PHOTOGRAPHY & TEXT BY MICHAEL WILLIAMS
Imagista had the pleasure recently of sitting down with Chef Rōze Traore, a rising star in the culinary world. Chef Roze is once humble and disruptive. He’s setting out to make a lasting and unique mark as a chef. Meet a future icon of the cooking world.
Imagista: You had an interesting and unique upbringing in many ways. Where did you grow up?
Chef Rōze Traore: Yeah, I grew up between Seattle, The Ivory Coast (Africa), and Paris. I went to Jr High and High School in Seattle and, because my parents wanted me to know my origins better, we spent a couple of years in the Ivory Coast.
Imagista: Where are your parents originally from?
Chef Rōze Traore: My parents both grew up in the Ivory Coast. I spent a couple of years in Paris when I was around seven years old.
Imagista: How often do you get back to Paris?
Chef Rōze Traore: Very often, at least four or five times a year. I have a strong clientele demand in Paris, along with New York, and London.
Imagista: You’re also a model. Which came first, modeling or cooking?
Chef Rōze Traore: Cooking came first. My dad always did the cooking at home. He exposed me to cooking and helped me to see that being a chef was a real career option. So when I was at the stage in life when I wanted to get out of my parent’s house and into the world I saw that cooking was a way to get me where I was going.
For me cooking answered the question “what do you want to do with your life?” Cooking was the closest thing, in terms of answering that question, that I could relate to.
Imagista: So your dad was a cook?
Chef Rōze Traore: No, my dad was a fisherman but he would always cook. He was always the one cooking at home.
Imagista: Did your mom cook as well?
Chef Rōze Traore: My stepmom is from Guam so she had the islander in her. So I had both my dad’s influence as well as hers. She cooked here and there. I must have messed up ten pots of rice learning from her. (laughs).
Imagista: What are your favorite dishes to prepare?
Chef Rōze Traore: I love cooking roasted whole fish with couscous. That is usually my go-to meal. Or a nice salade. Honestly, I love some pizza and wings.
Imagista: If you could only eat one type of food, by nationality, for the rest of your life what would that be?
Chef Rōze Traore: I would go for Japanese because you’re never going to eat too much but even if you do it’s still so healthy.
Imagista: What are you working on now?
Chef Rōze Traore: I’m currently spending part of my time at Eleven Madison Park and then the rest cooking for private clients.
Imagista: Do you have a preference for either cooking in a restaurant or for private clients?
Chef Rōze Traore: Yeah, I prefer the private client life. The private client work has always been what I’ve been in love with but I think there comes a time when, as a chef, you need to pay tribute to those who are deeply embedded in the restaurant world and also affiliate yourself with the best of the best. This is what I’ve been doing my entire career; building relationships with the most amazing chefs around the world.
Imagista: Who are some of your favorite chefs?
Chef Rōze Traore: My favorite chefs are Daniel Boulud, Pierre Augé, and Marco Pierre. These are all old school guys but my whole thing is climbing the ranks in a different way and gaining notoriety I feel I deserve even though I’m quite young as a chef. I’m twenty-eight years old.
Imagista: You also model. Has that had any effect on your cooking career?
Chef Rōze Traore: Having one foot in the fashion world teaches you how to sell yourself, work the room and so on. I’ve always had an assertive approach to promoting myself without being shy about it or allowing anyone to downplay me. The world of cooking, with the Michelin Guides, etc demands a certain sense of perfection and fashion is really no different.
Imagista: Where would you like to see yourself in five or ten years?
Chef Rōze Traore: I’d like to continue to be one of the faces in the culinary world who has a different approach to it. I would like to have my own platforms and be a figure in the culinary world who is known for cooking for the best of the best. I also like to show people how cool a chef can be compared to what the stereotypical chefs have been like up until now.
Imagista: You have a demanding career. What do you do for fun or to unwind?
Chef Rōze Traore: I like to work. I’m constantly networking. I like to find ways to enhance my knowledge. I love to read and write. I love a good bar. I love some good drinks.
AJ wears: Dress by RED Valentino @maisonvalentino. Bracelets & Neckerchief by Lucky Brand @luckybrand.
Imagista: What are you drinking these days?
Chef Rōze Traore: I love good whiskey, tequila, mescal…
Imagista: What type of music do you listen to and do you like to listen to music while you cook?
Chef Rōze Traore: Yeah, I listen to pretty much everything. The only music that I haven’t phased into yet is Heavy Metal. I love some good Miles Davis, and Chopin. I love Drake and I listen to hip-hop. I love John Mayer, he’s talented.
Imagista: Were you athletic at all growing up?
Chef Rōze Traore: Here and there. I like to go to the gym. I’ve done track and some swimming but nothing really serious. I’ve been doing the minimum to keep fit and looking my best (laughs).
Imagista: Anything else that you’d like to mention? I see you have a tattoo that says “Non Chef” (“Non” meaning “no” in French”)
Chef Rōze Traore: I’ve been told that I have a “fuck you” mentality. I hate rules. I think rules are cool for people who are looking for ideas to follow but as a trendsetter, I want to go down my own path. Being different can, of course, create a lot of friction because it’s the unknown and people can’t always relate at first. As long as you know what path you’re on though, you’re good!