Growing up in both New York and the South of France, Kris Zero developed a cultured and worldly aesthetic that has given her a distinct voice in the fashion world. Throughout her career, she has styled for publications including V Magazine, InStyle, Harper’s Bazaar and international editions of Vogue, as well as for Tom Ford, Persol and Nike advertising campaigns and various television and film projects.
Zero’s bicultural upbringing trained not only her eye, but also her palate: greatly influenced by her father’s daring curiosity about the edible bounty found within nature, she attributes her love of seaweed, for example, to familial ties.
Here, she shares how working with fresh shellfish and organic fruit during summer jobs on the eastern tip of Long Island inspired her hands-on approach to food, and why pickling and fermenting have always been a celebrated part of her life:
Live The Process: How did growing up in both New York and France shape your view of food and nutrition?
Kris Zero: Where we lived on Long Island was great because, at that time, it was mostly farms. (Development has since changed that, but farm stands were everywhere then.) Even now, if you travel very far east, there are loads of farms.
I worked on a farm [called] Benner’s as a kid. I picked (mostly ate!) strawberries and fed the animals. It was a lot of work, but so good for me. At that age you're just trying to make some money for concert tickets and whatnot, but—in hindsight—it made a huge difference to have a hands-on approach and see from where the food I was eating came.
I also worked on a lobster boat one summer, putting rubber bands on the claws! I'm certain this will prove to be the best period of dining in my life. All sorts of fish would come up in the traps and that would be the lunch for the day. Looking back, I didn't realize how lucky I was to have super good fresh food and super cute guys to myself all day, while tanning! (I am suddenly rethinking my line of work...ha!)
Even when we were living in the city, I worked with food at the Union Square Greenmarket, selling apples and rhubarb. I am lucky to have had this farm-to-fork experience, especially growing up as a suburban/ city kid.
My father was also really into foraging and marine life. He'd make a dessert called a Blancmange with Irish Moss (a seaweed). We laugh because I'm the same, always trying to make things with Irish Moss and following in his footsteps.
But it was only once I lived in Cap Benat, France that I understood how that kind of sourcing, preparing and eating could be integrated into my daily routine.
We fished, went diving for urchin and, if we found octopus, we'd eat it. There were so many wild fruits and trees around. I'd back away and make a squish face at the sight of some seafood, but we really never went to a grocery store. So, instead of staying hungry, I tried everything.
I learned to make jam, and can and preserve a variety of foods, so that we could eat them when things we loved were out of season. This is now a huge part of my life. I am always trying to eat things that aren't shipped and, therefore, look for only what’s in season locally. I don’t like to let anything spoil, so I can, preserve and ferment whenever possible.
LTP: Is there an unhealthy food you have found in your travels that you have a difficult time resisting, and how do you handle that temptation?
KK: I do everything I can to avoid processed food. That is the biggest challenge today. I try really hard to cook for myself and bring lunch to work. I'm often on set and catering is rarely organic—usually almost everything is processed. Getting hungry at work is “no bueno” when there's oodles of craft service around!
The thing is, when we are properly nourished, we aren't hungry for more. When we eat something that's not nourishing, we overeat or crave sugars or just get out of whack in general.
LTP: What tips would you offer people who are interested in learning to pickle foods at home, but have little or no prior experience doing so?
KK: If you live in Los Angeles, talk to Miele! She’s a beautiful soul, who sells raw milk at the Sunday Hollywood and Wednesday Santa Monica Farmer's Markets. She is the best teacher! She taught me how to make kombucha, kvass, sour cream, yogurt, cheese, buttermilk, pickled ginger, gingered carrot...The list goes on!
If you want to read up, check out, Nourishing Traditions: The Cookbook that Challenges Politically Correct Nutrition and the Diet Dictocrats by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and Wild Fermentation: The Flavor, Nutrition, and Craft of Live-Culture Foods by Sandor Ellix Katz.
LTP: Incessant traveling and long hours on set and location can make eating fresh and local foods nearly impossible. What inspires your diligence with your diet?
KK: People always ask me where I find the time to do this. The thing about fermenting is it stays good for a long, long time, and you get faster at it. Raw veggies and a few fermented foods wrapped up for lunch take absolutely no time at all.
One of the best gifts I ever got was an unending supply of spring water delivered to my door in glass bottles by Mountain Valley Spring Water. I use it all the time for pickling, fermenting, filling a water bottle, sprouting, brewing coffee and tea. The list goes on. I can't help but be in awe of the bottomless fountain of fresh water in my house!
LTP: What does happiness look like to you?
KK: A picnic on a boat is ideal.
LTP: What does it mean to you to "Live The Process" and how do you do that every day?
KK: My process is about integration. Instead of having a list for my life, I try to do what I love enough, so that it becomes a happiness habit.