Nouveau Spotlight: The 26th Annual International Fine Art & Antique Show

Posted in Nouveau Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on October 20, 2014 by James Field

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“I adore wearing gems, but not because they are mine. You can’t possess radiance, you can only admire it.”

-Elizabeth Taylor

This past weekend I had the pleasure of attending the 26th Annual International Fine Art & Antique show at the Park Avenue Armory on 67th street. Talk about a dose of awesome! This place was packed with vendors from all over the world showing off their wears, ranging from 16th century tapestries, 18th century Indian art work, swords, sculpture, and of course fine jewelry.

I was dazzled by the fine collections of Hancocks of London, Kentshire, Epoque Fine Jewels, and so many more. To see the mesmerizing array of diamonds, emeralds, rubies, sapphires and the like up close was truly a treat and a major inspiration for my work. One of my greatest goals is to become a fine jewelry designer and dealer, and by taking in the sights such as this show, my passion only grows.

Some of the highlights for were the incredibly detailed and delicate vintage jewelry pieces from the house’s of Cartier, Van Cleef & Arpels, and Schumberger for Tiffany’s & Co.

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THE DUCHESS OF WINDSOR, WALLIS SIMPSON, AMETHYST, TURQUOISE AND DIAMOND BRACELET, CARTIER, 1954

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Hey that’s me looking creepy lol

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I enjoyed playing the game of “Guess what gem this is” with many of the vendors and was even allowed to try on a few pieces. Whenever I am around people that are knowledgeable in something that I wish to become knowledgeable in, I almost always ask as many questions as possible. Its a great way to learn, memorize and draw inspiration when visiting exhibitions, trade shows etc.

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I adore these floral brooches of rubies, diamonds and sapphires, one of which (the bottom left blue carnation) belonged to the famous fashion designer Elsa Schiaparelli!

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Ancient Egyptian Semi Precious Stone Necklaces

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I had a wonderful time and I wish to thank the lovely vendors and staff who made my trip such a special one.

I would also like to thank Natalie from Jewels du Jour for the tickets, thank you so much!

If you wish to check out the show, it will be at the Park Avenue Armory at 67th Street until Oct 23rd.

Visit Jewels du Jour they are giving a way a limited amount of free tickets!

Thank you all for reading.

J.F

T.B.N Interviews: Tunji Alade III

Posted in T.B.N Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 1, 2014 by James Field

 

 

TUNJI_Promo5_x

 

Today I am please to welcome singer/songwriter Tunji Alade III to The Black Nouveau. We discuss his love of music, fashion, song writing and his plan to become the next great musical artist.

 

T.B.N- Welcome Tunji and thank you for taking the time to talk with me!Lets begin with your background, where are you from?

T.A- I am from Houston, Texas. My family is from Lagos, Nigeria, London and Guanajuato, Mexico. I also have family in Virginia and New York City.

T.B.N- Your music is a wonderful mix of sounds and you have a very captivating voice. Was music something that always aroused interest in you? How would you describe your music style?

T.A- Music has always been my first love. I’ve always been attracted to it and it has always been part of my desire, music makes me feel and inspires me. I won my first contest at age seven in a classical music competition. I was a runner-up and won a contest to visit this amusement park called Fame City.

I would describe my musical style as smooth, vibrant, fresh, bold and even raw. I’d say my music ranges from Hip Hop to smooth Rhythm and Blues, Soul, EDM, Acid Jazz and Jungle and House mixes. My music emanates from experiences, breakups to relationships, love and vice versa. I describe my music as a style that is…married to fashion, art and the club lounge experience.

T.B.N- How long have you been singing? Also you write your own music, what sort of challenges do you face when creating a new song?

T.A- I’ve been singing since I was thirteen and writing since I was seventeen. Thinking of a new song is like an idea, I can come up with hundreds of ideas just from the instrumental. People don’t want me to think of a new song, they want to see my live performance; they want to be able to connect with me and get to know me.

