Food is, above all, a necessity and a basic human right. And it is this premise in which chef Sophia Roe has been focusing her efforts of late. Since her time spent in the kitchens of established NYC restaurants, she's found a whole new life as a food influencer, beloved for her chic, accessible, and wellness-focused approach to cooking. But it's not about aesthetics or fitting into food trends for Roe: She's also an advocate for welfare and food access and the founder of Pillow Talk Sessions, a series that delves deeply into not only the topic of food, but how it relates to other issues including economics, mental health, environmental concerns, and race. To her, eating well isn't simply self-care — it's essential.
Despite the success she's had, Roe says that a career in food — or wellness, for that matter — was not always the goal. "Food was never part of the plan for me," she explains. "I always watched Great Chefs of the World on PBS as a kid, and was fascinated by how simple ingredients became total masterpieces. It didn’t dawn on me until much later that I could make food my career." Despite this, it seems that that inspiration really stuck with the chef, whose dishes can be defined as simple yet elegant — and most importantly, wholly approachable.
In terms of her focus on the food/health connection, Roe mentions that was just as unexpected. "I had a health scare in 2011, and that truly inspired me to really stop what I was doing and look into alternatives," she says. "I knew I could be taking better care of myself, but it really took a 'rock bottom' for me to take that seriously." What this means for the food she makes — as well as the issues she often speaks to in her Live tutorials and healthy recipe demos — is a focus on ingredients that are clean, often seasonal, and functional.
But it's also the way Roe cooks that has earned her so many followers: Despite the fact that her colorful dishes are always artful, the chef has a way of making them feel relaxed, unstuffy, and actually fun to put together yourself. And because of this, she was the perfect partner for Folonari Wines, who recently tapped her to play with its rebranded, easy-to-drink Pinot Grigio and Chianti by creating pairings perfectly suited to the season. Think herby summer salads with crispy rice and blackberry vinaigrette or fresh corn and tomato risotto.
In dreaming up these wine pairings, Roe thought about the most important factor in her ideal summer meal: Simplicity. "I am obsessed with anything that is simple, and less than five ingredients," she says. "Sourcing the best ingredients you can find, season at every step, and a little lemon zest never hurts!" And a few of her favorite ingredients to include right now are corn and tomatoes.
Like her food, she also wanted to make the idea of wine drinking/pairing feel accessible to all, so even if you're not well-versed in vino vocabulary, you're encouraged to play with the flavors you know and enjoy. "Think less about how dry a wine is, and focus more on if the wine tastes sweet, acidic, or bitter," she recommends. "When we hear the word 'dry' sometimes our mind doesn’t know where to go, because the word 'dry' doesn’t have a food or culinary translation."
For those of you who aren't sure where to start in the kitchen, need a little motivation, or are looking for a more holistic approach to cooking and eating, following Roe is a no-brainer. You're bound to get a lot more than a good meal out of it.