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If you are not, as I am not, from Los Angeles, then you might not know what Erewhon is. It's not a mythical creature, or the name of a Tolkienian elf, or "nowhere" spelled backwards, although it almost is. It's a natural food market/celebrity hangout/mecca of the health community not far from The Grove. It's very, very famous in certain LA circles. And it's where I meet Crosby Tailor, who is also very, very famous in certain LA circles.
When Crosby and I first enter Erewhon together, people approach him from all sides, and he does the same, greeting friends and acquaintances and strangers, waving to anyone who calls his name, discussing salad options and business plans, and getting cornered about his bright red Pharrell Stan Smiths (a gift from Adidas) by a middle-aged woman who tells me, "I'd seen him here before, but he was so busy."
Even when we venture outside to post up at a table and talk about his past, present, and future as a health coach, model, certified Instagram hunk, self-proclaimed celebrity chef, and cookie genius behind Cookie Genius, his line of ketogenic treats with the tagline "Eat Dessert, Burn Fat," passersby shout, "Hey, Crosby!"
"I'm almost thinking of headlining this piece, ‘The Mayor of Erewhon,'" I joke. "You should tell that to him," he replies, gesturing to a friend we'd spoken with a few minutes before, a pleasant and — compared to Crosby's world-bending physical perfection — almost-jarringly regular man who runs a local blog. "That could be good or bad," the friend tells me. We all laugh.
Crosby, like any good mayor, goes on to expound on the greatness of Erewhon: its active and close-knit wellness community, its potential and reality as a gathering space. It's here that he first came to truly live his uber-healthy lifestyle, working at the tonic bar, eventually selling his ice creams in the store. He still visits approximately twice a day to stock up on ingredients, eat a protein-packed lunch, and check in with friends, and as such, he has plenty to say about the place. All the while, I'm panicking because I've turned off my recorder for the short walk.
As Crosby talks about the good people of Erewhon, the store's doors open and Kiernan Shipka, Mad Men's Sally Draper and LA's coolest teen, exits, looking young and small, drinking a juice or maybe it's a tonic, and trailing close behind a woman I assume is her mother. "Like Kiernan!" Crosby says, grabbing her attention. "Hi guys, hi," Kiernan says, backing away smoothly. She waves happily but impersonally, and the mayor continues his tour.
Born Crosby Tailor Wehr, our 30-year-old cookie genius grew up in Roseville, California, not far from Sacramento. As a child, he was an athlete, with a particular affinity for soccer. During his freshman year of high school, his uncle told him to try good ol' American football instead, so he did. By junior year, he was varsity quarterback. "I'm a natural born leader," he explains.
"Everyone talks about women having an issue in the modeling world, but there's definitely manorexia too."
Crosby received a full-ride scholarship to Sacramento State to play football, but college ball was humbling: he didn't get to play very often. He went from being the golden boy to getting smacked around on the field when he did get put in a game. In his defeat, he turned to Dan Millman, the self-help author who penned Way of the Peaceful Warrior (subtitle: "A Book That Changes Lives").
After college, a girlfriend encouraged Crosby to try his hand (and face, and abs, and pecs) at modeling. His first day with the Ford Modeling Agency in San Francisco, he was booked in a Gap runway show. After a few months of runway work, he moved to Los Angeles and then to New York City in hopes of getting signed with another, bigger agency.
In New York, Crosby struggled to get signed but quickly found that models received the kind of celebrity treatment that Los Angeles reserves for Oscar winners. He partied constantly, staying out all night. But trying to maintain that lifestyle while also looking a certain way proved to be too much. "Everyone talks about women having an issue in the modeling world," he explains, "but there's definitely manorexia too." He needed to heal.
Across the street from Erewhon, there's a store-branded billboard for butter coffee, with a very flexible model playing the part of the second "t" in "butter." "#itsourlifestyle," the hashtag brags. Butter coffee is the signature item of buzzy food and supplement startup Bulletproof. Crosby was its first brand ambassador. He's responsible for getting its products into Erewhon, and he uses them in his food.