T.B.N- Share with us a little about your new album. What was the inspiration behind it?

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T.A- My album so far has eight songs. My EP with six songs was just leased through INgrooves Music, the back office of Universal Music Group.

My name is Tunji Alade, and my full name is Tunji Jemi-Alade III. Tungsten Light is sort of an anagram of my name, Tunji Alade. Essentially the tungsten light hue is only visible naturally at magic hour. The inspiration behind my album is to find hints and clues. Fate, paths, and destiny interconnected with people through the human experience and through music.

T.B.N- How do you see yourself and your music evolving within the next few years? What are your long term goals?

 T.A- I see myself evolving greatly. They say it is not where you’ve been but where you’re going. Right now, I’m affiliated with a company called Hotbox. Ironically, I see myself with a team that will tell me who that is. I’m not even being sarcastic. Seriously, I hired a manager not long ago and we almost signed a major deal and it sort of fell flat because attorneys from Warner Brothers called my managers office back and said that I am/was with attorney/client privileges. This was not too long ago and when I contacted Warner Brothers Music, no one knew who I was. It was kind of strange submitting my demo and getting calls back from Interscope, Sony then getting word from a manager that I hired saying that Warner Brothers contacted him and told his management office that I am with attorney/client. Having no documents signed, no official contract, no statements that told me it was official, nothing in writing to let me know what was going on was strange.

Even in retrospect for me to think of where I want to be its very clear because I was affiliated with a major studio in 2000. In 2002, my junior year in college, my university pulled me aside and told me that they had officially gotten word that my undergraduate work was created into a music video and was  broadcast on national television. Then all of a sudden in 2002, I had a million dollar offer for a property and a random phone call from a broker that told me she handled all my paperwork. Right when I was going to buy a 1.1 million dollar mansion, coincidentally, my off campus apartment flooded as a sick building with a sanitation problem of a flooding toilet; it became difficult and my university would not tell me what company contacted them to verify what company I was working for.

Being an underground artist or ghost writer, I see myself evolving with the right team. I want to formalize my contracts with the right team. I know about business, about knock-offs and the intricacies of trends, being a hot artist or an artist that has the new hairstyle, new digs, new style. And how to strive to for a level above that into a longevity hallmark level. Signing with the right major and formalizing the right deal in the right way so that there is no confusion if it is realistic and that it is literally legitimate. For me, my expectation is to move forward with a team that will give me full creative control and options to work with artists that I respect.

I am not trying to be any artist except me. My music is my voice. My music is married to fashion. I see my shows as being part high energy choreography and part runway show. My followers are affluent heads, people who love fashion, art and commerce. In the next few years, I see my album already published and licensed while working on a second and third follow-up album, acting in feature films and doing business with the most advanced marketing endorsers. I see myself immersed in the business and doing what I love.

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T.B.N- Finally, what advice would you give to aspiring singer/songwriters? Was there anyone that you admired growing up that inspired your interest in music, and how?

T.A- I was scouted by a major agency and won a modeling competition at age seventeen in High School and was not allowed to follow my path. I also was not allowed to play a musical instrument growing up. It can be very brutal, move masterfully, don’t let others who don’t care about your goals determine your rate of success. Make it happen.

When I was growing up I admired all kinds of music. I especially loved music in different languages from foreign countries. Then around 2006, music really started speaking to me in a special way, I started to really command on the Piano with a handful of songs I composed. Then, Tunechi came out and my friends started asking me if I could sing. I love music from Coltrane to Davis to Portishead to Massive Attack to Green Day, Niyaz, Maxwell, Timberlake, Timbaland, Alicia Keys, Jay Z and Beyonce. Any Grammy award winning artist or any artist under Berry Gordy or his understudy, Etcetera.

 

I would like to sincerely thank my good friend Tunji for this interview. Please visit Tunji below and take a listen of his truly unique and original sound.

www.Tunji-Alade.com

Thank you all for reading!

