Rōze Traore Finds Art in His Food
The guest chef of the 2022 Guggenheim International Gala chats all things culinary style.
The culinary arts may just be the fastest-expanding realm of design. Cooking is an art, one that can be perfect and infused with personal creativity and spirit. With shows like The Bear striking the national consciousness, more and more are looking to chefs as artists. Their paint is their ingredients, and their masterpiece is that final, beautiful dish. Nobody knows this intersection of art and food like Rōze Traore.
Regarding accolades, Traore holds just about every resumé bullet point you can think of. He trained at Le Cordon Bleu, that infamous French culinary institute that earned Julia Child her stripes. He then worked in some of the world’s most famous kitchens, from the NoMad Hotel to Eleven Madison Park. The list of public figures Traore has cooked for is endless, including fashion magnate Rick Owens. And now, as a pièce de résistance to his culinary career, Traore led the charge for the 2022 Guggenheim International Gala, presented by Dior.
Food isn’t his only artistic platform. Traore has also worked extensively in the modeling world, routinely swapping his knives for designer garments as he walks in big-name runway collections. On a personal level, Traore oozes taste and artistic vision. His Instagram features some incredibly curated outfits, pairing beautiful dishes with beautiful clothing. It’s clear why a fashion house like Dior would tap Traore for the Guggenheim International Gala: what he makes up in culinary expertise, he doubles in elegance and artistry.
Below, VMAN caught up with Traore to discuss the Gala, his style, and all things food.
VMAN: You’ve hit just about every culinary landmark there is, from studying at Le Cordon Bleu working at Eleven Madison Park, and cooking for Rick Owens. What’s your secret? What do you think helped you reach such heights in the culinary world?
Rōze Traore: I would say accountability and keeping my expectations high. I live off the thrill and determination to keep climbing. Lastly not taking no for an answer.
VMAN: What I love about your recipes is how simple and feel-good they can be. They’re beautiful and innovative, but frequently don’t need the flourishes of those impossible-to-find, million-dollar ingredients. How do you balance that aesthetic impulse with the need to make your food accessible and taste good?
RT: Thank you! Yes, this is something I’ve worked on a lot and working with The New York Times has helped me keep that balance. I was “raised” in the fine dining world so things definitely tend to be complicated, but when I work with The New York Times they bring out another side to me that makes me want to relate to the rest of the world and not just fine dining. I have a balance for my high-end side and more fun approachable recipes for those that love or are curious about food.
VMAN: On that topic of aesthetics, I’m fascinated by your personal style. What’s an everyday look for you, and what inspires you in creating your closet?
RT: For me, it’s all about staples and creating your identity. I love high-waisted pants, scarves, a turtle neck or white t-shirt.. from that point add some Jewelry and you’re good to go. Knowing yourself is key. Or should I say constantly knowing about yourself will lead you to being comfy and confident to rock what you want.
VMAN: You’ve worked as both a model and a chef, two fields that require a certain artistry. Do the two interact at all? How has modeling informed your cooking, and vice versa?
RT: The two definitely interact! Both worlds want nothing but perfection. Fashion and food both have this elegant and beautiful component to them that just want to make people feel good!
VMAN: Culinary arts can be so intricate, so founded in a personal creative vision. What inspires you in your work?
RT: What inspires my work is an expression of freedom. The freedom to go outside the box and do what I simply love to be surrounded by. My appreciation for mother nature is always recognized and I want to do my best to highlight and be mindful of the ingredients she has to offer.
VMAN: You also frequently introduce your heritage into your culinary masterpieces, bringing the flavors and colors of the Ivory Coast to even the simplest dish. How do you think identity and politics interact with your work?
RT: Identity is everything because it’s my way to express myself and share my philosophy to those trying my food. It’s something that is always evolving because no day is the same.
VMAN: Moving to the gala, you worked as guest chef for the 2022 Guggenheim International Gala from Dior. With the event now behind you, what was that experience like?
RT: Leading up to the event it took three months to make sure everyone was aligned. The experience was epic because I was in a room with people that appreciated the details and perfection. Dior and I were very hands-on every step of the way. Time definitely moved fast and the night of the gala was intense, energetic and I’m purely thankful to have amazing chefs and FOH [Front of House] that helped me bring this vision to life. Looking at it now, I’m like, wow, that was pretty epic to be chosen by Dior to take on this task and I took that seriously.
VMAN: How did you go about curating that menu? What inspired this specific meal?
RT: The first step was visiting the Guggenheim off-hours to visualize how this event would come to life and checking out the kitchen. Then I did some research and really analyzed Alex Katz’s work. I’ve always said simplicity is key and speaks volumes when it comes to my dishes, so that was something I also admired with Alex’s approach. Then I wanted to highlight some seasonal favorites in regard to ingredients. Making sure I kept things classic, approachable with a twist.
VMAN: I want to end on something a bit more fun, and a bit less industry talk. One thing that’s blowing up recently has been food media, with shows like The Bear having everyone yell out “yes, chef” and big-budget restaurant thrillers like The Menu coming out soon. Do you watch these movies? What are your thoughts on how they portray your field?
RT: I actually don’t watch too many chef shows or movies but yes, The Bear and The Menu I really enjoyed because they did some homework to really understand what we go through as Chefs and represented us properly. Opposed to a gimmick.