Zac Posen grew up in a creative household in New York City, with a father who cooked every day. The 38-year-old designer dresses the best, from fashion royalty to more than 60,000 Delta employees reaching into overhead bins all over the world. His 2017 book, “Cooking With Zac,” extends his lifelong affinity for creating beauty to luscious ingredients. He spends as much time as he can shopping and cooking with friends on Long Island.
In “Cooking With Zac,” you draw connections between designing a new collection and cooking. How are they similar?
When I’m designing clothing, I drape fabric onto a form or human body and I start building expressively. Good material is the starting point, as good ingredients are the starting point for a dish. I let the ingredient or material sing and [take] the lead.
Your recipes seem solid and tested, and they include a lot of technique. How did you come by so many good practices?
I was told, ‘Don’t worry, in most cookbooks the recipes don’t test out.’ I said, ‘I can’t have that — it would be like making a piece of clothing with an armhole that’s closed.’ Food is like storytelling. When you cook with great chefs, you learn different parts of that story. I’m self-taught, but I’ve cooked with the greatest — Marcus [Samuelsson], Giada De Laurentiis, Martha [Stewart], Eric Ripert.
What do you wear when you cook?
When I’m doing cooking demos, I wear aprons. When I’m in my kitchen, I’m in my t-shirt, Brooks Brothers pajama bottoms and bare feet. If I do wear an apron, I like to do a fold so I can put a white cloth on the tie.
Some cooks meticulously measure, dice and peel ahead of time, and some throw carrots all over the kitchen. Where do you fall on that spectrum?
I’m a messy creator! If I have to time to prep, then I can be neat and organized.
Are there foods you’d rather get on Long Island than anywhere else?
Mother Nature is our greatest designer and creator, and produce is the greatest luxury item possible. I love the hunt for good ingredients. I make all the clothing I wear, but there are two things I shop for, jewelry and ingredients [for cooking]. Long Island has incredible small farms and produce. I love the Green Thumb [Water Mill]. I get my seafood — ideally, you get it on the dock [or at] The Seafood Shop [Wainscott].
Where do you go out to eat on Long Island?
I rarely go out, even though I know there is incredible food. I grill. It’s my time off. It’s important to me to have private, quiet time, not having to interact with the world.
How would you describe your approach to cooking and eating?
It’s generous, it’s eclectic, with a real respect for the ingredients. Family style with air. Rustic to refined ... enjoying the right balance of decadence to refined simplicity ... I don’t believe in suffering, in trying to not eat—I think it’s all in moderation.
The Delta Air Lines uniforms you designed made their debut last year. What did you do and how did you do it? And how does one of the uniforms hold up if a passenger spills a Bloody Mary all over a flight attendant?
Delta was a real once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. It took over three years. I job-shadowed from entering JFK to landing on the plane, from ticketing to baggage to service. We worked with stain-resistant fibers woven into the fabric. That’s where the technology came onboard. It was great to bring this into the process.