J.F

 

L’Amour de Bijoux: The Love of Jewels

Posted in Art Nouveau, Nouveau Spotlight, Obsessions with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 2, 2014 by James Field
The 41 carat "Dresden Green" is the largest naturally green diamond to date.

The 41 carat “Dresden Green” is the largest naturally green Diamond to date.

 

I believe that my love of jewelry design, art and style began when I was a young boy. I remember subtle things such as my mothers engagement ring of white gold and black onyx that my father gave her. I thought it was the most beautiful thing I had ever seen! So chic on her finger and so timeless at the same time. From then on, I would say my mother and her love of jewelry sparked something in my own creative soul.

My mother traveled to Kuwait on a business trip when I was young boy. While she was there she acquired the most beautiful diamond and ruby ring of about 2 carats. I had never seen anything like it, and I dare didn’t asked how much is cost. The irony is that even though I purchased her a small pink sapphire pendant necklace as a gift on the day of her return, her ring was absolutely stunning and I have fallen in love with jewelry design ever since.

So without further ado, this is my Love of Jewels.

Bahadur Shah Zafar II India (Delhi), Mughal, c. 1850 Watercolors on ivory

Bahadur Shah Zafar II
India (Delhi), Mughal, c. 1850
Watercolors on ivory

 

One of my greatest inspirations will always be the great Mughal Emperors of India. The splendor and grandeur of their Pearls, Emeralds, Silks, Diamonds, Rubies and Sapphires rivaled that of any King in the world. They looked so regal and exalted that all who saw them knew, they were royalty and should as such adorn themselves accordingly.

Turban Ornament India (West Bengal), Mughal, c. 1755 Gold, set with diamonds, rubies, a sapphire, Colombian emeralds and a pearl.

Turban Ornament
India (West Bengal), Mughal, c. 1755
Gold, set with diamonds, rubies, a sapphire, Colombian emeralds and a pearl.

 

I love the elegance that something like this Turban Ornament gives to the wearer. As an option this item could also be styled as a brooch on a great jacket. Great jewelry design for me is about timeless design and the highest quality of gemstones, and also versatility.

 

Mango-shaped rock crystal Flask India, Mughal, mid-17th century Rock crystal; set with gold, enamel, rubies, and emeralds

Mango-shaped rock crystal Flask
India, Mughal, mid-17th century
Rock crystal; set with gold, enamel, rubies, and emeralds

 

This whimsical and charming flask is from the time of Shah Jahan, the Emperor who built the Taj Mahal in the 17th century. This is a truly wonderful example of imagination and the mix of timeless design, exceptional taste, and quality materials.

My collection grows.

My collection grows.

 

Though my collection is certainly not on the level of the Great Emperors of India whom I admire, it still holds dear to my heart. Most of my pieces are vintage or hand crafted using emeralds, gold, pearls and silver. I hope to one day expand my collection to higher end pieces with more historical importance. My collection is a mix of vintage, gifted and purchased items with the silver rhinestone panther ring and brooch both being vintage finds for example, and the silver beaded bracelet with black onyx, a gift from my mother.

The long adored and cherished pearl is my zodiac birthstone, so the two strand freshwater pearl bracelet is something I was lucky enough to find at a vintage jewelry fair in New York City. The emerald stone and pearl bracelet with matching silver and emerald stone ring where hand-made for me in India and are my latest additions. The black rhinestone bracelet was a gift, and the gold Damascene bracelet next to it, a purchase on trip to Miami, Florida. The gold floral scroll cuff was an online vintage find, and the gold Damascene bracelet above it a vintage fair find as well.

