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A tastemaker in every sense, born-and-raised LA girl Claire Thomas grew up in Santa Monica in a household of expert home chefs. As a child, the stylish Kitchy Kitchen blogger and self-taught chef dreamed of becoming a director—"a stupid idea" that she assumed would be impossible to achieve in the City of Angels' competition-heavy film industry, she says. After earning degrees in history and politics at Claremont McKenna College, she began her career in a production development, a "really great job, but it really wasn't as creative as I was hoping," says Thomas.
It was then that she began honing her culinary and camera chops ("baking my feelings and then bringing them into work," she jokes), which led the fashionable food enthusiast to start her mega-popular lifestyle blog. When a friend at Zagat noticed Thomas' serious shutterbug skills, the self-taught chef quit her job to work as a food photographer for the resto review company (and later, for our sister site, Eater!) and served stints as a food stylist and personal chef. Now that she's successfully merged her twin passions of good eats and filmmaking, the commercial director and former host of the nationally-syndicated TV show Food for Thought is set to unveil her very first cookbook, The Kitchy Kitchen: New Classics for Living Deliciously, on August 26.
We got to know the incredibly intelligent and sweet talent—who happens to be the sister of Luv AJ designer Amanda—over healthy drinks at Pressed Juicery in West Hollywood, where we learned about the newly-engaged pro party planner's best beauty secret, her favorite hole-in-the-wall spots and much more.
Worst cooking disaster?
"Oh yeah, I tried to do a gluten-free vegan pizookie and I literally had cookie soup. It was awful. I figured it out eventually, but that took a lot of testing. The third time was good. I usually don't have very many total face-plants in the kitchen anymore!"
What won't you eat?
"There's things that I'm not a huge fan of. I know I'm going to get my foodie card taken away from me for this, but I'm not big on kidneys, the heart, intestines, any of those off-cuts of meat. I grew up in such a chicken breast family, so it's a flavor profile that I never developed a palette for. I can see why people would like it, but it's not for me. I'm not grossed out by it, I just don't like the flavor as much."
What's your favorite hole-in-the-wall eatery?
"I was basically born inside the Brentwood Country Mart and [I love the rotisserie chicken at] Reddi Chick. There's no reason for it to be as good as it is! There has to be something else going on; it's not really artisanal anything. But it's the best!
Other than Reddi Chick, I really really love Yai. It's next to California Donut [and] next to that purple Armenian church off the 101 in Hollywood. It's cash-only and it has the best crispy pork and broccoli that I've ever had. They also have an amazing Nom Sod, it's kind of almost like a pork larb but a salad, with crispy peanuts, julienne ginger and lots of chilis in it. They also have these two alley cats that hang out in front, it's kind of like Lady & The Tramp; the waitresses will take pity on them and feed them leftover fried rice. I don't know why I find that really cute!"
And your favorite recently-opened resto?
"People always ask me for restaurant recs and I'm so not the cool restaurant person—the thing for me is I'll find a restaurant that I like and I'll just stick to it. NIGHT+MARKET Song isn't really that new but I love whatever [chef Kris Yenbamroong] is up to; he always has such cool ideas. This isn't really a restaurant but I also really love Bar Stella; it's new to me! I like it because it's filled with thirty-year-olds—it's quiet, you can have a conversation. It's super low-key and everyone there is well-behaved. Yes, there are a lot of beards and yes, the bartenders wear white jackets, but it's beautifully designed and the cocktails are fantastic."
What's the next food trend?
"Doughnuts, they're hardcore happening. I feel like the cronut is what kicked it off, but doughnuts are still awesome. I think pie is going to keep happening, I feel like pie has taken over cake. And I feel like every single New American cuisine [and] comfort food—fried chicken, biscuits."
Besides your own tome, what's a classic must-have cookbook for every beginning chef?
"The Joy of Cooking, obviously! That's the one that you need to give everybody and it's a necessary encyclopedia to have; it just answers all of your questions. Otherwise, I'd say the first Barefoot Contessa, it has her couscous salad. My family's obsessed with it."
What's your favorite food-related beauty secret?
"Oh man! Coconut oil is obviously a miracle worker, when my hair would get fried I would just heat up coconut oil and put it all over the bottoms and wrap my hair into a bun and put some cellophane over it and sit. It would just really rejuvenate my hair. Otherwise, a scrub that I really love is brown sugar, coconut and almond oil, and then you just mix in a scented oil that you like—it's fantastic. I would say the oils are an easy go-to, and they're really nourishing."
What's your favorite song of all time?
"In terms of absolute favorite songs, my favorite pop song growing up was anything Ann-Margret or Nancy Sinatra. Bye-Bye Birdie- and Elvis-era Ann-Margret was just everything. And Elvis was my first crush."
Prefer to dress down or dress up?
"I dress down for 90% of my life because I'm usually covered in flour, so I really enjoy the opportunity to dress up. But I'm glad I don't have to do it every day."
Eastside or Westside?
"Oh that's a mean question! There's a line that Lucille says in Arrested Development; she says, 'I love this place, it has all my brands.' That's how I feel about the Westside because it's like, my favorite coffee shop is here next to my favorite store next to my favorite flower shop. All of my favorite things are so local and easy in Santa Monica. I will say this: now that I live in Los Feliz, I totally understand why everyone would be really annoyed when they had to visit me in Santa Monica—it's just a giant pain to get there. But I'm really loving exploring my neighborhood. But get back to me when I live in the Eastside for a little bit and I'll give you a balanced review."
What are you looking forward to most for the fall?
"Just being able to wear a sweater and eat pie at the same time! I'm really excited about my cookbook coming out; it's been such a long time coming. It'll be nice to just have it be released into the universe and getting to sit back a little bit and enjoy the fall. I'm really looking forward to some down time."
· The Kitchy Kitchen [Official Site]
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