Profile: Claire Thomas

09/19/2014  

I met Claire through Yayo Ahumada, one of the amazing photographers that we work with. He had spoken about her glowingly for ages, so I was thrilled when we were finally able to connect. As mentioned, our first culinary introduction came through the delicious menu that she provided for our Easter get-together with The Chalkboard Mag, and I have been hooked ever since.

A self-taught chef and unabashed food enthusiast, Claire is the host of Food For Thought With Claire Thomas and works as a nationally recognized commercial director, food photographer, and writer, using her wildly popular blog, The Kitchy Kitchen, as an "experimental playground."

She is like a ray of sunshine – her geniune love of food is incredibly contagious – and makes cooking look fun and effortless. Not surprisingly, her mid century modern Los Feliz home, which she shares with her fiancé Craig, is much the same – light, bright, and playful, just like Claire. I hope you enjoy this look inside. XXJKE

 

Beauty

R+T: What are your go-to beauty products? Why?

My friend just introduced me to the Korres Wild Rose Sleeping Facial, which is just so soothing and soft. I also love Kloraine Dry Shampoo with oat milk, and Dr. Jart BB Balm as well.

R+T: Is there anything special you would like to share about your beauty routine? 

I'm basically a vampire, meaning, I hide from the sun. That's my plan for future skin wellness. Otherwise, just your usual gambit of cleansing and moisturizing.

R+T: What are the 5 products you couldn't live without?

Dry Shampoo, Stila Liquid Eyeliner PenMaybelline Full and Soft Mascara, Korres Wild Rose sleeping Facial, Dr. Jart's BB Cream.

R+T: Bath or Shower?

Shower for sure. I love the first 5 minutes of a bath, but then I get overheated and impatient.

R+T: What do you sleep in?

Debating on whether I should be honest or clever here…going with mind your own beeswax ;).

 

Health

R+T: Do you have any health tricks

I have no will-power/self control, so I practically high five myself when I make it through a day without eating an ungodly amount of chocolate. Mostly, I just monitor my weight and try to eat reasonably. 

R+T: What do you do to stay healthy and balanced?

I try to eat really well throughout the day, and then let myself slip a little at dinner. Also, I don't drink very much or smoke.

R+T: Do you workout, what do you swear by?

I wish I could say yes, but…no. I used to do pilates and loved it, but I've been pretty lazy lately, and just stick to long walks in my neighborhood for the time being. Hopefully I can get out of my rut!

R+T: What do you do to relax?

Read. Reading, to me, is the ultimate luxury. You have to focus all of your attention on the task at hand. There's no texting while reading, or watching TV while reading.

 

Decor

R+T: What is your design philosophy for your home? 

I strongly believe in not shoe-horning aesthetic. When we were looking for a home, I had this vision of a Spanish Colonial revival cottage in Atwater or Silverlake, but then this little Mid Century granny-shack fell into my lap. Once I knew this was our spot, I let go of my visions of recreating the Adamson house and just committed hard core to "palm springs in the sky." Our house looks a bit like a space ship/boat on stilts, and to do anything other than mid century modern  would just look hackneyed and odd.

R+T: What are your favorite pieces in your house? 

I love this C. Jeré wall hanging. I found it on sale and it's such a cool moment in the house. Otherwise, I'm a Heath Ceramics nut, so the dual glaze tile wall is probably my favorite thing in the whole house.

R+T: What are your favorite home stores?

Heath Ceramics, Organic Modernism, and the Rose Bowl Flea are my favorite place for sourcing items. Organic Modernism is absolutely wonderful: make sure to go in and chat with Alex in the shop on La Brea, you never know what deals they have, of if the're having a sale. I've nabbed some awesome stuff just by stopping by.

R+T: What is your favorite room in the house?

The guest bathroom. The original wallpaper was damaged, so unfortunately we couldn't keep it, but I tried to keep the spirit alive. It's all original fixtures (crystal knobs the size of eight balls) and I committed to brass being the finish for everything in the house.

 

Entertaining

R+T: Do you entertain at home?

I'm an introvert at heart, so to get over it, I actually host events pretty often. I really love bringing girlfriends together and doing something fun.

R+T: What are your tricks for entertaining? 

So many. I have an entire section in my cookbook dedicated to this exact thing. 1) Accept help when offered. 2) Don't try that new recipe. Try something you know works and tastes great. You don't need an audience for when the new recipe falters somehow. 3) Keep the ala minute to make ahead stuff 1 to 3. For every dish that requires being served hot or prepared for people minutes before they eat it, have 3 dishes that are make ahead and can be served room temperature of super easily (deli-style salads, soup, crudites, cheese boards, and most desserts are in this group).

