By SPECIWOMEN Photography RUBY ROSE
"I cook for my clients the same way I cook for my friends and family"
What do you do?
I am a chef, I own a catering company Zoe Deleu Catering, we cater for events, lunch or dinner, cocktail parties or weddings. I cook for my clients the same way I cook for my friends and family and it starts with picking great organic and locally sourced produce with amazing taste.
Have you always known what you wanted to pursue?
This is a pretty new career for me, and it’s pretty far from what I used to do. I grew up wanting to be an architect, but I then decided to study graphic design in college, and have been a graphic designer for more than 15 years until about four years go when I rebooted my career and pursue a passion of mine, and started again, from nothing, as an intern cutting onions and carrots for a catering company. From there it went fast, and one job to another lead to starting my own business about a year ago.
How has art shaped your life?
I grew up in an art friendly family (my dad is a sculptor, and painter). I grew up going to museums and art galleries. Music, movies, or graphic novels always had a big influence in what I do.
Having been a graphic designer has a tremendous influence on what I do now as a chef where beyond the taste; colors, arrangements, presentations are essential to the experiences I create.
How do you reconcile art as a purely creative outlet with the need to make a living?
I don’t consider cooking as art, and as it is not only a passion and a pleasure, it’s a business and you get payed to produce, so this had never been an issue.
What is your tip to stay focused and efficient on important projects?
This is an industry that can be extremely stressful. I try to stay concentrate on the task at hand, and take them one by one, in order of priority. As I have a small structure, I wear many hats; from chef to event organizer to accountant, and when I try to do everything at the same time I panic, and loose control. I am very thankful to a chef who once told me, when I started: "Do one thing, then the next, and then the next, and so on”. This is something I tell myself all the time, in order not to panic. And then laugh with your staff is also a great way to breathe, and lower the tension.
Do you work better under pressure?
Now that I learned how to deal with high moments of stress, and organize myself, and my team really well, I actually think that this pressure allows me to be highly concentrated and very detailed oriented. These moments are usually for a short period during an event and I push myself as well as my team to give the best. Having a great group of people that you trust is critical because shit happens, and when that trust and focus is there, you always find a solution together. That is why great communication between the various members of the team is essential.
What inspires you?
A couple of years ago, there was a Matisse exhibit at the MOMA of its “Cut outs”; compositions of shapes and colors that inspired me right away and gave me ideas for hors-d’oeuvres, for plating, or finding new vegetable colors to play with.
My source of inspiration is Nature, for its textures and its smells, but also for its colors. Which colors and how they work together. I think that having been a graphic designer is defining the way I do things now in a certain way, as very aspect of the presentation is critical; from the design of the menu to the plating and the layout of the table.
But my main sirocco of inspiration is the outdoor market. Just roaming through the vendors, looking and touching fruits and vegetables. Their shapes and colors giving my an instant image of the dishes, I will create with it.
What is the best advice someone ever gave to you? What advice would you like to give to a beginner in the food industry?
I talked earlier about the crucial advice of doing one thing at a time.
In addition to that, you have to know that it is a very hard industry; very demanding physically, with very long hours, and with that, I think it is crucial to stay true to yourself, to keep its convictions and personality.
Being a chef is about generosity, giving something to others, but if you don’t believe in what you give, it won’t be rewarding for anyone, the people you serve nor yourself.