The Interview DAPHNE CHENG, CHEF, EXHIBIT C

daphne

“I first became vegetarian when I was twelve or thirteen, and I slowly became vegan just by reading and learning more about diet and nutrition. I started cooking for myself because there wasn’t much available—I grew up in the Chicago suburbs, and it was very rare to see anything vegan. But I enjoyed cooking for myself. That’s how it started.

Before Exhibit C, I had the Supper Club—and Exhibit C was kind of a continuation, evolution of it. The whole idea was to create this space where we could showcase a culinary community—having guest chefs come in and doing things and collaborating. I did a dinner with a bunch of great chefs like David Sanchez, he's totally not vegan but he did a vegan dinner with me and that was super fun to do. Being a chef can be very isolating. We work long hours and it’s not very social because you kind of only know who you’re working with in your restaurant, and you’re usually working during socializing hours. I’m kind of an anomaly because I have the flexibility to meet people more through my work and through the dinners that I host. It’s really all about meeting people, too.”

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And now, culinary and hosting tips from Daphne:
1. Try new things, always.

“I love going to the market and seeing what’s new and fresh. There’s new stuff I'm discovering every day. If there’s an herb that I don't know of, I’ll take it home and see what I can do with it.”

2. Presentation is key (or better—it’s spiritual).

It’s really true that you eat with your eyes first. There’s this study where they plated the same salad twice—one was artfully plated and the other was just piled on—and then they had people eat them and rank then. The people that ate the nicer-plated one actually ranked the taste higher, which is really interesting. You want to care that much about the food you’re eating and serving other people. You want to put as much thought and love and care in it as you can. I’m not very spiritual, but I have a lot of spiritual friends and it is really a transfer of energy and love.”

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3. Ditch the uniform in favor of something a little more you.

“I’m very anti-chef clothes. No uniforms, I just usually wear dresses. It just feels more free.”

4. Try not to restrict.

I don’t have any restrictions in my diet, other than not eating meat. I don't restrict myself on sugar or this or that. I don’t like calling them ‘guilty pleasures’ because you shouldn't feel guilty about what you eat! Everything should be totally enjoyable. If you do want to indulge in something that is maybe less healthy for you, just be totally open and indulge. And don’t feel guilty about it.”

 

For more Daphne, visit her website here.