Meet a Grombabe: Zoë François
Meet Zoë. Renowned Pastry Chef, Best Selling Author, and Lover-of-Life Extraordinaire.
Zoë is FUN… The Ms. Frizzle to a “Magic School Bus” made out of homemade sorbet kind of fun. If you find yourself thumbing through her instagram feed, every post, story, and video is the kind of show-stopping perfection that one might imagine a hot-headed Chef Ramsay-type created. Instead, the master behind these dazzling creations is joyful Zoë herself, inviting you to dance around her magnificent kitchen and learn a thing or two along the way.
Don’t take my word for it. Zoë frequently appears in media around the world, has written several critically acclaimed books, and is sought after by others for collaborations, and this girl know how to bring the fun. Frequenters of her page know that she folds music and dancing into all of her recipes, leaving us to theorize that joy can be tasted in every bite of what comes out of her kitchen. Not to mention, she knows how to put a playlist together (just watch any of her stories, and turn up the volume.)
Recently, Zoë took a trip to NYC to bakery-hop, and spent days biting into the best cake slices the city has to offer (now if that isn’t the most perfect trip, I don’t know what is.) Even if sugar isn’t really your thing, it’s hard not to love the bright eyes behind those funky, stylish glasses, and wonder what other ideas are hiding underneath her brilliant, naturally silver curls.
Speaking of her hair, Zoë has never dyed it. She is a woman boldly following her life’s calling and she uses her talents without reserve. I wondered if there was any correlation between her willingness to embrace her natural hair and live a big life, so I asked her a few questions.
What’s your name, and where are you from?
Zoë François. I grew up moving around, a lot, with wandering hippie parents, but Vermont was probably the closest to a home state. Now I live in Minneapolis, MN with my husband and two sons.
Who is your favorite band?
If you watch my instagram videos you'll know that my musical tastes are far and wide, but I usually end up with something I can dance to.
What about your favorite book?
I love a good Russian novel. The Brothers Karamazov is like the thinking woman's soap opera.
What movie(s) have you watched repeatedly?
The three movies I saw more than 10 times each are Harold and Maud, Saturday Night Fever and the first Star Wars movie. I just dated myself.
How did you get into baking, and what about it do you love so much?
I started baking when I was a child. I grew up in a commune and the pantry was like a play land of bins filled with flour, bottles of honey and tubs of homemade nut butters. When I was about 3 I emptied a sizable amount of all of that into a bathtub and mixed it up. Maybe that was the seed to this career?
What was the moment you realized you wanted to take baking from a hobby to a career?
In college I started a cookie business as part of a business class assignment. We were meant to write a business plan for a fictitious company and I invented a cookie company. The class didn't go so well, but I took a semester off and started my Zoë's Cookie company, that actually turned a profit. I guess I learned more in class than I thought and the cookies rocked. I did go back to school and left the cookies behind. It was years later that I ended up in culinary school, after discovering that the cubicle world of advertising was not for me. I've never looked back.
When did you first decide to start embracing your silver hair, and what made you do it?
I've not colored my hair since Henna first hit the scene in the 1970s and I was 10. When I was in Paris for my honeymoon I saw a woman in a museum who has always been my style icon. She was elegantly dressed and had long silver hair. I was 23 and couldn't wait to grow into that stage of life. I always liked my hair color, which is a mix of reds, browns and finally the silver is coming.
A few years ago I went to an acting/image coach, when I was doing some video work, and she suggested I'd look younger and less washed out on screen if I colored over the silver. I nervously went to her hair person and he refused to color my hair! He said he loved it as is and wouldn't participate in coloring it. I was so relieved and he became my hair stylist, just no coloring.
Do you feel like the journey of embracing your silver hair has taught you anything in life?
I've never considered coloring my hair, so it is funny to hear women tell me how brave I am to have gone silver. It doesn't feel brave, it's just me.
How do people react to your hair?
People do comment on it and it is always positive, but I'd hope someone wouldn't go out of their way to tell me they don't like my look. Women have told me they want to embrace their silver and curly hair since they saw me doing it. I never really knew the pressure some women feel to color their hair, but I guess it is a real concern for some. I have seen more and more fashion models who have pure silver hair and so hopefully the new message to women is that any age and hair color is beautiful. A friend of mine from high school is a silver hair model and she's one of the most gorgeous women I know.
What is your favorite thing about yourself?
My quickness to laugh. There is a lot of sh*tty stuff going on in the world and it could really take even the strongest person down. I think maintaining a sense of humor is what keeps me sane and loving life, even in the face of adversity.
It’s no secret that Zoë’s chocolate chip cookie recipe is my all-time favorite cookie recipe (and there’s a good reason: she’s refined and perfected it over the course of 30 years!) You can check out Zoe’s recipe books, and make sure to give her a follow on instagram. Give one of her recipes a try and tag #zoebakes #grombre to tell us how it turned out!