While I've heard of Bulletproof and its founder Dave Asprey, it's always been in regards to the brand's $9 million in venture capital funding and the New York internet's collective reaction ("lol"). Here, Bulletproof is on everyone's mind and lips, The Bulletproof Diet on their bookshelves and FatWater in their stomachs, and it is no laughing matter.
Back inside the store, I'm standing by as Crosby readies his desserts — matcha cookies, chocolate chip banana bread, marzipan cupcakes, and Reese's-inspired shortbread. We've been talking for two and a half hours and I haven't yet tried any of his creations. I'm intrigued, but a little uneasy.
Crosby's desserts are intended to keep the body in a state of ketosis (more on that in a bit). They're sugar-free, gluten-free, grain-free, and involve ingredients like colostrum (the first milk produced by any pregnant animal, including humans, but in this case cows) and Bulletproof Brain Octane Oil. These are cookies made of fancy-sounding fat. My idea of dessert is a Papa John's cookie cake.
Crosby moves around Erewhon at a pace I can't match; directing the photographer I've brought along for the day, replating his own desserts, and handing out samples to friends and regulars.
A woman approaches and starts to encourage Crosby to use human breast milk instead of bovine colostrum, which he tries to tell her is illegal.
"They're orgasmic," says Elissa Goodman, a nutritionist with her own line of juices at Erewhon. The tonic bar workers eat matcha cookies and smile for the camera. Leonard, an older gentleman Crosby describes as a staple of the store, asks for the marzipan specifically. A white dude with a beard and gold grill (whom Crosby tells me will soon be as big as Eminem) takes a slice of banana bread. Everyone raves about Crosby and his cookies.
Other shoppers maneuver around us, but no one seems surprised or particularly annoyed by the hubbub we've created. Grocery store photo shoots seem to be standard operating procedure here. A woman approaches and starts to encourage Crosby to use human breast milk instead of bovine colostrum, which he tries to tell her is illegal. Later she tells me that she is 66 with 10-year-old twins.
Finally, I get my long-awaited samples. First the banana bread, then the marzipan cupcakes and the shortbread. They're delicious. Genuinely, truly delicious. Well, the shortbread was just okay. But the banana bread and the marzipan — Elissa was right on.
Crosby Tailor really is a cookie genius.
After undergoing treatment for his struggles with body image, still broke and still exhausted, Crosby returned to LA without an agency. "I always had bags under my eyes, I was super mineral depleted and," he says, with a tinge of irony, "I had a six pack. It was so great." But he wanted to get better — actually better, long-term better — so he began to seek out a healthier lifestyle. He was already an athlete, and now a personal trainer too, but he began to focus on the nutritional aspects of wellness, eventually becoming a health coach.
At 23, he couldn't afford a place like Erewhon, so he shopped at V P Discount Health Food Mart, a low-priced health food store right down the street: "I drove by Erewhon like it was on this pedestal."
Shopping at V P Discount led him to Dragon Herbs, a Chinese herb and elixir bar, where he purchased natural remedies like Eternal Jing and Ginseng Drops to give him energy and repair his adrenals. He got hooked, eventually picking up work at Dragon, learning more and more and getting paid in herbs. He was working the counter alone when four men, all dressed in black, came into the store one day.
Crosby says that, at first, he thought he was about to get robbed. "Who robs a Chinese herb store?" he asked himself. But one of the men asked Crosby if he modeled and what New York agency he was with. Crosby surprised the man when he said he'd failed to secure an agency back east. "No," the man insisted, writing down his contact information, "You're going to be more successful in New York, you need to go back."
The man was photographer Steven Meisel.
I might have been the person carrying the recorder and notebook, professional photographer in tow, but I wasn't the only one memorializing the day. Crista Klayman, Crosby's modeling agent since 2008, says there's just one thing he does that "drives everybody crazy — and that is that he takes too many damn selfies. It's like, 'Dude!'"
There's just one thing he does that "drives everybody crazy — and that is that he takes too many damn selfies. It's like, 'Dude!'"