R+T: How do you set the scene when you have people over? 

I play good music, make good old fashioneds, and I usually have a reason for a party, like a birthday or holiday, so that ties the whole event together.

R+T: Are there any tips for what to do or what to avoid?

See my tricks above.

R+T: What is your favorite song/playlist when you have people over?

Sharon Jones and the Dap-Kings Album is fantastic. Otherwise, Sam Cooke and Budos Band are always fun.

R+T:  Plated, Buffet, or Family Style for a dinner party?

Family style all the way! So much easier and less fussy. Unless you're hiring a caterer, why put extra pressure on yourself?

R+T: What are your favorite flowers and where do you buy them?

I'm a flower nut. I have so many, but basically - smelly ones.  Garden roses, peonies, lilacs, lavender, and mint are al up there. My local flower shop is Clementine in Silver Lake and they always have the loveliest selection.

R+T: Do you do them yourself or do you use a florist?

I buy the flowers and then do my own arrangements, it's one of my favorite afternoon tasks. It feels so indulgent just spending 30 minutes elbow deep in pretty.

 

Fashion

R+T: How would you describe your style? 

Oh, I'm a girl that wishes she had tiny boobs. My favorite look is that playful proportions/backless, breezy vibe that as a curvier lady I can absolutely not pull off. If I could dress any way, it would be like a futuristic librarian with bed head. I love structure and mess combined, like a fabulous pencil skirt with a chambray shirt, or a cat eye with fresh dewy skin and tousled hair. I'm always trying to get my hair to look less "done" and I've resigned myself to the fact that I just need to invest in dry shampoo stock to get it to look right.

R+T: Who are your favorite designers?

Jenni Kayne - duh! Otherwise, LuvAJ for the best everyday jewelry, IRORag & BoneReformationAlexander Wang, and J. Crew/Madewell are my go-tos.

R+T: What are the 5 pieces you can't live without this season?

Living in LA, my wardrobe is pretty seasonless, so I hang on to items for years and years without retiring them. But, it being late summer going into fall: My Jenni Kayne black collarless blazer - it works with everything; my Tara Jarmon nude a-line skirt - it has a very Dior "new look" vibe in a very muted color, which I love; my ancient Clare Vivier leopard clutch; I don't own them - yet - but those amazing D’Orsay Sandals with the gold toe; and it's a toss up between IRO or Isabel Marant for my favorite t-shirts.

R+T: What is your uniform?

Currently: J Brand Boyfriend Jeans, an Iro t shirt with a million holes in it, my Asos silver sandals, and my white Jenni Kayne Blazer. I just throw that thing on and I all of a sudden look polished.

R+T: What is your newest purchase?

I just got a bunch of LuvAJ stuff from her Ring of Fire collection. I'm so excited!

 

Food

R+T: Is there anything about your diet you would like to share with R+T?

Nothing special.

R+T: Do you cook?

Everyday!

R+T: What is your favorite recipe? 

Oh gosh, that's impossible. It depends on the day/time/occasion. My first cookbook came out on August 26th, so I'd say any of those are excellent, as they made the cut.

R+T: What is your child’s favorite recipe?

Don't have one, but I'm anticipating corn dogs.


Art

R+T: Who are your favorite artists?

It's not really an artist, but I love the artists and works featured on the Jealous Curator. I feel like we have similar taste and always love what she chooses to highlight.

R+T: What is your favorite piece of art you own?

I collect vintage paper products, so I guess my collection of

Vargas and Petty girls.

 

Shopping & Blogs

 R+T: What are your favorite stores to shop for clothing?

Brick and mortar stores: Jenni Kayne in Brentwood, Reformation on Ludlow, Vintage shopping in Toronto; Online: Dear Golden on Etsy has the best vintage.

R+T: What is your favorite city for shopping?

Toronto because the vintage deals and finds are insane.

R+T: Are you an impulse buyer, or do you wait to commit?

I'm extremely decisive, so it's neither. I have a really good sense of whether something will work on me, so I can decide pretty quickly.

R+T: What are your favorite sites for recipes?

I usually turn to my Vintage cookbooks for inspiration, but otherwise Simply Recipes and Epicurious cover almost everything. I also love Joy the Baker and A Cozy Kitchen.

R+T: What are your favorite blogs?

My girlfriend Whitney who is an amazing Somm just launched her new site, Whitney A, which is lovely. East Side Bride is another favorite, otherwise I'm usually on Jezebel or the A.V. Club all day.

 

In the Kitchen 

R+T: How and when did your love of food begin?