Lauren Hutton by Milton Greene, 1966

Lauren Hutton by Milton Greene, 1966

 

I absolutely love this classic ad of Lauren Hutton dripping in jewels. I wish to one day create quality of this nature. I formerly owned and produced a jewelry designing brand called Sergio James with an old friend of mine, based out of New York City. We crafted jewelry using simple materials such as wood, spray paint, gold and silver leaf and metal filigree accents. I do miss the times that we created elegant yet simple collections, but its time to move on to more glittering pursuits. My goal is to achieve Master Jeweler status which is a very high honor.

I finally have had time as of late to start crafting and brainstorming jewelry concepts. Check out what I have been working on so far…

I present my little sample collection which I call "The Golden Black Pearl Collection"

I present my little sample collection which I call “The Golden Black Pearl Collection”

 

Yes! I love how they turned out, the are my perfect whimsical items all in gold. The black freshwater pearl is hand-woven with gold wire through a gold feather pendant at the end of a gold and black enamel chain. The diadems are gold bands with gold feather scroll pendants that I have hand-woven with gold wire to form this leaf crest pattern and this branch like design. The set is my perfect royal nod to history. This is only the start and more creations are to come.  I am so happy to FINALLY start designing again. Please stay tuned for more.

 

Thank you all for reading!

Cheers!

James Field

 

T.B.N Interviews: Lawrence Charles

Posted in T.B.N Interviews with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on April 8, 2014 by James Field

With every new year comes new beginnings. For myself and The Black Nouveau, I wanted to kick off my interviews section with a dynamic, entrepreneurial spirit that embodies the new energy that I wish to bring forth this year.

Enter Mr Lawrence Charles, CEO and Founder of the luxury tea company Charles & Company. He is a man of great character and perseverance, and he made his dream come true with true grit and determination. He talks to us today about his struggles growing up in the inner city with a single parent, modeling for one of the biggest names in Fashion, and ultimately creating the brand that bears his name.

T.B.N- Welcome Mr. Charles and thank you for taking the time to speak with me about Charles & Company. Let’s begin with a little background, where are you from?

L.C- I’m from Canton, Ohio. I grew up in the inner-city and was raised by a single mother. My grandmother and grandfather played an important role, but I did a lot of “self-parenting.” It was normal to do things like walk to school by myself in kindergarten, or have to make parent level decisions regarding my education, dealing with counselors, etc. I essentially escaped high school by the skin of my teeth. I wanted to attend college and double major in Industrial Design and International Economics or Finance.

Schools like Wharton made me salivate, but I finished high school with a 1.2 GPA. I found myself navigating a home life of both parents on drugs while fighting with my teachers and an education system that sorted me below my aptitude. I simply gave up fighting and just survived. Upon finishing high school I was able to get into college on my talent alone. I was off to Pittsburgh. I went to design school and studied Industrial Design with an emphasis on consumer product design and interactive software development. To get through school in Pittsburgh I lived in a homeless shelter. There, I learned how to play chess at the level of chess master. You’d be surprised who you may find in a homeless shelter, but being a kid there I was taken under the wing of some caring, brilliant people. There, I learned how fragile life is. I also learned to be present. I learned how to love, care for, and care about people from all walks and circumstances. To this day, although I’ve worked with Royalty, and extremely powerful people and celebrities, I believe that everyone is a dignitary. Everyone.

I finished school at the top of my class and was recruited by one of my professors to be a Head Designer on a start-up children’s television series. It went on to win 3 Telly Awards, beating juggernauts like Fox Kids and Disney. About this time was when Tommy Hilfiger came calling.

T.B.N- After reading your bio I can, on many levels, relate to your upbringing by a single parent in an urban and sometimes discouraging environment. Did that ever deter you from pursuing your dreams?

L.C- Yes I had challenges, but I think the question may have been more about did I feel challenged in my ability to achieve my dreams and goals. Every one of us has talents and fresh passion that helps us in pursuing our goals. But in coming from an urban environment, there’s generally no one there to help you understand the talent you possess. Nor are you just a parent, uncle, or sibling removed from seeing for example an attorney, a professor, an investment banker. I had to set out on a path of defining and understanding what these incredible gifts and talents God gave me were, and then how to use them and hone them. So, pursuing your dreams from there is somewhat of a long chartered flight.