Crosby's active on Instagram, with nearly 32,000 followers, but Snapchat is where his brand really lives (you can find him at crosbytailor). Before we meet, I see the shortbread cookies I'll later eat in an emoji-enhanced video, and when we're together, Crosby snaps every half hour or so — pics of our matching red shoes, a selfie with his cookies, a video about walking to drop off treats to a friend.
You see, we've reached peak Instagram celebrity. America's hunky puppy Brock O'Hurn first rocketed to fame thanks to the social media platform (he, it appears, is also a friend of Crosby's), and Kayla Itsines' bikini-clad army was born from her IG comments. Even models like Gigi Hadid and Cara Delevingne to some degree owe their continued success to their huge followings rather than their runway chops (or famous families). But the era of the Snapchat star is just now dawning.
"Snapchat, to me, is like, fun," Crosby says, "You can be goofy and crazy and you can do it 24 hours a day. It's a story, it's a whole story of your day. Whereas Instagram, you don't want to put up too many Instagrams a day."
Crosby says he never posts more than one Instagram a day, sometimes leaving a multi-day gap between posts. "You really don't lose followers from not posting, you lose from posting something people don't like," he says.
Still, while Crosby claims he hasn't been focused on branding, he does know what works on social: "It sounds really ridiculous, but it's like, dessert, dessert, two shirtless posts, dessert, four shirtless posts." It does sound ridiculous. It also sounds really smart. And if he doesn't keep to that schedule, his followers will put him in line. He gets direct messages like, "I'm over the desserts, I want to see you."
Looking at Crosby's Instagram feed (as of this writing, it's dessert, shirtless post, shirtless post, dessert, shirtless post, suit post, shirtless post, dessert), his life seems like an effortless blur of looking good and eating treats, but on Snapchat you see a modicum of the tireless work that goes into being Crosby Tailor. One gym pic can't capture his complicated and ever-changing workouts, one image of a cookie can't capture his time testing un-sugary creations, one selfie with a buddy can't capture the many, many people Crosby reaches out and delivers food to each week. But the snaps, the snaps get close.
When Crosby began baking, his modeling career had taken off. With a bit of a leg up from Steven Meisel and famed hairstylist Jimmy Paul, he was booking car commercials, working with Dolce & Gabbana, living the life — this time, in a way that felt healthy and fulfilling.
He had also started working at Erewhon, which was more able to accommodate his modeling schedule than Dragon Herbs. The friends and coworkers he had at the store's tonic bar (among them, a man named Truth and a woman named Joy) were engaged and experimental in their own health food creations, and taught Crosby to do the same.
On his website, Crosby describes the beginnings of his cookie-creation business as "a love story." Not between a man and his cookies, although there is that, but between a man and woman who couldn't eat sugar.
Crosby describes the beginnings of his cookie-creation business as "a love story." Not between a man and his cookies, but between a man and woman who couldn't eat sugar.
Crosby is hesitant to talk about his ex, a then-aspiring actress who inspired him to focus on desserts, but he does tell me that they "helped each other heal." Her family was fitness-minded, but, he says somewhat cryptically, "her, herself, she didn't grow up healthy." Crosby was a trainer and nutritionist by this point, and he explains that "she was brought to me by a friend, for her diet." Despite their prescribed roles, he says that at a time when he was intense and single-minded about the purpose of food, she helped him relax, be less rigid, find the joy in it.
It was in her well-appointed kitchen that he first became a real chef, creating a host of healthy, sugar-free desserts. He went from being obsessed with the potential of food to the experience of it. They both realized they could have this new lifestyle and still have fun.
They also began to get deeper into their spirituality — "meditation, crystals, and all this weird stuff." Crosby pauses, "Well, I guess it's not that weird. In LA, it's not that weird."
Even Crosby's current attempts to distance himself from his ex have a decidedly New Age flair. "Yes, they started out from a love affair," he admits. "But they evolved as I did when I went on a spiritual journey. When you let the wrong people go, the right people and opportunities come in."
For Crosby, those right people include some pretty big names. At Erewhon, he walked right up to Steven Tyler, now an avowed fan of the cookies; he also counts Laila Ali (whom he met while health coaching) and Matt Bomer (a friend from the set of American Horror Story) among his admirers.
