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Louise Vongerichten

Daughter of one of the most respected families of international cuisine, Louise explains the beginning of the social project Food Dreams and talks about her family recipe of happiness.

Food for thoughts

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“I remember that specific time where I saw all the chefs around and my dad and myself and he was spoonfeeding me literally, in the kitchen and I just love that whole happiness around food”

A little bit of everything: Louise devours life with pleasure as if she only knew beginnings – fate is a deep dish when she is hungry for challenges. Growing up between New York and Southern France, Louise experienced other cultures along the way, also living in Dubai, Hong Kong, and Washington before settling in 2005 in the ever-bittersweet Big Apple.

Daughter and sister of consecrated chefs, Louise always had the kitchen as the center of her universe, but she chose to gravitate into the orbit of finance during college and then immersed herself in an MBA at the ESSEC business school in Paris. The intolerance of social inequality, which is apparently a hereditary case among the Vongerichten, attacks especially the youngest, who took the lead in the clan’s social project, Food Dreams.

Created in 2016, the initiative aims to help young people in social vulnerability to achieve cutting-edge education and training in the high-gastronomy sector, so that at the end of the project, they will be able to enter the job market and give new seasonings to this indigestible problem.

” Well I love everything about eggs so eggs are my number one food to go, especially in the morning. So I like, just like to have, I like to call it, messy egg because it’s not scrambled, it’s not sunny-side up. It’s just like all over and then I just mix a lot of things in there” Louise

Claur: What is your concept of the Food Dreams Foundation and how did you start it?
Louise V.:  Food Dreams Foundation is a non-profit that my father, my brother and I decided to launch about two and a half years ago now. And, the way we started was pretty funny actually. Ah, we were driving um, a car, my dad and I, and drop a coin on the floor and I said, “Where should I put that?” And then he said, “Put it to the Jean-Georges Foundation, that’s his first name. And then a week later I asked to meet with him and to see him and over breakfast, I had a business plan ready about foundation because um, when he told me we should put the money to ah … his Jean-Georges Foundation-I thought this is a great idea. There are so many young people all over the world that’s need to help financial help to go to school. So we decided to launch it together as a family project so our idea and our mission is to have unprivileged students from all over the world. We also partner with UNICEF here in the USA so we can help refugees as well. To go to school and then we created a post-graduate program where all the students graduating will get into a one year program and they will be working through the different restaurants my family and I own in New York City. So they get knowledge about food. They can really know if they like more fine dining, fast schedule, farm to table, ah really different type of cuisine and different types of experiences and then ah, we guarantee them a job within the company. Ah, so It’s been really good to do that as a family because we both … all of us love food. We have that background, we have the passion. And it’s great to see um, that you can have ah, students in need. So it’s been a great journey so far. 

Claur: Can you describe your favorite breakfast?
Louise V.:  Well I love everything about eggs so eggs are my number one food to go, especially in the morning. So I like, just like to have, I like to call it, messy egg because it’s not scrambled, it’s not sunny-side up. It’s just like all over and then I just mix a lot of things in there. Mushroom, I love vegetables, um you know I … some cheese on top. Some ground beef. And it really holds me for a good part of the day because it’s very, you know, there’s a lot of nutrients in there. Ah, I love that. And then I try to balance it with some healthy, with some avocado and I’m obsessed with avocado so not necessarily avocado toast [crosstalk] It’s so good together so I try to … I always have avocado at home and I try to slice it, just some olive oil, salt, um as a side for my eggs. A little piece of bread and freshly squeezed orange juice and I’m good to go.

Claur: What food are you craving the most right now? Louise V.: So I am obsessed with ah, Japanese food. So, ah, and especially since I went to Japan for my first time, last year with my husband and we totally fell in love with the country and most specifically with the food. We love sushi and raw fish and because I was also pregnant for the past nine months and I couldn’t eat any raw fish so then now that baby is six months I’m just like every day going into Japanese food. And another thing that I love about Japanese food is their meat and the [inaudible] and I’m a big beef lover so we love that as well.

Claur: How would you describe a moment that brings you back to childhood? Louise V.: Um, I think one thing that made me change a little bit in terms of what I knew what I wanted to do in my life and I wanted to be in the food business was one time I came to visit my dad in New York and I was living in France at the time and I would be working as a hostess in the restaurant. You know, it was kind of like a summer job although I was only 8 years old. And ah, he would always bring me back in the kitchen to try food there with the chef and I remember, I was not really exposed to spices because I grew up in France and in France, we don’t have too much spice. It’s like salt, pepper and a lot of butter. Ah, but it made me try a lot of different flavors. Spices from India, from different parts of Asia, because he loves also Asian cuisine. And I really did love that love for other flavors and I think I remember that specific time where I saw all the chefs around and my dad and myself and he was spoonfeeding me literally, in the kitchen and I just love that whole happiness around food. And he really changed my way of seeing things, especially of seeing food and I knew at that moment that I really wanted to work in the food business.

Claur: If you could read anyone’s diary who would it be?
Louise V.: I think I would love to know um since we lost the foundation, I would love to have one of the students that we worked with that we helped. It would be interesting to know how, you know, we impacted their life and hopefully, in a good way. And I would love to see how emotional, how they feel. And after going to school, you know, after graduation. Finding a job, I would be very curious to read how they emotionally feel about their journey. So I would say, I would pick one of the scholars that we have, one of the students we have.

Claur: What is your idea about happiness?
Louise V.: So, my baby, Miran was born about six and a half months ago and um, I, you know, I’m sure all the moms says, will say that about their kids but for me that changed my life in the most beautiful way and spending time just like in the morning when he wakes up and he has the most beautiful smile. He’s waiting for me or my husband to pick him up and we usually grab him in our bed and we play with him. This is pure happiness and heaven for us.


Photos: Aline Velter