T.B.N- Did you always have the entrepreneurial spirit, and when did it begin flourish?

L.C- Yes. In kindergarten through grade school I would auction off my “hand-me-down” toys to neighboring adults for their kids. In the 2nd or 3rd grade I was always building, constructing things out of paper or whatever spare parts I could find. I rarely built things for the norm, but rather the aberration. I was pioneering then. By 7 years old I stumbled across a flower factory in town that was constantly throwing out what I thought were perfect flowers. I came up with the idea to sell flowers in front of a busy bank on Fridays. Even at 7 I knew that was when everyone got paid. I had category pricing, meaning I would set prices by what I thought commanded more or less. I would also bundle deals, like purchase 2 for “X” price. By high school I started a neighborhood barbershop.

T.B.N- Your work as a model and spokesperson for Tommy Hilfiger must have been an exciting and memorable time in your life. Tell us the story of how that came to be?

L.C- While I was going to design school, I took advantage of the filming that was done in Pittsburgh and the different casting offices as well as modeling and I just turned my photo into as many places as I could. I was a “starving artist.” One day I received a call from Tommy Hilfiger NY that was left on my voice-mail at home. I almost lost my mind. That was a surreal moment. I did a show for Tommy and with Rebecca Romijn. That sent me to New York City and was the launch of my modeling career.

T.B.N- When did your love of Tea begin?

L.C- I began drinking tea while in New York City. New York is a non-stop, 24/7 city, but when I discovered tea I found that it had an almost magical ability to quiet and slow down the chaos of the city. I fell in love with the history of tea and how it was King Charles II that integrated tea in to the higher, social fabric of British society. How it was through the influence of his wife, and her use of it to socialize with family and friends.

T.B.N- What were some of the challenges you faced when launching the company?

L.C- Without question, capital. And I also had no idea what I was doing from the perspective of building a real, organized start-up company. I owned a bicycle, I had a backpack and all I knew was to take my tea to places I thought I could find people to buy my tea. I was literally selling tea on the streets.

T.B.N- What is your favorite tea to drink and why?

L.C- My favorite to drink is breakfast tea because I like that its complex, but I’m fond of its simplicity.

T.B.N- For those who are not aware, what are some of the many health benefits of drinking tea?

L.C- Tea is an amazing elixir that scientists are discovering new things about continuously. If you just take a look at white, green, oolong, and black tea, you will find things like Thiamine, which affect the brain and heightens mental alertness and concentration. Tea contains good antioxidants that thwart free radicals and slows aging. Outside of its ability to help you fight common colds, tea helps prevent cardiovascular disease and some cancers.

One of the most overlooked health benefits of tea is what it does for mental health. Just by sharing a cup with a friend or a neighbor or in your own solitude allows you to take a moment, slow down, stop thinking about the bills, the kids, etc. But it allows you to be present and pulls you out of the challenges of life. This is critical to your mental well-being.

T.B.N- What are some of Charles & Company’s bestselling teas?

L.C- It varies at times, but I would say our Indian Chai, White Blueberry Pomegranate, or Coconut Chamomile. Chai is in many ways the basis of Ayurveda. Our Indian Chai is very traditional, I use clusters of spices like cardamom, pieces of cinnamon, and ginger beautifully arranged in a deep, smoky Indian black tea. With our White Blueberry Pomegranate, to raise the antioxidant and vitamin C levels, I use freeze-dried blueberries and pomegranate that’s laid in a beautiful, open leafed white tea which gives it a deeper, richer brew. Our Coconut Chamomile begins with fresh, beautifully picked chamomile flowers, tossed in with delicious coconut meat and honey bush. I’ve been told by customers it’s so good, and that if you drink too much you’ll hallucinate. Those customers, I believe, may have been enjoying something else along with our tea.

