If you're the smartest person in the room you're in the wrong room, right? Well, sometimes I'm kind of amazed by the range of truly fascinating and talented people I'm fortunate enough to know. The other evening I was mid-conversation with my friend Kriss Harvey, Executive Pastry Chef, when the lightbulb went off--I should start an interview series! Fortunately Kriss was willing to be my ginuea pig on the spot! How rad is that?! I did promise him he'd get the chance to ask me anything as well though. Not only is this guy one of the top ten pastry chefs in America (seriously!), he's actually in The Louvre!
Find him on Instagram @krissharv3y or visit him at the SLS, Beverly Hills--that gorgeous dessertland heaven is all him. Read on to find out his regrets, favorite memory, and his philosophies on life, style, travel, and of course food.
Jess: I'm so excited you're letting me do this. Thank you! Let's start with the basics...how do you take your coffee?
Kriss: Raw sugar, vanilla soy creamer, I like it very light and I gulp it down. I got a new coffee maker, the Automatic by Chemex. It's amazing.
J: Can't live without article of clothing?
K: Wow. That's tough. I have a Merino cardigan from All Saints, no buttons and it wears so well.
J: If you weren't a chef you'd be a ____?
K: I'd say working with animals, the more exotic the better.
J: [Nodding] I can see that...you're, like, one of three people I'd trust to watch Mojito [my dog]. K: He's the cutest. I always think of him when I see others like him. I've taken a liking to those little dogs. He is special and likes to fetch, which I find funny. But I've always loved animals. All kinds. Always wanted a penguin or a turtle or something cute. But I love dogs and I find them to be the greatest creatures on Earth. Just think what they do with the disabled. They can't even be dogs. They can't sniff a butt or react to their instincts. They're incredible.
J: Describe your perfect day off.
K: Beach in Pacific Palisades, protein bowl from Juice Crafters with fresh fruit for lunch, then watching a great live music performance at The Hollywood Bowl. Everyone should see a show there, doesn't matter what it is. Even 'The Sound of Music' is bearable and the setting is unforgettable.
J: An apology you've never had the chance to say...now's the chance...
K: Don Wise, my first chef...I took kitchen hazing for nine months and I had had enough and walked out and never showed my face again. I'm sorry. You were the best guy I ever worked for and you showed incredible patience with me. I never forgot your lessons.
Man, you're good Jess.
J: Wow, that's beautiful. That really, really touched me.
K: Yeah, I gotta use that.
J: No! You can't! At least not until I put this out!!
J: Favorite childhood memory?
K: We had nothing but Christmas was fun. We'd get what we wanted but I knew it wasn't easy. She put tangerines in my stocking and I expected candy. I loved chocolate and still do. But I saw that fruit roll out and I was like, 'what the ....' I thanked her for the tangerine and ate it right in the moment to show her how much I appreciated the thought.
J: Is 'her' your mom?
J: [Kriss lost his mother last year] Your mom was a warrior.
J: The one that got away.
K: That one...that's tough but I'd say I should've put more time into a relationship that I had for 11 years. I didn't go to her event in NYC and I should've been there for her. But like my favorite director [William Friedkin] said, 'I would keep remaking all of my films if I had the chance. They are never done in my mind.' I feel that way about life. You stop and look and you learn.
J: I like that. So much. It's real and raw, which I'm a fan of. I'm a crippling sentimentalist and I think everyone wants to believe they've touched someone significantly--in a positive way.
K: I think I am too. I'm not reflective so to speak though, I look forward.
J: I think that's one of the differences between men and women. Women like the nostalgia of being a man's first love, men want to be a woman's last love.
J: You have a lot of tattoos, you can only keep one. Which?
K: Man you are good! The ones across from shoulder to shoulder. 'I can't help it if you may think I'm odd. If I say that I don't love you for what you are but for what you're not.'
J: Okay, you can keep them all except one. Which do you get rid of?
K: The one my ex girlfriend drew up!
J: Hahaha which is that?
K: I will never say...
J: I have my guess.
J: Nicest thing you've ever done is far too broad...so nicest thing you've ever done for me. I gotta give you something to feel good about after making you apologize and talk about lost love!