I always assumed my love of collecting kitchen tchotchkes and vintage cookbooks came from my dad, whose military insignia collection and bibliophilia borders on obsessive. However, as I looked around my mother’s kitchen cupboards and noticed her collection of vintage salt and pepper shakers, and flipped through her early 80s editions of Australian Women’s Weekly cookbooks, it dawned on me: everything my mom collects is carefully displayed and perfectly coordinates with its surroundings. Her method of collecting is graceful and fluid, unlike Dad’s three ring binders of patches and flags or my flat file filled with vintage postcards. This subtle yet beautiful way of putting things together has shaped how I think about putting things on the plate and together on a table. But back to the food.

My mom baked a lot of fabulous things when I was growing up. Every day after school, I’d rush through the door to see what she had made. On the off chance she was busy and couldn’t bake, my dad would take over, which usually meant making epic milkshakes, marshmallow fluff sandwiches, or a trip to the market to fill the candy drawer; all things that horrified my mum. We were a collectively chubby family in the 90s.

From her Australian favorites like Anzac biscuits and lamingtons to her ridiculous sour cream coffee cake, my mom sliced up all her classics for after school snacks or packed them up to be taken to school with me to share with my class. The principal had to tell her to stop sending me with my daily ration after kids started tossing their lunchables in anticipation of my mum’s baking.

What I remember most about Mom’s kitchen was the music. She’s the most musical person I know. Dance parties to the B52s were a common occurrence, drumming on the kitchen island with wooden spoons and teaching each other dance moves. Not much has changed, really. I begrudgingly join the dance parties that she always kicks into gear after a birthday or Thanksgiving, but by song number two I’m in with both feet, doing my best to not look like a total dork. Under my Mom’s watch, the kitchen was a place for collaboration and connection, and little did I know my love of food was being nourished and encouraged from the beginning. If I hadn’t felt so comfortable hanging out in the kitchen as a kid, I’m not sure how I would’ve fared when I struck out on my own as an adult. Even though I didn’t have my mom there to teach me how to cook, just seeing how she approached food planted the seed.

R+T: And its manifestation, The Kitchy Kitchen?

My journey with food was a strange one. Growing up with a mom and aunt who were fabulous cooks, I rarely found myself in the kitchen except to steal bites before the plates made it to the table. Why bother? If someone else did an amazing job of it, I’d just be in the way.

So I stuck with books. History mostly, and usually European. I took so many history electives in college, I accidentally became a dual major. Political History was my weekday passion, and every other moment was dedicated to my love of film. So between writing research papers and reading scripts for production companies, there was little time for food.

My first job out of college as an assistant to two producers was not what I had hoped for; way more telephone answering than providing writers with script notes. My mom could see me struggling. I needed an outlet, and by this point I had started baking my frustrations into delicious carbohydrates. “Well,” she said one day, “You love writing and eating food, so why not start a food blog?” My mom has a pretty spotless track record when it comes to advice-giving. So, even though “food blog” had never occurred to me, off I went for three months of soul-searching and plotting.

I’m a nerd, and I wasn’t the best photographer back then, and I had only created one recipe before (out of complete necessity), and I didn’t have the best grasp on how this thing called “the internet” worked. I thought there would be an instant audience waiting for my recipes, correcting my grammar and complaining about shoddy lighting. In reality, it was a little more akin to the whole “If a tree falls in the forest...” situation. Luckily this meant I got to stumble and fall and fail numerous times without anyone watching. All I knew was that I wanted the blog to be completely original: my own recipes documented by my own photography. Even if that meant I only posted once a week to start with, that was fine by me. Once I got the hang of this food blogger thing, I was able to quit my job and start working as a food stylist. Food styling led to food photography which led to food videos and the rest is history.

R+T: How would you describe your cooking style? Has it evolved over the years?

Basically, I’m an eater who likes to cook. When I eat, I’m fully engaged, trying to visualize every flavor and pick apart the mysterious tastes in an unfamiliar food; when I see a new ingredient or read about a strange recipe, I immediately think of how it would taste, and would I like it? How could I make it taste better? Being an interested, curious eater means you’ll be a better cook. When it comes to being an adaptive and creative force in your own kitchen, letting your palate guide you can only lead you to delicious places.

R+T: Favorite dish to prepare? To enjoy?

Pasta and pasta. With lots of butter.

R+T: All-time best guilty indulgence?

Double stuff oreos and whiskey. Not together!

R+T: Is there a type of cuisine that your would like to add our arsenal?

I would love to get awesome at Thai food. It is one of my absolute favorite types of cuisine.

R+T: What is the most rewarding part of your job?

The leftovers!