Phillip Lim | "More Than Our Bellies"

by BJ Panda Bear

For over a decade Phillip Lim has been a leader in the language for modern city dressing, a little casual, a lot of details, and always out together. Through his designs at 3.1 Phillip Lim he made everyone a lot more chicer even in the most casual circumstances. It was with this similar approach that he taken to presenting his latest project, “More Than Our Bellies,” a cookbook with frequent collaborator, photographer Viviane Sassan. Envisioned as more of an art book, the pages are lined with a gorgeous array of vibrant photos to complement the dishes that explore a complex world of flavors, colors, and inspirations. These dishes are the manifestation of his fond memories of his mother and childhood. We caught up with the designer and chef after his recent fashion week presentation to have him whet our appetite for his vibrant take on food.

The dishes you have in your book well reflect your upbringing with Chinese and a strong Thai influence. Did you feel your family's recipes are more Chinese with a Southeast Asian touch or vice versa?

My parents are Chinese but they also lived in Thailand and Cambodia, so the recipes are an amalgamation of all of these influences.

Which dish would you say is best for celebration and which is the most robust for a night in? 

For celebration, or just for having a few people over, I like to make the ‘Thai Stuffed Chicken Wings.’ Like I say in the book, it is a real crowd-pleaser; it seems complex but is fun to create and incredibly delicious. As for a night in, you can’t go wrong with any of the recipes – they are all hearty and fulfilling, but if you’re talking comfort food, the ‘Oxtail & Potato Soup’ is unbeatable for when you crave the comforts of home.

How do you feel that your career in fashion relates to your passion in food? how often do you pull these recipes out? 

My fashion career came first of course, but I am always seeking out new experiences so that I can continue to learn and grow creatively. Opening myself up to this passion for cooking has been a new outlet for me, one that is just as creative while being totally new and totally my own. Not only that, cooking is meditative for me, it’s a way for me to unwind and let go of stress after a long day/long week/long year. It recharges me which in turn, helps me return to my day job feeling refreshed and energized.

What was the process of adapting Vivianne's photo style into documenting food?

I am in awe of Viviane’s talent and vision. So when we decided to collaborate, neither of us put constraints on the other. Viviane wanted to take pictures of food on her travels through Africa and Asia. The photos do not correspond to my dishes and frankly, that is the beauty of it. She is an artist and this is more than a traditional recipe book, it’s really an art book. Because the photos don’t show the way a dish “should” look, the cook is free to interpret the recipes as they wish and make them their own. Because I am not a trained chef myself, that was my hope for the book. I was interpreting and adapting recipes from my childhood, I never had a road map, and that was the magic of it. So I wanted that for anyone who bought this book as well – make the recipes your own, and appreciate the photos.

Are there dishes that your mother hasn't taught you that you feel might show up in a sequel?

No plans for a sequel yet – right now I am just taking a moment to feel immense gratitude for finishing this one.

Can you give us the perfect menu course by course to make for a dinner of 6 using your recipes?

Most of my dishes are best served family style. This isn’t formal or fine dining; it’s just food to be shared with loved ones over good conversation. Casually and humbly. When I do a potluck with friends, I like to start with soup – the ‘Tom Yam Ghoong’ is perfect for this as it is so warm, so fragrant. Your guests will walk into your home and be surrounded by the most mouth-watering aromas. And I like that you can serve this to them out of one giant pot. I then love to have a bunch of different dishes on the table, family style for everyone to grab and share: the ‘Garlic Eggplant Sliders’ are a great appetizer for this – and from my experience, they are universally loved by both my vegetarian and meat-eating friends. Put that out with the ‘Hainanese Chicken Rice’ plus the ‘Thai Stuffed Chicken Wings’ and you have a meal that is savory and filling. 

Purchase Phillip Lim’s More Than Our Bellies here