Profile: Accessories Designer Kendall Conrad
Kendall Conrad is a very good cook. “We entertain a lot,” she recently told me, as she began deconstructing a typical dinner party at her house in Santa Barbara, California, where she lives with her husband and two teenage daughters.
“Food is always served buffet style,” Kendall said. “I start with what protein I want to serve—steak or pork shoulder, for example—and build everything else around it. I love spices, bold flavors and Middle Eastern dishes.”
Tiki torches usually illuminate the path that leads guests from her house down to an outside fireplace and a creek that runs through the property. Trees are lit from below for a romantic effect. And Kendall always makes sure there is good music to dance to.
Sometimes her parties happen on the beach. “We build a bonfire and make a one-pot dish—something that you can easily reheat on the fire,” Kendall said, “chili or Moroccan chicken stew or coq au vin.”
She grew up in a culinary family—“Both my mother and my grandmother were fabulous cooks”—including Julia Child, who was a distant relative and lived nearby. “As a girl, I remember Aunt Julia coming over for lunch, and my mom making gazpacho and madras curry with all the garnishes.”
Today, Kendall designs accessories; her eponymous collection of handmade, traditional saddlery-inspired handbags, shoes and jewelry can be found in her three Southern California stores, as well as select stores around the world. But from her late teens to early 30s, Kendall worked successfully as a model, frequently traveling between Milan, Paris, New York and Los Angeles. This peripatetic lifestyle exposed her to new culinary adventures. “My boyfriends were my guinea pigs,” she said about this fun period when she was testing recipes and building her repertoire.
In 2006, she published Eat Well, Feel Well, a Specific Carbohydrate Diet (SCD) cookbook with grain-free, starch-free and whole-food-based recipes. This bestseller, currently in its sixth printing, was a result of an exasperating time in Kendall’s life, when her baby daughter was diagnosed with irritable bowl syndrome after a series of ear infection antibiotics wreaked havoc on her digestive system. Instead of more medications and possibly surgery, Kendall followed a nutritionist’s advice and decided to heal her daughter with food.
“I developed quite a few recipes,” she remembered. “At the time, there weren’t that many cookbooks on the market, so I got creative with the limited tools I had.” Within a year, her daughter healed completely and has been disease-free ever since. In Kendall’s cookbook, child-friendly alternatives such as pancakes, pizza and fries coincide with more adult fare, like shepherd’s pie with mashed cauliflower, vodka-honey-cured salmon, or homemade limoncello.
Hometown Santa Barbara — Where do you live? Santa Barbara — Occupation Designer — Signature dish Middle Eastern anything. I like spicy, tangy food, not sweet. — Who taught you how to cook? The great chefs of TV, starting with the Galloping Gourmet and Julia Child when I was a kid. Loved those shows! Later, Ina Garten and Jamie Oliver. And cookbooks. I mainly love English chefs: Nigel Slater, Gordon Ramsey, Tamsin Day Lewis, John Pawson, Skye Gyngell, and Yotam Ottolenghi. — Favorite kitchen tool My Kyocera ceramic knife–hands down! My grater for fresh ginger and lime. And my Vitamix blender for bulletproof coffee, salsa, soups, and dressings. — Always in your pantry Olive oil, honey, coconut oil (both refined for cooking and raw for uncooking), bulletproof coffee, organic dark roast coffee beans, Himalayan sea salt, Maldon sea salt, grey sea salt, white truffle sea salt, white truffle oil, tomato paste, Sriracha, Dijon mustard, Bragg Liquid Aminos, toasted sesame oil, mirin and pommegranate syrup. — Go-to snack Almond butter and raw cacao nibs with Incan berries — Favorite cuisine Middle Eastern — Do you diet? Try not to eat gluten. Do not like sugar much, very little. Avoid junk food or fake food. — Food addictions Pineapple–love! For breakfast — Food allergies Nope — Food fad pet peeve Chia seeds. I don't get it! — Who’s your sous chef? Sometimes my housekeeper helps to prep, and sometimes my daughters. — Drinking while cooking? Only if a friend is there. I never drink alone. — What’s for dinner tonight? Roasted shishito peppers, roasted chicken with sumac and Dijon mustard, shaved fennel salad with blood oranges. Dark chocolate squares for dessert (no less than 85% cocoa). My mother is coming, so a simple family dinner out in the garden. — Do you ever cry over spilled milk? No. Life is way too short! — Best meal you ever had Hmmm, hard to pick, but a super glutonous meal from Chez L'Ami Louis in Paris jumps out. Steak frites and escargot. Oh!—and Animal restaurant. Their steak with escargot on top with lots of butter. I also love cauliflower steak at Superba. Many delicious meals at Axe and Gjelina, and now Gjusta is my newest favorite. — Contact kendallconraddesign.com
Kendall’s version of the classic Arabic side dish is grain- and gluten-free—she uses zucchini instead of the traditional bulgur—but it’s remarkably flavorful, thanks to fresh herbs and a good amount of lemon juice, and has a similarly crunchy texture. You may serve it with other mezze, to accompany roasted meats, or simply on its own as a salad.
- Serves 4
- 3 large tomatoes
- 5 medium zucchini, peeled
- 2 cups fresh flat-leaf parsley, leaves only
- 1 cup fresh mint, leaves only
- 7 scallions, white and green parts, thinly sliced
- ¼ cup lemon juice, freshly squeezed
- 1 medium shallot, peeled, minced
- 1 clove garlic, peeled, minced
- ¼ cup olive oil
- Black pepper, freshly ground
- With a knife, cut 1/8-inch-deep slits in the tomato tops in a cross pattern. Place the tomatoes cut-side down in a bowl, and pour in enough boiling water to submerge them completely. Leave until the tomato skins start peeling off. Carefully remove from the water, peel, and cut in half. With a spoon, remove the seeds and discard them. Dice the tomatoes and set aside.
- Cut the zucchini in half, and place them in a food processor bowl fitted with a metal blade. Pulse a few times until small and grain-sized. Transfer to a bowl.
- Place the parsley and mint in the same food processor bowl, and pulse until finely chopped. Add the herbs to the zucchini, and stir in the tomatoes and scallions.
- In a small bowl, combine the lemon juice with the shallot, garlic and olive oil. Mix with the zucchini, and chill for minimum 30 minutes, or up to 4 hours. Season with salt and black pepper to taste, and serve.
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