FOOD INTERVIEW: The Couture Cook x Sneakers for Success


This Thursday, Sneakers for Success is holding its first annual fundraiser, Sole Connections!  In this installment of CS Food, we chat with Brooke Gerstein, the woman behind The Couture Cook, who will be providing the good eats for the fundraiser.  The menu will include: empanadas with guava dipping sauce, tostones con bistec sliders, yucca fries with cilantro mayonnaise, and some surprises!  Read on to learn more about The Couture Cook.

How did you first get interested in food and how did you first get started in the food business?

I’ve always been a serious foodie with an even more serious sweet tooth – when my grandmother, who along with my mother raised me, passed away my first semester of college, I was stuck in Massachusetts, knowing she wouldn’t want me to stay home no matter what. I grieved by cooking and baking — Sammy (note: Samuel del Pilar, founder of Sneakers for Success) probably benefited the most from this — I had him over for dinner at least twice a week! But after deciding to do a service trip with the global medical brigades in her honor (she was a nurse!) I raised money by baking things for friends and family in exchange for money instead of asking for handouts; and it’s only grown from there! in addition to catering for non profits I offer a fundraising program for individuals trying to participate in charities of all kinds – I bake, proceeds go to their cause!

What are your favorite things to make?

My favorite things to make are classic cookies or cupcakes, or macaroons, or ice cream with a twist… I like experimenting with flavors that you don’t often see in those desserts; I’ve been obsessing over earl grey flavored everything but I’ve made corona and lime cupcakes for the Super Bowl.

Where are your favorite places to eat in NYC?

My favorite places to eat in NYC are countless – I’ve been at Vapiano and Max Brenner down in Union Square a lot because i’ve been working nearby, and go to Sofrito more often than I should, but I really enjoy the small family owned Brazilian rodizios and self service spots in Astoria.

Any favorite dishes?

Anything that’s multidimensional… I really appreciate that classic dish with a twist affect that I tried to play with for the Sole Connections event… Spicy Chocolate.. Savory Ice Cream…

What is your favorite cuisine and why?

Favorite cuisine is impossible… I really fell in love with the Japanese culture while traveling to Japan last summer, but I think Israeli food takes the plate for me. In season produce is ALL that is sold – you can’t get a mango when it’s not in season. That’s a win-win for the consumer and the environment because all of the cucumbers are gigantic and rich, unlike here. And again, they play with unimaginable spice pallates.

What else are you involved with outside of cooking?

I was a competitive figure skater for more than 10 years, I am super involved with my Shiba Inu, Sherlock! I’m actually (probably) transferring to Cornell’s School for Hotel and Administration, and I’m super involved in community service -particularly international. I think it’s an incredibly rewarding way to travel – right now I’m planning a trip to Cambodia to work with women who are sold into sexual slavery.

How did you get involved with Sneakers for Success and Sole Connections?

Sam and I went to high school together- and then college together (sort of, I was 10 minutes away at Smith College when he was at UMASS Amherst). Last Spring Break we went out to LA and late one night he began talking about this mega-idea of starting a hip hop/sneaker related school (it was a little crazy… sometime during that conversation he also decided he was going to build a gigantic building the shape of a sneaker!) and he worked his butt off until it blossomed into this incredible multi media program – we took an entrepreneurship class first semester this school year and here we are! He asked if i’d cater the event, which was a gigantic order but I couldn’t refuse! I’m so excited to be a part of something so big and inspirational; Sam really is a powerhouse!

How did you choose the menu for the event?

The best part about working with a close friend is the most difficult – he trusts me to do whatever I want! I was inspired though, Sam’s grandmother is the coolest grandma I know – and she can THROW DOWN in the kitchen, she never lets us say no to food! I knew I wanted to incorporate that Puerto Rican “sole food” so I chose comforting classics with a twist, food that everyone no matter their background can relate to. French fries and ketchup become yucca and mayo – it came together quick but it all fit into the vision so well – there is even a signature drink for the S4S fam!

Who have some of your other clients been?

I’ve worked with a bunch of college students, friends, family, but some of my most recent clients have been the most exciting; the United States Marines (I send cookies to Afghanistan OFTEN! ) and the Control Arms Coalition which works with the United Nations, I’ve also baked for some of my mom’s celebrity clients!

What is planned in the future of The Couture Cook?

Ironically my future was thrown for a curve ball when I got so many catering gigs, for now the future of The Couture Cook lays in building a presence, and continuation to build my company with a strong conscious for good doing, whether it’s directly or raising money for someone else. Eventually I hope to make The Couture Cook/Doughnate brand a household baking name to allow any home bakers to have quality baked goods and baking supplies.

Thanks, Brooke! And remember, everyone: don’t forget to get your ticket to the Sole Connections: Sneakers for Success Fundraiser to try some of The Couture Cook’s delicious food! Join The Couture Cook as well as other great artists and musicians at Sole Connections, Sneakers For Success’ first annual fundraiser, on June 28th, 2012, from 6-10 pm, at 350 Grand St, NYC.
Sneakers For Success is a non-profit organization that uses sneaker culture, urban lifestyle, and footwear design as a platform so students can discover their intuitive creative powers in solving problems. The use of sneakers keeps the students engaged and connected to the material as well as exposing them to ways they can transform their passion into anything. Overall, S4S will give every student that SOLE POWER needed to achieve anything.