"You can break free of the attachments of serving just one, and open the door to bring service to the masses," he explains. Today, Crosby's cookies are for all of us, as long as we're in the greater Los Angeles area.
When we eventually leave Erewhon, Crosby drives me to CryoHealth, a center for whole body cryotherapy. (This is, to be fair, a little weird.) On the trip over, he holds the wheel with one hand and his phone with the other, showing me the Instagrams and Vines of his future possible co-stars on a currently-in-pre-production reality TV show. The show, he says, is about models with entrepreneurial interests. Much of the specifics are off the record, but I am allowed to say that the interpersonal dynamics sound like they will make for fantastic reality TV.
At CryoHealth, the front desk clerk greets Crosby warmly as he tells her, "It's been a minute." Inside the cryochambers, we'll be subjected to ultra-low temperatures (-200 to -240 F) for a few minutes (the maximum for Crosby, the minimum for me because, as he tells me, I'm "so pale"). Inside each chamber, music plays to distract you from your body's slow death.
Freezing is supposed to reduce inflammation, boost calorie-burning, and even help with stress, insomnia, and muscle and joint pain. I'm ready to shed the 500 extra calories the center promises, but annoyed to learn that it's up to 800 for men. Forget the wage gap, the post-cryogenic-freezing-calorie-burn gap is where we really lose out.
Crosby and I separately strip down, and I put on a robe (they're wholly unnecessary and only for my "dignity"). He enters the chamber first, in his underwear, socks, earmuffs, and a surgical mask. As he poses for the camera — in the chamber, surrounded by billowing smoke; in the mirror, pouting expertly at his own reflection — an older woman and I joke about how absurdly hot he looks.
As he poses for the camera — in the chamber, surrounded by billowing smoke; in the mirror, pouting expertly at his own reflection — an older woman and I joke about how absurdly hot he looks.
Standing in the freezing chamber, listening to Beyoncé, I finally have a moment to myself to think about how effective all of this so-called-health-inspired probable-pseudoscience could really be. While I feel invigorated by our visit to CryoHealth, I'm from New England: I've been cold all my life. Why should this do anything special?
It's hard not to wonder the same about Crosby's cookies. For one thing, they are actually delicious, and for another, they're made of fat (which is maybe why they taste so good). And anyway, what the hell is ketosis?
I'll tell you. Usually, the body gets fuel from blood sugars in a process called glycolysis — when this happens, body fat is stored. Ketosis is when the body's energy comes from substances called ketones, which are made when the body doesn't have enough sugar to use for energy and actually breaks down fat stores.
Dr. Lisa Young, a nutritionist and NYU professor, explains that a ketogenic diet is simply a low-carb diet, like the Atkins diet, marked by high fat intake and lots of protein. With no carbs to burn, the body goes straight to burning fat, cutting out the delicious bread-y middleman.
While this might seem efficient, it's not popular with many academic nutritionists. Young explains her own skepticism: "You need carbohydrates to break down fat, so what you have is an incomplete breakdown." This has all sorts of side effects, she explains, including a reduction in hunger ("people often like that"), but in the long run can cause the body to go into ketoacidosis, a state of uncontrolled ketosis. In the most extreme cases, ketoacidosis can leave you functioning like "an untreated diabetic." The diet can also cause dizziness, raised cholesterol, and bad breath.
And worst of all: if carbs are reintroduced, weight gain happens fast.
Young, author of The Portion Teller Plan, adds that when people eat foods that are associated with a certain healthy image, they often don't take the actual caloric content of the food — or the rest of their diet — into account. People "forget that they're eating calories," she says; because there's "a health halo" around these terms (ketogenic! colostrum! brain oil!), they think they can eat more than they normally would. Again, remember, these are cookies made of fat.
I ask Crosby what his cookies would do for someone who wasn't living a ketogenic lifestyle. Say, someone who had recently pounded a Papa John's cookie cake. If you're not already health-conscious, his cookies can't save you, he says. They're not a cure-all: "One layer of good on top of all that bad is not going to do anything, except taste good." He echoes Young to a certain degree, explaining that eating a few of his cupcakes after a dinner of pizza would be "a lot of calories." Yes. It would be.
