From High-Fashion Model to Jet-Set Food Blogger
WHY YOU SHOULD CARE
It’s a rarefied world indeed to take a flight just to have lunch, but it’s fun to read about.
By Clark Parkin
Aiste Miseviciute rebuts the first prejudice against successful models before she even opens her mouth. She’s not fashionably late. On the contrary, she arrives at the restaurant early, before I do. She politely goes outside to take a brief call and returns shortly afterward, switches off her phone and gives me her full attention.
The restaurant Takara, on a side street off the Avenue de l’Opera, is her favorite Paris hangout. Miseviciute resides in Paris and London. It’s France’s oldest Japanese restaurant, having opened in 1961. Her soft spot for Japanese cuisine began when she lived in Tokyo at age 17 as a model. Today, she models only occasionally, “for friends,” as she explains. She didn’t quite become a supermodel, but she did make onto the covers of Vogue and Numero. However, she has drawn the attention of a completely different audience through her blog Luxeat, which she’s been writing since 2004.
From fashion model to food blogger: It sounds like the beginning of a joke. “Yes,” Miseviciute says with a laugh. “We models only eat salad.” Many models starve themselves, but she says she eats what she wants and doesn’t gain weight. She earned good money from the very start, sparing her the often paltry existence of other models. Instead of subsisting on Coke Zero and microwaved noodle soups, she explored restaurants of countries where she traveled, and then reported on them in her blog. She became a pioneer of the digital gourmet scene portrayed in the documentary film Foodies: The Culinary Jetset. The film celebrated its premiere in September at the festival in San Sebastian, Spain. However, a trailer released online last year caused an uproar. Right at the beginning of the short film, Andy Hayler, the only restaurant critic to have visited all 109 three-star restaurants in the world, is sitting in a restaurant complaining about the Moët & Chandon Champagne: “These are the trials we must bear.”
Jet-set foodies are not unlike surfers chasing the perfect wave.
In the next scene, Miseviciute boards a private jet and says that she enjoys flying to a city for a meal. And then she’s sitting in Kyoto, Japan, in the restaurant Kikunoi. Later, Thai blogger Perm Paitayawat — The Skinny Bib — permanently dressed in Prada silk shirts and Givenchy pullovers, is seen entering Noma in Copenhagen, Denmark, and saying how grateful he is that his parents can support him financially. Online reactions were harsh. The Huffington Post asked whether it was really necessary to see more of such people, while other comments ranged from “makes me gag” to “Don’t you just feel like slapping them all?”
“I was overwhelmed by the care and the respect with which the products were handled.”Miseviciute said she wasn’t pleased with the first trailer and makes it clear that she doesn’t fly to lunch in a private jet. “I was invited to a party being thrown by jeweler de Grisogono at the Cannes Film Festival, and was invited to fly with some acquaintances.” She would certainly board a plane for a special restaurant, but she’d take a commercial flight, similar to how some others would fly to a football game or a concert.
In Foodies, the four protagonists have to justify their bizarre hobby. Overall, however, the film is subtle and uses beautiful imagery to shed light upon a phenomenon that helps sustain international gourmet restaurants — particularly important for restaurants like Fäviken Magasinet, which Skinny Bib visits in the film. It’s located 200 kilometers east of Trondheim, in the Swedish province of Jämtland. Each blogger who visits these restaurants and posts photos online has dozens of gourmet followers for whom no restaurant is too remote. They’re not unlike surfers chasing the perfect wave. Forums and blogs today have assumed the role of traditional restaurant guides.
She experienced a culinary enlightenment in Paris when her boyfriend took her to Apicius, then a two-star fish restaurant. “I was overwhelmed by the care and the respect with which the products were handled,” she says, pointing to a feature of Japanese cuisine. In the film, she visits the three-star sushi restaurant Sushi Saito in the corner of a car park in Tokyo. Its seven seats are some of the most difficult in the world to reserve.Miseviciute stands out among the film’s bloggers. Not because she’s a model who actually eats, but because she experienced scarcity as a child in Soviet-era Lithuania. She remembers how difficult it was to find bananas and oranges. Staple foods were potatoes and cabbage; pizza was exotic.
But it’s not always Michelin stars. A recent blog entry depicts a rice dish with lobster in an Ibiza beach bar, and her best culinary memories of Berlin, she says, are the curry sausages she learned to love there. She pays for her meals with money she earns with her production company for stock photos. “As a blogger, one is, of course, often invited to eat for free, but I prefer to remain independent,” she says. If she gets a bad meal, she prefers not to write about it, as “anybody can have a bad day.”
It’s easy to mock the little jet-set foodie scene. But, really, isn’t it just fulfilling another hunger for experience that has grasped society? Now and again the film conveys the ecstasy that foodies experience when they’re eating. Skinny Bib’s visit to Longjing Manor in Hangzhou, China, for example, features so much sighing and moaning that one could almost become jealous and ask: Where is that, and how much would a flight cost?
- Clark Parkin, OZY AuthorContact Clark Parkin