T.B.N- What are some of your future plans for Charles & Company?

L.C- First of all, I listen to the pull of our customers. This is a great barometer as to where we will and can be. In addition, we have built up a ton of cachet that we will begin to slowly cash in on. Our customers have done us an incredible service by giving us the title “luxury.” For this I am deeply grateful. In being a luxury brand, we cater to lifestyle. We are currently in talks with a couple major department stores. We are already looking at expansion in Europe. Our customers have been asking for china, so we will be launching our line of tea ware and china soon. Our customers consider us the “Ralph Lauren of tea,” so I believe this gives us the ability to become a multibillion dollar brand. I’m excited about what’s ahead.

 

Kathy Eldon & Lawrence Charles

Kathy Eldon & Lawrence Charles

 

T.B.N- What advice would you give struggling entrepreneurs?

L.C -

· Be persistent.

· Be persistent.

· Be kindly persistent.

· By all means do what you say.

· By all means, follow through. It’s tough to have so much on your plate at once, so delays are understood, but by all means follow through.

· Following through builds trust.

· Get a financial adviser if you already don’t have one.

· Get a mentor too.

· Listen to your adviser (And learn through your own experience what advice is working. Don’t just think you’re right. Let go a little)

· Listen to your customer. Pursue what you deeply believe is the correct path, but they will ultimately show you the way.

· Learn how to grow with no capital. When you get capital, continue to be resourceful.

· Revenue is deceiving.

· By all means, find your “product-market-fit.”

· Once you have your product market fit, build your network of “strategic” advisers.

· Continually look at growth and how your company fits into this thought of growth.

· If you’re a millennial or generation X African-American, do not carry the weight of your parents, and do not be coerced to do so. Yes, racism still exists in parts. So what, it’s not the majority. As Maya Angelou said, ‘Pick up your crown and wear it!’

T.B.N- What do you love most about your job?

L.C- Building a brand is a magical experience. I love everything, especially the people and the relationships. We get to work with amazing people both famous and not famous. From HRH The Duchess of York, Sarah Ferguson; Greta Garbo’s Estate; Diane Von Furstenberg’s Estate; to Jane Tranter, BBC Worldwide/The CW Network’s TV show “Breaking Pointe.”

T.B.N- Lastly, please give us some final words about Charles & Company and what you hope people will discover about your products.

Charles & Company Tea founded by Lawrence Charles brings to life the experience of traditional British Tea. The company was started to share the comfort, health, serenity, and togetherness that people experience while drinking tea. With a background as an award-winning Industrial Designer, CEO Lawrence Charles’ passion for creativity and elegance is present from the first step of selecting the leaves, to the last step of sharing Charles & Company Tea with the world. Charles & Company has signature blends you can learn about and purchase at www.cnctea.com

Thank you so much Lawrence for taking the time to inspire us all with your story and speaking for me, it was my pleasure. I look forward to hearing more about Charles & Company and I wish you much success on your future endeavors.

Like Charles & Company Tea on Facebook

Follow Charles & Company Tea on Twitter: http://twitter.com/charlesncompany

J.F

Nouveau Spotlight: Martin de Tours

Posted in Nouveau Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , on March 3, 2014 by James Field

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In our current economic climate, many people are finding themselves spending less on “fast fashion” and investing in more quality pieces with longevity. I  (reluctantly) have discovered the value in purchasing slightly more expensive, but longer lasting pieces for my own wardrobe that I may rotate through the seasons. However, at times the best alternative is made to measure and when it comes to fine suiting and tailoring, that is where quality craftsmanship vs “off the rack” prevails.

Enter a new such made to measure label by the name of Martin de Tours. Founded on the principles of accessibility, efficiency and the revolution of men taking pride in their appearance again, they have created a unique and exceptional tailoring experience for all.

