It’s the day before Thanksgiving, and Tess Ward is on the phone, heading from a shoot in Brooklyn back into the city.
Tess is both a model and model food creator with Le Cordon Bleu training. She recently shared her seasonal (and visually beautiful) recipes in her latest offering, The Naked Cookbook – and, as she travels through NYC, she’s more than happy to tell me all about it.
“[Recipes] will start either with a couple of ingredients I want to work with, or a theme or colours in mind and work backwards,” she explains. “Generally, I have a sense of the final thing I want to create and then it will develop based on the ingredients I have available that I’ve sourced at the market. I tend to pair things together that grow together. For example, seasonality is a big thing that I cook with – things that are in season at the same time. It’s produce-led food.”
As the story goes, Tess says, she started cooking when she was at university in Leeds. After spending her first and second year out partying “a lot”, she realised that her lifestyle wasn’t quite cohesive with good health. Studying art – and admittedly indulging in the North’s love for a tipple – Tess sought to do things that made her feel better about herself: like cooking.
“Cooking just seemed to be something that called at a certain time for me. I fell in love with it, I started to enjoy the preparation side of it. It was trial and error at beginning – I got things wrong and I still do. [But] it’s always a process: you hone it and grow it and your style changes.”
Speaking of style, Tess’ fashion also changes, too – though she admits she’s very into the 90s and 70s at the moment. “I was a model when I was a teenager, but I never liked it. It picked up again more because I was an ambassador for Michael Kors,” she explains.
“I catwalked for Dolce and Gabbana in September – I only work with brands that I really like. I’m very specifically aligned with luxury, because that’s the kind of stuff I like to wear. I’m the kind of person who would spend a lot on the most insane piece of clothing rather than several pieces of clothing. That’s me. That’s what I prefer. I like quality over quantity.”
And are there any similarities between seasonal cooking choices and seasonal fashion? Well, according to Tess, she’s much more colourful with the former. In terms of her style, she says she tends to keep staples for winter: think a polo neck, jeans and boots “Although I have recently worn some PVC flares,” she admits. “So I think all bets are off.”
Throughout various seasons or times of the day – or yearning for that glass of red on a Friday night – everyone has different cravings we either succumb to or suppress. With her new book, Tess Ward is about how to satisfy these hungers. “For me, cravings alters, I often crave salty foods. I don’t really like pizza or burgers, but I like pasta and hotdogs. There’s a lot of vegetable led junk food in [the book], in the sense that it’s kinda good for you but it’s meant to satisfy too.
“Putting pleasure back into food is my primary aim,” she adds. “I want people to feel more excited about cooking. It’s about making something that they love. The main thing to focus on is making it colourful, and making food you enjoy. I know if I don’t enjoy a food, I won’t cook it. It’s the same with ingredients, don’t feel like you have to cook kale if you don’t like kale. It’s about pleasure in food.”
See more from Tess on her official website.
** Photography by Bartek Szmigulski **
Words by Eliza Frost