Lauren Gerrie Wants Your Ingredients To Turn You On

Lauren Gerrie – private chef and former professional dancer – reflects on the power of kindness, the sweetness of embracing your sensuality, and the thrills & challenges of working with a best friend.



Lauren Gerrie Wants Your Ingredients To Turn You On

“I’m obsessed with being a sensualist. It’s how I absorb my environments. Life is very tactile for me. It’s very vibrant and colorful. The senses are at constant play in my daily life.”

LAUREN WEARS THE PLUNGE IN BLACK AND THE HIGHWAIST IN BLACK

Lauren Gerrie has the multi-sensory career to satisfy that obsession. Lauren is a private chef, former professional dancer and co-founder of the creative culinary company bigLITTLE Get Together. Lauren founded bigLITTLE with best friend and chef Flannery Klette-Kolton fourteen years ago, growing the New York City company through word-of-mouth clients, proving that kindness, authenticity, and unfiltered passion are powerful professional tools.

“In a nutshell, I’m still getting paid to cook and dance, which have been two of my lifelong passions. Because of the woman and professional I am, my work happens to be pretty sexy. And our company [bigLITTLE] promotes the women Flannery and I are. We’re not stone-cold, competitive, or trying to fit into a masculine world. We just aren’t those people.”

“Women are all so different. Men have had the platform to speak about their diversity for a long time. It just so happens that we get to be thriving in an era when people are listening to what [women] have to say, too. And we are saying, we choose to show our cleavage, or to show our tattoos, or to talk about how erotic the experience of eating a juicy strawberry in the middle of the summer is (I mean, come on!). If you don’t like those things, that’s OK, but we do. It’s really great to have the power to say that. There’s room for all of us.”

Professional kitchens are largely male-dominated, but this has not stopped Lauren from entering the arena and playing by her own rules. Her joyful process and celebration of the senses are changing the industry in a way that only a woman can.

LAUREN WEARS THE PLUNGE IN BLACK AND THE HIGHWAIST IN BLACK

“As we were growing our company, people would ask, ‘What sets you apart from all these other catering companies? All these other female chefs?’ What they are really asking is, ‘Why are you better?’ What we realized is, we’re not necessarily better at being chefs. We’re better at being aware of the whole process.”

“I was a professional dancer, so movement, health, and wellbeing have always been an integral part of my journey. Flannery is the same way. Our pasts really echo one another, and food has always held a really joyous place in both of our families. We don’t approach food as an intimidation tool. We approach it as an integration tool. This has really set us apart.”

“We try to inspire people to approach consumption differently, by leading through example. For us, consumption starts with food. We encourage people to think about what they’re eating, where they’re getting it from. We want you to be attracted to your ingredients, turned on by them, whether they are from the farmer’s market – if you have that luxury – or your supermarket. [We want you] to be conscious about what you’re putting in your body.”

For over a decade, bigLITTLE has been heavily based in New York City. For six of those years, Lauren also worked as Marc Jacobs’ private chef. This past year and a half have brought a change, as Lauren takes a step back from private dining and running her business. The shift has allowed Lauren to say ‘yes’ to more independent projects that fuel her love for travel and creative challenges – including cooking on sailing trips around the world with the Sailing Collective.

LAUREN WEARS THE DEMI IN BLUSH AND THE BIKINI IN BLUSH

“On the boats, we really promote the idea of storytelling through food and adventure. When we were in Greece provisioning for our next trip, I went to the farmer’s market and spoke to the woman selling me the ingredients. On the boat, I was able to say, “The olive oil we are having was made by [this woman’s] grandmother. And the honey we are having was cultivated by her nephew. And these watermelons are from her garden, right next to where these figs grew. All of sudden, people can taste a story. It’s such a cool thing to watch this transform their experience.”

“Some people will say, ‘I’m not totally into olives.’ So I’ll ask, ‘What is it that you don’t like about olives?’ They will describe whatever it is they don’t like, and it’s usually attached to some sort of childhood memory – a nostalgic eating process they haven’t been able to overcome as an adult. So I’ll make two versions of the dish, one with the olives separated out, and I’ll encourage them to just try it with the olives. They’ll look at me suddenly and say, ‘Woah, I’ve never liked olives before, but I really like this.’”