K: You broke your shoe when we went to the Westwood Village Memorial Park. I quickly found a shoe repair place, left you in the car, took it to get repaired and we took a coffee break while he fixed it so you'd not have to walk around like that.
J: Yes, you saved me from having to be embarrassed and flat footed in front of the always glamorous Marilyn [Monroe]. Damn Gucci's. I was so embarrassed and that was really nice. I was thinking about that but, for me, I'm not sure if that was the nicest thing you've ever done.
K: That's not the nicest?
J: No, you took me to the hospital twice in one week! Granted, one of those times was because you fed me medicine I was allergic to. But still.
K: Oh yeah. Man, that was really awful.
J: Most overrated ingredient?
K: Cilantro! Yuck!
J: I wrote about that in a blog post! So funny because you and I love to get tacos!
J: Grooming...what are you into?
K: I have the men's Clarisonic and it's amazing (skincare below).
J: I'm curious, how is it different than the regular one I've had for 10 years?
K: It's not pink. I'd buy the pink one but they came out with a men's one and it's awesome.
J: The original one is just white.
K; [sends a photo]
J: Same shit they just make it look like a damn drill!
J: A fashion tip to help the fellas...
K: Men need to learn that spending $20 to get their pants hemmed is essential.
But also, just in general, unrelated, I'd tell people to get interested in things you know nothing about so you can see another point of view.
J: Is that something you'd tell your younger self?
K: Yes be patient! Be patient! Everything is going to be okay! But take better care of your skin! It's your first impression!
J: Tell me my favorite story of yours. You know, the one about your cannelè.
K: I spent 15 years working on the cannelè. It's an ancestral recipe from Bordeaux. It's about 300 years old and nobody taught me how to make it. I was in France and then I came back to the states and I went to work on it. I tried different things. Different vanilla, different rum, differed methods of waxing the mold...it just had to be right. The mixing and maturing of the batter also took a lot of adjusting. I had this woman come about two years ago. She was from France, specifically Bordeaux. She would not eat it. 'Ma'am,' I asked her. 'Why not?' 'Because I am from Bordeaux and you are an American.' I looked at her and said, 'Vermeer did not invent art but he mastered painting. I did not invent the dessert, but I too have mastered it.'
J: Didn't you not serve it at all in those 15 years?
K: I did not serve one until it was ready.
J: See, that's incredible to me. Few people have that kind of dedication to spend 15 years perfecting something. That is respect for yourself, its heritage, and your craft.
K: Maybe I'm just not that good of a pastry chef.
J: Okay, lastly, three philosophies: one on life, one of style, and one on travel. Style--clothes should fit. For me, my style is always groomed. Even the uniform. Always have nice shoes on, wear fitted shirts, and have a tailor fix your pants. It's worth it.
Life--I wanted something and I knew how to get it. It was about doing the same thing over and over again until it was right. Being a pastry chef is what I wanted. It's no different than if you want big muscles. You start lifting weights over and over. You accomplish a goal and you start over. Travel--the three things in life I value more than anything are my health, my credit score, and my passport. These are the three keys to my freedom. And traveling is the freedom I enjoy the most. You fly through the air and in a few hours you're in Paris or Brussels or Vienna. You can see art up close that you could only dream of previously. Life is short. You have to live for the adventure and not the routine.
J: I don't think we could end on a better note than that but I did promise you would get a shot at me. Ask me anything.
K: What's the least attractive quality in a guy? I'll ask that because we've all been that guy. I follow Tinder Nightmares [on Instagram] and those are painful to read but some funny responses from the ladies.
J: God, there are just so many unattractive things these days. Can I say most attractive?
J: That's easily generosity and thoughtfulness. As well as humor. As you know, I'm unwaveringly loyal, so I guess the least attractive quality to me would be someone fair-weathered. I mean yeah, don't be a dick! Have respect. Take care of your teeth! But really, truly, be a man who isn't afraid to care about people and not just when times are good.
K: Good answer!
J: I feel that to my core.
The best carrot cake (or birthday cake) I have ever had. Don't tell my mother.
SHOP THIS INTERVIEW