Combining old world techniques and new technology to create custom fitted suits and shirting, this new brand is on its way to menswear sartorial importance.  The use of cut seems to be the most obvious statement as these looks will illustrate…

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I think it very important and economically savvy for more men to have a better understanding of their bodies and what fits their personal aesthetic, so that they may shop with greater confidence. Martin de Tours does just that, with a full-time “Valet” of sorts who will take your exact measurements and present material options for all your suiting needs. They are re-introducing the classic style and taste of custom suiting with made to measure, exceptional quality menswear.

Please visit Martin de Tours for more information, also please support the growing of this brand with sponsorship via Kickstarter, click here.

Thank you Alexandra of Martin de Tours and I wish you guys all the best. I will be meeting you soon for my measurements!

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JF

Honma Golf 2013 Promotional Campaign x OWN Magazine New York

Posted in Art Nouveau with tags , , , , , , , , on November 5, 2013 by James Field

This is short promotional video that was commissioned by Japanese Golf company, Honma by OWN Magazine. We shot all around New York City with a incredible team of people and finished the day on the roof of a private residence in the Chelsea area.

Some behind the scenes photos are below, stay tuned for more OWN Magazine collaborations.

Chelsea Penthouse Roof

Kota (My Editor and dear friend)

www.Honmagolf.co.jp

www.OWN-Magazine.com

Thank you so much to:

Model______________________Andrew Banks
Stylist______________________Shala Rothenberg
Visual Effect_________________Akinori Yamanaka
Director of Photography________Philipp Wolter
Director&Editor_______________Kaname Hatano
Art Director&Producer__________Kota Kuramoto
Stylist Assistant_______________Shonna Williams
Special Thanks_______________Taro Ohtsuki, Jonathan Pozniak, James Field, Erina Abe, Nobu Ouchi

T.B.N Interviews: Chef Jack Lee

Posted in Nouveau Spotlight with tags , , , , , , , , , , on October 3, 2013 by James Field
Chef Jack Lee

Chef Jack Lee

“You must have Passion, Dedication and Persistence”- Chef Jack Lee

I would like to begin by thanking Chef Lee for taking the time out of his schedule to answer a few questions about his dazzling work and exciting career as a celebrity Chef for the re-launch of my T.B.N Interviews segment.

The Black Nouveau is pleased to introduce Celebrity Chef Jack Lee.

Welcome Mr. Lee, I am honored to speak with you today….

TBN: Lets begin with your love of food, what sparked your fascination with it? Also share with us a little about yourself and your background. How did the Asian/French fusion style flourish into your trademark?

Chef Lee: I see food very differently. I want to honor each ingredient’s natural properties. I want to enhance the unique textures and colors. I believe the food we consume should be as much of a treat for the eyes as it is for the palate. I love dishes to be full of flavor, color and dimension so that you get drawn into each bite. Every bite should be a meaningful, lasting memory.

I came to the US from Vietnam when I was only 10 years old.  I always loved food but at such a young age, I didn’t understand it as a career option. I watched the TV show “Three’s Company” to learn English and I loved how funny Jack Tripper was. When I saw him become a chef, I realized I could become a chef, too. It became my job to cook for my entire family and eventually I started working in kitchens.

As I learned more, I realized I wanted to combine Eastern and Western culinary concepts. I drew inspiration from street food of the Far East and merged it with the elegant plating and presentation of French cuisine. This Asian French technique has become my signature style and I’m always looking at ways to elevate the beauty as well as the flavors of food.

TBN: You are known for creating vibrant and visually appealing dishes that are equally delicious, how important is the presentation to you? How important is color?

Chef Lee: I believe people eat with their eyes first, so good plating presentation is inviting the palate of that taster. It makes the eater anticipate and fantasize about the culinary adventure they will have with forthcoming meal.  Color enhances the taste, since we, as humans, use color to tell us about nutrition and if something is yummy.