The desserts are designed for a very specific lifestyle, he stresses, but if you want to replace regular sweets with his cookies then "go for it." He touts the cognitive benefits of the brain oil, the thermogenic (i.e. metabolism-raising) properties of MCT oils like the coconut oil he uses, and the myriad effects of colostrum which, he says, promotes "growth" and "vitality."
Crosby's modeling agent mentions another benefit of his desserts: "Some actors that have had a substance abuse problem still crave the sugar, but can't eat the real sugar because then it triggers their need and want for drugs." Which: close. According to Dr. Pamela Peeke, speaking to the New York Times, "Once off the drugs, the brain craves the uber rewards of the hyperpalatables — Mint Milanos, Oreos, any sugar." Sugar becomes the new drug. And in a town like LA, where gaining weight is a greater career threat than heroin relapse, Crosby's sugar-free desserts pack that extra appeal.
In a town like LA, where gaining weight is a greater career threat than heroin relapse, Crosby's sugar-free desserts pack that extra appeal.
But Young, already wary of ketogenic diets, is especially dubious when it comes to the idea of ketogenic cookies. "In my book, it's one thing if you're going to do a diet like this," she says, "but cookies are cookies and ketogenic diet cookies, I mean, that's ridiculous. Eat a cookie, enjoy the cookie, eat one, and move on."
As for Crosby's use of colostrum, Young is similarly unenthused: "It's a little too far-fetched for me." After she explains what colostrum is ("I know!" I tell her, not elaborating that I had ingested and even enjoyed it less than a week before), she admits there might be health benefits, but adds, "It's definitely more than I think is palatable, to me."
The same month I meet with Crosby, he appears on television twice in the span of two short days. He struggled with sea bass (but caught the eye of a female contestant) on an episode of Chopped after playing a model (of course) on an episode of American Horror Story: Hotel that aired the day before. And then there are the modeling gigs, the Adidas sponsorship, the Bulletproof ambassadorship, the Snapchat dominance, and the (possibly) imminent reality show.
But through all of this, his real passion is Cookie Genius. Crosby wants to be out there with the brand: on social media, on TV, in the real world, all to the slight consternation of his agent. "It's a crazy passion," Crista says. "It's his obsession, and it will be his lifelong thing." She believes that the brand will expand, and even go mainstream, picturing ice cream (Crosby's Colostrum Ice Cream is already sold at Erewhon) and other food lines in the future.
I ask Crista if Crosby, at 30, is nearing the end of his modeling career, and well, isn't he smart to be branching out into something that isn't dependent on his looks now? She's emphatic that he is in the prime of his career. It's different for male models, who peak between 30 and 40. If anything, she says, his biggest hindrance is his compulsion to talk about cookies on other jobs. Brands tell her, "'If he's here working, he can't about his cookies,'" Crista recounts. "I'm like, 'All right!' 'He needs to talk about his Armani blazer.' 'All right!'"
Currently, the cookies are only available in Los Angeles. Crosby sells them on his website, and they can be ordered for large local parties as well as in smaller batches. Soon he'll be doing pop-ups in the LA area, but what he's holding out for is an investor. He's nervous, Crista tells me, about partnering with the wrong, wealthy partner — someone who could squeeze him out and take his vision as their own.
The dream is to have Cookie Genius cookies available to people everywhere, and to that end, he's leaning toward a line of baking mixes. "Can you imagine having my chocolate chip cookies fresh out of the oven?!" he exclaims. With this plan, he'd be able to avoid shelf life issues and sell the mix online, worldwide. While he doesn't want to forget the local stores who have been so good to him, he admits, "I would love to see the mixes eventually being sold in the holy grail of distribution, Whole Foods."
Once the baking mixes are in place, he knows how to promote them. He wants time on a morning show, and to sell kits via a teleretailer like QVC. Operators should stand by.
