this mean? How does it translate into what you do as a profession?
LG: I have always been drawn to a more sensual sensory manner of experiencing the world – I think that’s why dance has always made sense to me. I love to be expressive through movement, sounds, scent, taste, and touch. Food and cooking is a way of dancing and expressing one’s self. Eating is primal and necessary, but the entire dining experience can be so much more. It can be so much more sexy. I love grocery shopping, which is a good thing because I spend most of my time doing so. There is something so magical about walking through a farmers market and being overcome with the smells of fresh produce, tasting summer berries that are kissed by the sun, breaking bread that was baked just hours before, holding and indulging in the textures and shapes of ingredients, discovering new and unique varieties of familiar vegetables/fruits/cheese/etc. I love the wonderment of food and cooking and the intimacy of sharing that with other people. Call it food porn, but I think being a chef is super sexy. iIt’s sensual.
L+T: It’s no secret that you are Marc Jacobs’ personal chef – preparing all meals when he is situated in NYC. For starters, you must have a dream kitchen that you’re working with. Can you tell me a little bit about this workspace?
LG: Working for Marc in general is a dream, but the kitchen is definitely a huge perk! There are two kitchens designed by Bulthaup and a beautiful roof top garden that is equipped with a larger than life Viking Grill. The downstairs kitchen is more of a pantry/prep kitchen and the upstairs kitchen is where I do most of the actual cooking. During the summer, Marc hosts BBQs on the roof most weekends, so I get to be outside grilling which is amazing. Growing up in Southern California we grilled outdoors year round so the rooftop is like a little slice of home. In terms of equipment, I have set it up to be my perfect kitchen with Mauviel Copper Pots, Le Creuset Cookware, a variety of Japanese knives from Korin, KitchenAid stand mixer, Vita Mix, and a shit-ton of utensils/gadgets. Marc has beautiful silverware by James Robinson, breathtaking china by Pillivuyt, and everyday china by Puiforcat.
L+T: He’s a health nut. What are some recent dishes that you’ve prepared that are both innovative and healthy?
LG: Well the other night I had to put together a four-course dinner for Marc and his friends that were coming over last minute. I had about an hours notice to create a menu and prep everything. He loved it all and it was all very health conscious. This is what I served:
1. Spicy Watermelon Gazpacho (made with pho broth) served with quick-pickled kirby cucumbers, shaved radish, micro radish greens, cotija cheese, and almond oil drizzle.
2. Coffee and cumin rubbed grilled chicken (which I brine for three to four days so it is super tender and flavorful), served with wild rice, market cherries, pistachios. shiso. and charred baby Romanesco broccoli.
3. Baby Romaine Salad with Grilled Artichoke Hearts, Cherry Tomatoes, Chilean Salt Avocado Oil Potato Chips, and a tangy herb & cracked pepper buttermilk dressing.
4. Adult “peanut butter & Jjelly” with sunflower butter, raspberry jam, vegan salted peanut butter cookies, blackberry and hone sorbet & fresh raspberries. Surprisingly all those dishes are easy to make, super delicious, and very healthy.
L+T: Before I forget, how did you and Marc meet? What’s your working relationship like?
LG: I met Marc through his former assistant Casey Kenyon. My boyfriend, Daniel Plenge, is the director of digital for Marc Jacobs International, so he and Casey worked in the corporate office together. Casey and I became quick friends about seven years ago when he first started as MJ’s personal assistant. Over the course of a few years MJ was building a house here in NY while I was building my company. When the house was nearing completion Casey approached me to see if I would be interested in the job. I put together a proposal package and started on a trial basis. That was two years ago and I’m still working for him, so I must be doing something right. Being a private chef is a very interesting job because you are a part of an individual’s private time. Not only are you completely stocking the kitchen, but you are making sure that the person is eating well and enjoying everything. It took some time to figure out all the things that Marc does and does not like. I asked him a lot of questions initially and his chef in Paris, who has been cooking for him for over ten years, was extremely helpful. Marc is also very open and honest, when he likes something he praises it and when he doesn’t like it he tells me. I don’t get offended because ultimately I want to do the best job I can and give him what he wants. To be a good chef you have to make mistakes and you have to go out on a limb. I take pride in the fact that I have introduced a lot of new ingredients and dishes to Marc. He loves it when I incorporate new and different things or when I show him a fruit or vegetable he has never seen or heard of. It’s fun to see how excited he gets and how he shares it with his friends. At the end of the day what makes me feel accomplished is when someone loves the food I have provided for them. It’s simple.
L+T: You also have pretty unique style. What do you like to wear while cooking?
LG: I have never been a fan of chef whites! I do think they are super sexy on men, but they make most women look dumpy. I hate feeling frumpy so I wear what makes me feel good. I am a California girl, so if it’s warm I am usually in shorts. Short shorts! I also love leotards and bathing suits as tops. I have big boobs and I enjoy the support of a body suit without having to wear a bra. I am also a big fan of lace and see through clothing. I guess it goes back to the sensual thing, but I love the feeling of soft lacy fabrics. I have always had a pretty crazy sense of style and I hear my mom’s voice in my head when I put on certain outfits “Lauren, that is not appropriate.” When that inner voice surfaces I think twice about wearing it out of the house or to cook in. Marc is obviously not fazed by much, but every now and then I can sense the shock value in my attire. I wear Dansko clogs because they are so damn comfortable and they are a lifesaver for backs, knees, and legs that are standing for hours upon end. I have two pairs, one black patent leather and the other matte black leather. I also always wear a long black apron with two towels, pens/markers, and a meat tester in the pockets. When Flannery and I are doing dinner parties for bigLITTLE we always get dressed up. I mean, who doesn’t like seeing two sexy ladies make beautiful food and then have them serve it to you. Yes please, I’ll have seconds!
Photo Credit: Matthu Placek