“What does that teach someone? Maybe it’s not the thing you don’t like. It’s the way you had it. Maybe it’s not the person you don’t like, it’s just how they spoke to you. Maybe it’s not the color purple you don’t like, it’s just that you just don’t feel that pretty when you wear it. Whatever it is. It’s expansive thinking from a pretty primal, pretty basic approach.”

LAUREN WEARS THE DEMI IN BLUSH AND THE BIKINI IN BLUSH

“People on the boats get the advantage of watching us create everything. They start to understand how one thing becomes something else. Most people don’t realize how long it takes to break down a bunch of really tiny fish when all you can get is needlefish from the local fisherman who just dropped off the catch of the day. It might take me a solid two hours to descale, de-bone, filet, marinate. And how good does it taste?!”

“It’s that moment where you become aware of how fortunate we are to be able to choose the food we put in our mouth. Do you know how many people just [eat to survive?] And we have a constant choice. When someone feeds you something delicious, it should casually remind you of that luxury.”

Through these sailing trips, Lauren and Flannery are getting back to the initial goal that brought them together as 21-year-olds: let’s cook and travel the world. The transition from private dining to more independent projects, however, was spurred by the challenges of running a business with your best friend – and the realization that independence can strengthen the bond.

“She’s my best friend. And working with a friend can really rip two people apart. We decided to face that [head on.] Six years ago, we were killing it on paper. We had A-list clients, we were working all the time, we were getting press, things were just coming to us. But we were [oveworking] and barely speaking to each other. It was the beginning of a new year, and we had just been featured in the New York Times. We knew we would need to change.

LAUREN WEARS THE DEMI IN BLUSH AND THE BIKINI IN BLUSH

“We had two options. We could grow the company, which would mean investors, brick & mortar, a team to help us run the business. Or we could downsize – go back to what we had always wanted to do, remain friends, and stop trying to level up to the competition in New York. We chose the [second option.] We would rather talk to each other, to have each other as friends for life, than have some well-known New York company. Who cares? We needed to find our independence again.”

For Lauren, the pursuit of more independent projects has been a breath of fresh air, after years of the New York City hustle. And flourishing outside of the city has allowed her to come back and thrive in new ways.

“I needed something different. I wanted to get back to three things: to dance more, to travel more and to work passionately again. I just felt that there was no way I could do all the creative things, no way I could challenge myself creatively, if I continued and just stayed in the niche that I had been in for so long.”

LAUREN WEARS THE PLUNGE IN BLACK AND THE HIGHWAIST IN BLACK

This new chapter of independent projects does not preclude partnership. Collaboration, in fact, fuels most of Lauren’s creative ventures. With each passing year, she is learning the unrivaled power of the collective. 


“I’m an only child, so I really like working independently, but I also really like working with partners. I don’t know what my past lives were and how I got so lucky on this life, but I basically find cool people – and hold on tight. I’ve been with my boyfriend for sixteen years, running a company with Flannery for fourteen, dancing with my friend Marissa for seventeen, and teaching [an all-levels dance class called] 'MOVES' with her for three years. I own a restaurant with lifelong friends who are on a parallel plane about the ethics of food, being a restaurateur and the dining experience. I’m a very, very loyal person once you have my attention.”

“If I’ve learned anything from being a woman in my thirties (which is so awesome!), it’s that the more genuine I am, the better everything turns out. The more effortless I am about connecting with people, being kind to people, sharing in joy – the more it all comes back. It comes full circle constantly – on an hourly, daily, weekly, yearly basis. I think if we spent less time thinking about individual success, and more time working collaboratively, as a collective, we would get so much further.”

 Interview by Kate Mack. Article by Molly Virostek. Photographed by Stephanie Lavaggi. Styled by Emily Newnam

Tags: bodytalk , Self

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