He's a Cathy cartoon's dream: a ketogenic romance novel cover hero, a Fabio for 2015 who wants you to believe that it is butter.
Ultimately though, Crosby is hoping to sell not only his cookies, but his lifestyle. Not just the desserts, not just the workouts, but other things that he values, like community and connection. "And people," he tells me, "I love people."
Still, he worries a little about his accessibility.
Throughout the day we talk a lot, at my prompting, about how Crosby has taken three things the stereotypical straight woman wants — a hot shirtless dude, dessert, and weight loss — and put them all in one brand. He's a Cathy cartoon's dream: a ketogenic romance novel cover hero, a Fabio for 2015 who wants you to believe that it is butter. But is it all a fantasy?
"A friend of mine told me the other day, 'Don't you think there are people out there that think what you're doing is slightly unattainable?'" He's towering over me in all gray athleisure, probably the most handsome person I've ever stood this close to. I see the concern. "'If you look at somebody in the Midwest that's like, very overweight, and they're looking at you, and the way you look, and you're making these desserts, do they believe you?' So I want to come across more believable."
But he swears he walks the walk. He eats his own desserts until 2 a.m. sometimes. "I'll crush six cookies and an ice cream," and afterwards he only feels denser and detoxified. "There's a lot of fiber in my desserts."
After CryoHealth, Crosby and I head back to his car. We're going over to meet Cara Santana of beauty startup Glam App at her office. Crosby knows Cara through her boyfriend, actor Jesse Metcalfe, whom Crosby met at the gym.
Inside his white BMW, I notice that Crosby has a crystal jammed between the folds of the driver's seat, and another in the center console. "Yeah, I sit on a heart chakra crystal," he admits, a little bashfully. Crosby keeps crystals in his car and his kitchen to keep him grounded and to give him good vibrations — especially driving around "crazy LA."
He turns on his stereo and Dave Matthews Band pours out. He tells me DMB is usually playing in his car. We listen to "The Space Between" and other live tracks as he points out hotspots that his friends own. One, he tells me, is a gutted brothel that hires "midgets" to run around, as flamethrowers flame away on the roof. I say that sounds Lynchian (if not totally offensive), and Crosby reminds me that David Lynch's meditation center is in LA.
Before we can drop in on the Glam team, we happen upon a new storefront right around the corner. Inside are two hip-looking young bros selling coffee and tea brewed from mushrooms.
"No way!" is exchanged all around. They, too, are friends of Crosby's. Tero and Luka of Four Sigma Foods aren't opening their shop for another week, and this is their first day in the space — if we'd come yesterday, we wouldn't have seen them. Not only that, but that very morning, Crosby had Snapped some of their products.
Since the super blood moon on September 27th, our manifestation powers have been heightened. "It spiked a huge ascendance in consciousness."
We marvel at this confluence of coincidence, but Crosby insists that it isn't one. Since the super blood moon on September 27th, our manifestation powers have been heightened. "It spiked a huge ascendance in consciousness," he tells us. "So you know, you put something on your mind, especially on your third eye, put something like, right there," he gestures to his forehead. "Boom. It's very achievable now. So, don't put ‘I'm gonna get a speeding ticket' on your third eye. Don't put fear on your third eye because you will you get it."
We finally get to the Glam App office, and I stand back as Crosby snaps his entrance. When I check his account later, I see Cara come to the door doing a little waving dance, her tiny dog Dexter sniffing Crosby with excitement. Back in real life, I enter the office and meet the staff, hard at work around a single table. Like everyone we spoke to at Erewhon, Cara raves about Crosby.
"He's his own best marketing tool," she tells me. "He's gorgeous, he's fit, he eats his own desserts, and he lives a really healthy lifestyle. I think it's so cool what's he's been able to do."
As a friend, Cara sees a different side of Crosby than the one you might glimpse online — but not a very different side.
"It's weird to see you with you shirt on," she teases him. "‘Cara, can you come take a photo of us?'" she says, in an approximation of Crosby's voice. Like Crista ("Dude!"), she finds Crosby's predilection for selfies a lovable foible. They take one together, of course.
Editor: Julia Rubin