Apart from being an ambassador of sustainable living, America’s natural skincare queen Tata Harper has also a secret weak spot for great food. When she’s not in New York, Tata Harper spends her days in a 1,200 acre organic farm in Vermont, following the production of her beauty line and –during her free time- receiving friends for memorable feasts.
In fact for the Colombia-raised entrepreneur, better beauty choices pass from our stomach before reaching our skin. We cached up with her to find out more about her culinary obsessions, from her family’s Latin American kitchen staples to Alice Waters and New York’s ABC Kitchen.
When did you begin to like cooking?
Good food has always been part of my life, and so have big communal family meals, so I helped with the cooking for as long as I can remember. I spent some time in France studying Engineering and really started to love cooking there, because the food available was so different than what I was used to in Latin America, and so delicious!
How did your roots and upbringing affect your relationship with food?
My family owned ranches and a farm when I was growing up so there was lots of fresh dairy, beef and produce we enjoyed together. I grew up understanding the connection between what's on my plate and the land and have integrated it into my current lifestyle and eating habits, by supporting Vermont's sustainable agriculture movement and coming to own a farm myself.
What are the similarities between your cooking and the way you run your business?
There are a few key similarities between the products I make and the food I appreciate: as fresh as possible, no added chemicals, preservatives or dyes, and with an emphasis on locally grown produce. It's fun to think about how what we put into our bodies and what we put onto our bodies are equally important!
What is the most flattering comment that you have ever received for your cooking skills?
Probably the most discriminating judges of my cooking would be my kids, so I'm always flattered when they are happy with something I cook for them.
Who has influenced your cooking the most?
My husband Henry's aunt, Patricia McCausland-Gallo is a fantastic cook and has written a number of Latin-cuisine cookbooks that are truly inspiring. She has taught me so much, and her cook books are staples in my kitchen for when we are craving some quality Colombian food!
Do you have any favorite "family recipe"?
Arroz con Coco - coconut rice! Or a traditional Colombian stew called "Ajiaco"- its delicious for the fall weather, with chicken breast, yellow and white potato, cilantro, yam, and a touch of garlic- definitely hearty food!
If you wrote a cookbook, what would it be about?
It would probably be about cooking seasonally with fresh ingredients, with an emphasis on an appreciation of the land from where the food came. It would probably also have some cross-cultural influences; some of my favorite Latin American recipes, as well as many recipes I have learned from friends and neighbors here in Vermont that feature Vermont's famous produce.
Would you give us the recipe for your favorite dish of the moment?
I'm not sure if this could be called a recipe, but it's definitely my favorite snack: I love it for how nutritious and simple it is. A fresh avocado and tomato salad, with extra virgin olive oil and sea salt. Perfect for a summer afternoon!