Most people prefer eating vegetables that look green and crisp rather than yellowish-green and limp. The second option means all the nutrients have been cooked out and it won’t be fulfilling to eat. It may not be at the front of the brain, but on a deep level we all know that delicious food has certain vibrancy to it.

My presentation centers on five components: high quality protein that will look sexy on the plate, super healthy carb, organic vibrant vegetables, amazing sauce with depth of flavor that embraces the tongue, and beautifully designed garnish. Put all of that together on one plate and it practically dances before your eyes. It’s like food porn.

TBN: How does the inspiration process work for you? When you cook for your clients, many of whom have very high taste levels (Oprah Winfrey, Charlize Theron, Hilary Swank a few among a long list of illustrious names) is there a consultation process? Is a there a balance between what you wish to convey with your dishes, and what the client is requesting?

Chef Lee: Everyone tastes food differently, and a lot can be based on a person’s mood. When you’re in a blissful mood everything tastes good, similarly, when you’re depressed you don’t have appetite. So, I first start thinking about the emotional response I want the taster to have. I deal with clients that don’t just appreciate the Wow Factor, they demand it, so the food needs to excite and even seduce the eater. That’s the main balance that has to be met between myself and the client. This is also where colors and enhancement of the ingredient’s natural beauty starts to come in. It’s the first level of inspiration.

I also get inspired by the people whom I cook for. I often make a plate based on some one’s individual persona. I’ve even named these dishes after the person that inspired the dish. It might start with their favorite type of protein or vegetable, or be based on an item of clothing they wear, or be a place they love to travel. This personalize’s the culinary experience even more.

Chef Lee & Rebbie Jackson

Chef Lee & Rebbie Jackson

Chef Lee & Charlize Theron

Chef Lee & Charlize Theron

Chef Lee & Quincy Jones

Chef Lee & Quincy Jones

All of this lets me use food as my art and outward expression of my voice and vision.

TBN: What was it like when you began your tenure as The Banquet Chef at the prestigious and legendary, Hotel Bel Air?

Chef Lee: I am so lucky to have had the opportunity to work at a Five Star, Five Diamond hotel where we are trained to create gourmet cuisine: Presentation, Authenticity, and Flavors. The training process was hard and intense… and long hours of making garnishes. You have to have the passion in the kitchen or it won’t work. The dispassionate fail quickly in a kitchen like that.

TBN: What advice would you give aspiring culinary students with similar career aspirations?

Chef Lee: You must have Passion, Dedication and Persistence.

I applied to work with esteemed Executive Chef Humberto Contreras. I just wanted to learn from him. At first, he denied me, many times, thinking I didn’t have what it takes. I kept coming back til he finally gave up and started to see my passion and my dedication in culinary arts.

Then, I volunteered at Bel Air for a full year making garnishes 10 hours a day. It wasn’t easy for me, everyone asked me to quit and go home.  It would have been so easy just to walk away but I kept on fighting to stay and believing that all the hard work will pay off.  Which it did. I was hired and eventually became the Banquet Chef of Hotel Bel Air and that was the turning point of my career as a chef.

TBN: Lastly, where do you see yourself in your current career path? What goals would you like to accomplish? What dreams have you always hoped to achieve?

Chef Lee: My first day at CSCA (California School of Culinary Art) I dreamed of being on Food Network one day and I recently served as a guest judge for this season’s finale of “Rachael vs Guy: Kids Cook-off.”  I’m also on a forthcoming episode of Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” which will air on October 27, 2013. So, many of my dreams are materializing.

I just wish to share my cooking passion and spread the love and food gospel to the World.

Thank you for your time today Chef Lee, it has been an absolute pleasure speaking with one of Hollywood’s most talented and esteemed Chefs.

Be sure to tune into Food Network’s “Cutthroat Kitchen” airing October 27th.

I would like to sincerely thank Ms Joy Donnell at Do It in Public Los Angeles for making this interview possible.

ChefJackLee.com

J.F

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