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Cally Robertson

Cally Robertson is a Los Angeles-based chef and artist. She has freelanced as a private chef for multiple clients, and spent the past 6 years as the in-house studio chef for artists Jonas Wood and Shio Kusaka. In a desire to merge her experience as a chef with some of her other creative practices, her most recent project, Cally's Cafe, functions as a supper club, prepared foods kitchen, recipe blog, and quilting studio.
Shaina Mote — Cally Robertson

Do you have a morning ritual?  If so, what does it consist of? 

 My cat is a pretty reliable early-morning alarm clock. He wakes me up at around 7 every morning, I put on a pot of coffee, and then take some time to plan out the day. Now that I’m working for myself, writing down to-do lists and outlines for each day really helps me stay focused and motivated. My desk right now is scattered with these lists and notes-to-self. It feels really good to check things off, and also to have projects to look forward to.









Do you have any self care or beauty habits that you consistently practice? 

 For me, self-care is about remembering to be gentle with myself, trying not to overcomplicate things, and finding the time to clear my thoughts and hit the reset button as much as possible. I always feel better when I get outside for a bit. I live near the mountains and love going for walks around my neighborhood or just spending a little time puttering in front of my house, which I've turned into a wild fragrant garden—there are several different kinds of sage, rosemary, lilac verbena, desert mint, and roses. I like to gather bouquets to place around the house or give to my neighbors. It’s a simple ritual that gives me a feeling of well-being. And as for beauty habits, I’ve learned that consistency and simplicity is the best practice— sunscreen in the morning, wash and moisturize at night. And now that the weather is cool, a cup of herbal tea before bed and a nice thick pair of socks.









Describe your home in five words:

 Cozy, quiet, mountain, fragrant, verdant









Do you have personal practices for living or well-being that create a reduced environmental impact or are zero waste? 

 As a chef, I try my best to get the most out of the food I eat. There’s always some use for the bits and pieces that might otherwise get discarded. I keep containers or bags in the freezer with food scraps for different uses— onion bits, leek tops, herb stems, parmesan rinds, and bones from roasted chickens for chicken stock; avocado pits or onion skins or coffee grounds for making natural dyes; the fibrous stems of leafy greens for sautés or soups. And if I have an abundance of something that I can’t use all at once, there is almost always a way to preserve it. We have a Mandarin orange tree in the yard that produces way too much fruit than we could ever eat. I like to make jars of marmalade or preserve them in salt with some bay leaves and fennel pollen. Both are a great way to make use of an overabundance of any kind of citrus, and they make nice gifts as well.

Salt-preserved Mandarin oranges with bay and fennel pollen

 6-8 whole mandarins (you could use any citrus here, just enough to pack tightly into a jar)
4-5 Tbsp coarse salt
1 bay leaf
1/4 tsp fennel pollen 
a clean, dry, quart-sized jar

 Cut an X through the stem of the orange almost to the end, but not all the way through, so the quarters remain attached at the base. Peel open slightly and sprinkle generously with salt, and transfer to the jar, squeezing and pressing so the orange releases its juice. Repeat with the rest of the oranges until you have them all packed tightly into the jar, sprinkling each layer with a little more salt as you go. You want the oranges to be nicely packed and submerged in their juice. If there isn’t enough liquid, you can add some lemon juice. Add the bay leaf and fennel pollen, close the lid and shake. Store in a cool dark place for 1-2 weeks, giving it a shake every now and then when you think of it. Store in the fridge and enjoy for up to 6 months.

 To use:

 Rinse under cold water to mellow out the saltiness. Using your finger or a paring knife, remove the pulp. (The rind is the part you want to eat). Slice the rind into thin strips or dice. Add to grain salads, beans, pastas, soups or stews. The little bursts of salty, citrus-y flavor can elevate a lot of dishes.









Try as we might, humans will inevitably negatively affect the environment in some ways, both on a local and global scale. With this in mind what are some specific intentions and convictions that you hold close? 

 To some extent we’re all forced to participate in an impersonal and never-ending cycle of consumption, which can feel pretty empty and depressing. But I am learning to use resources close to home whenever possible. In my years working as a chef I have found that I get the most joy out of cooking with produce and ingredients from small local farms and businesses. Doing so has taught me to be more mindful of what and how I consume in general, and has also inspired me to learn more about growing my own food and being more self-sufficient. I think there is a balance to be found between supporting and learning from your community, between helping each other and helping ourselves.

















What is a project for home or living that you have recently started or finished?

At the beginning of quarantine, my husband and I painted an abstract mural in our dining nook. It’s a part of the house that had always felt kind of stagnant, so we breathed some life into it. We painted in turns, in a sort of gestural call-and-response, using a mixture of house paint, acrylic, flash, oil pastel, charcoal, and graphite. The result is pretty chaotic, but I like it. There’s something kind of thrilling about vandalizing one’s home a little. 








What distracts you?  How do you remain centered? 

 Oh man, everything. I definitely don’t remain centered, but I have moments of clarity. Spending time outside away from my phone helps. And working with my hands— cooking, drawing, and working with fabric. Quilting has been a calming practice for me. It’s a creative outlet, but is also tactile, systematic, and rhythmic. I get kind of lost in the process, but there is also this momentum of looking forward to the finished product that propels me.








How has your relationship with your immediate surroundings and the environment at large adapted or changed through the years? 

 As I’ve gotten older, I notice and appreciate nature more. When it’s a beautiful day in November and the leaves are finally turning red, I try not to take it for granted.









Describe a practice in living well that you admire from someone in your community.

 I think the notion of what it means to live well is so personal for everyone. Most of my friends have some kind of creative practice that helps them find meaning. I admire whatever it is that keeps people going and brings them hope.





Share a well-loved family recipe:

 My dad is an amazing cook. Everything he makes turns out so elegant and simple and well thought-out. His shallot vinaigrette is what I use 90% of the time I’m making a simple green salad. True, the ingredient list is startlingly long, but it’s all stuff that you can have in your pantry for a long time. It goes well with so many other things too, drizzled over boiled potatoes or a plate of blanched vegetables. I love it tossed with crisp greens like little gem, and a mix of bitter and spicy greens, like escarole, frisée, arugula, or radicchio.

 Webb’s Shallot Vinaigrette
(Makes about 2 cups)

1 medium shallot 
1 clove garlic
1 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp red wine vinegar
1 Tbsp sherry vinegar
1 Tbsp Dijon mustard
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 cup walnut oil
pinch of dried marjoram
pinch of dried thyme
pinch of sugar
pinch of salt
generous grind of pepper

 Mince the shallot and garlic and soak in vinegars for 10 minutes. Add the salt, pepper, sugar, mustard and dried herbs. Slowly whisk oils into vinegar mixture. Add 1 Tbsp water and whisk again. 


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