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It's pretty rare that we get to spend some time in designers' homes (well, really, never), and its very rare that someone actually trusts us in their kitchen (also never). So last week, when legendary fashion designer Nicole Miller invited us to join her in her home for a cooking lesson with Chef Anna Boiardi, of course we said, "Yes!"
Despite her fabulous figure, Nicole is a major foodie. So not surprisingly, she's also a big fan of our sister site Eater. The designer decided that hosting a cooking class in her home for a night was a great way of combining her loves of fashion and food. Her Tribeca penthouse actually epitomizes both her interests—great art and stylish modern furnishings, combined with an amazing kitchen. The kitchen actually includes the biggest marble topped island we've ever seen in any home kitchen—anywhere—not just in New York.
When we arrived, we were immediately greeted by the designer, who we'd recently met when she was promoting her important collaboration with Rwandan women artisans through Indego Africa. We weren't sure what one wears to a cooking event in a designer's home, but we erred on the side of casual, and were relieved to find Nicole attired in a stylish, yet comfortable-looking, gray sweater, and her longtime friend, Chef Boiardi, equally casually attired.
If the name Boiardi seems familiar, it's because Anna's grandfather was THE Chef Boyardee—he spelled his name phonetically so people would know how to pronounce it. Previously unbeknownst to us, he was a top chef in his day, whose restaurant customers kept asking him if they could bring his sauces home with them—so eventually a company was born.
After the initial greetings and talk about Anna's grandfather, it was time to cook. We were given black (of course) aprons and a menu of the dishes we'd be learning: baked brie & apricot jam in phyllo cups, penne with roasted tomatoes, and gnocchi. Normally, we find it difficult mastering a stir-fry, so the menu gave us quite the scare. But Anna made things surprisingly simple. The brie and jam were just scooped into pre-made phyllo cups—and then popped into the oven. We managed to slice the roasted tomatoes and onions for the pasta without cutting ourselves, and as for the gnocchi—well, Anna did the hard part of mixing it, and then we made them into the little lumps. (Others made gnocchi, we made lumps.) Everything smelled and tasted delicious.
Before the evening ended, Anna gave us a copy of her gorgeous cookbook, Delicious Memories: Recipes and Stories from the Chef Boyardee Family and Nicole autographed our apron for us in silver, with her iconic signature. Due to heavy rains that night, Nicole also took pity on her guests and gave us each a zebra or camouflage print Nicole Miller umbrella—a generous hostess, indeed.