Male model turned musician: makes sense. Male model turned actor: yes, obviously. But a male model slash cookbook author? That’s something you don’t hear every day. “A lot of these male models just sit at home and smoke weed if they don’t work; I’m not that kind of a person,” says Cesar Casier. “I like to do stuff.” A twentysomething Belgian with sea-blue eyes and perfectly arched brows, Casier has never really been interested in vegging out in front of a Wii or hitting the bong in his off-time. For one, a few years ago he started a blog, The Cesar Salad, in which he chronicles “things that I like, or don’t like,” he explains. Those could be things like a recent $20 pedicure (“I have to admit I loved it”), iPhone pics from a far-off set, or even an amusing social phenomenon, such as the “& friend” (“The ‘& friend’ is the person who always stands next to the celebrity, model or important person, but no one really knows who he or she truly is…”). But more often than not, he writes about food: what he’s eating, where he’s eating, what he loves to eat, and what he’s cooking. On the internet, at least, his fascination with food dates back to an August 2010 post, in which he writes: “I think that my 2 biggest interests in life are Fashion and Food. But lately I’m more into food.” He goes on to ruminate a bit about his favorite meals and food fantasies—bittersweet to read from a working, probably slightly hungry model—and ends by saying, “I just love to talk about food. Maybe I should start my own food channel or cooking program or write my own cookbook... Ceesie aka the new Martha Stewart! ”
Well, someone was listening. (BTW: Someone is always listening, right??!) A publisher in his native Belgium got in touch and offered the strapping lad a book deal. Model Kitchen was born. “I had this idea to write about what models eat to stay in shape,” says Casier, who lives in New York’s West Village. “There’s so many cookbooks, but none written by a young model guy. I mean, people seem to be obsessed with models lately—the way we look and what we do when we’re not working. They always believe we don’t eat—or we eat, like, just coffee and cigarettes—which is not true. That’s why I did this book.” [Ed. note: Attention American editors: Casier is still looking for a U.S. publisher. Get at us.]
We talked to Casier about what distinguishes Model Kitchen from the standard Food Network star fare—or diet bibles like The South Beach Diet, for that matter. Also, what do models know about good food? Turns out, a lot.
They’re recipes from real models: “Aside from my own ideas and some recipes from my favorite restaurants, I asked friends like Lily Donaldson, Lindsey Wixson, Karlie Kloss, and Milla Jovovich to give me their favorite recipes. Everything is very healthy, low in calories, and easy to cook."
It’s not about weight-loss: “It’s not a diet book at all, but simple and nutritious things to make. There are not so many carb-heavy recipes in it, but lots of protein and vegetables and all that stuff… But I do have a whole chapter called “Guilty Pleasures” because we’re humans, after all. I think if you go for dessert, you should go all the way, you know? Get the whipped cream, and get everything on top of it.
It’s all D.I.Y.: Casier cooked all the dishes for the shoots, helped to style them, and assisted on the layout. “We had a professional food photographer [Kai Z Feng], but that’s it; we did everything else ourselves. We did a little bit of faking it—sometimes a bit of hairspray to make a food look shiny, that kind of thing. I looked up food styling on YouTube channels to see how they did it.”
The target demographic is unusual: “I think it’s for people between 18 and 30-something, probably in fashion or a similar industry. It would be great for students who live by themselves, so they don’t eat junk food all the time. Every recipe can be made in, like, ten or twenty minutes [see recipes below]. It’s very super-simple eating.”
GENETICS MATTER: “People say that models really like to look after what they eat, and I do, of course, but it’s also the way we’re built. I’m built…skinnier. I guess I have a different metabolism. So it’s genetic to a certain extent. Like, some girls I know, like Hanne Gaby, for example—she eats a burger, often. When you consider diet versus genetics, I think it’s 40/60. 40 percent of it is diet... Also, it’s great that the classic male beauty [as opposed to the super skinny look] is coming back now in the modeling world. That’s a good thing, for sure. Especially when it comes to food.”
But you can still learn to eat (more like) a model: “I have a section called “Skinny Dipping” with healthy dips—hummus [see below] is very sexy, and guacamole is even sexier, I think. We don’t eat them with bread or nachos, we use celery sticks and baby carrots. [Laughs]”
And now, a few of Cesar's favorite recipes! (Try 'em out and tell us how they turn out.)
- 15 oz. (425 g) cooked chickpeas (canned is fine)
- 2 or 3 cloves of garlic, peeled and crushed or minced
- the juice of 1 lime
- 2 tablespoons olive oil
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 1 handful flat-leaf parsley, finely chopped
- salt and pepper
- 1 tablespoon black sesame seeds
Mix the chickpeas, garlic, lime juice, olive oil, pepper, salt and honey in the food processor or in a blender until it forms a creamy paste. If the hummus is too thick, you can add some extra olive oil. Scoop the hummus into a small bowl and add the black sesame seeds and finely chopped flat-leaf parsley.
Cesar's Dip with Mascarpone and Goat Cheese
- 1/2 tub soft fresh goat cheese (5 oz./140 g)
- 1/2 tub mascarpone (5 oz./140 g)
- 2 handfuls finely chopped
- basil leaves
- 3 tablespoons olive oil
- fresh black pepper
- coarse salt
Combine the goat cheese, mascarpone, olive oil and basil in a bowl until it forms a creamy sauce. Top with plenty of fresh pepper and a bit of coarse salt.
Cesar's Avocado Salad with Pomegranate
For the salad:
- 3 or 4 ripe avocados
- 2 pink grapefruits
- the seeds of 1 pomegranate
- 3 handfuls fresh spinach leaves
For the dressing:
- the juice of one orange
- 1/2 tablespoon maple syrup
- 1/2 tablespoon mustard
- 1 tablespoon balsamic vinegar
- 2 tablespoons oil
- 1 tablespoon water
- salt and pepper
Combine all ingredients for the dressing in a small bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cut the avocados in half and peel and pit them. Dice the avocado and add to the dressing. Peel the grapefruits, divide into sections and remove seeds and membranes. Add to the dressing and avocado. Toss gently and chill in the refrigerator for 30 minutes. Before serving, add the pomegranate seeds and spinach. To easily remove the seeds from the pomegranate, cut the fruit in two and hold the halves upside down. Now beat them with a spoon, so the seeds fall out.
Cesar Casier photographed by Emily Weiss on February 5th, 2013.