UPDATE: This story was originally published on June 21.
Clad in an all-white jacket (and occasional toque), a chef's sense of style can be hard to decipher — but not Elaina Vazquez. We hung out with the vivacious spirit behind Boutique Bites catering company to see exactly what she's wearing when she's not cooking up a storm.
Sporting feminine-yet-sexy wares, Vazquez also just launched a new arm of her biz, Edible Style, a rad multimedia enterprise aimed at bridging the worlds of food and fashion (our two favorite things!). After clicking through these snaps, we think you'll agree presentation goes well beyond this chef's tasty work.
Photographed by Anjali Pinto
Was it always your dream to have your own catering company?
"It was always my dream to be a chef and entrepreneur. After culinary school I worked in fine dining restaurants for about five years. I developed the concept for Boutique Bites while I was living in Las Vegas working for Joel Robuchon. I wanted to bring beautiful, stylish, upscale food to catered parties."
So, would you say you always had a knack for cooking?
"I always had a knack for eating more than cooking. It was my love of food and eating that made me want to become a chef. I did start cooking at a young age, though, because both of my parent’s are really good cooks. Food was always a big deal in our house."
Gucci dress, Kate Spade earrings, Report sandals.
Since you’re probably in a chef’s coat a lot, how would you describe your style when you get to dress normally?
"My style is classic and girly. On a normal day, you can find me in skinny jeans, a blazer (I own lots of blazers), and heels. When I get dressed up, I’m really into flirty dresses with an open back. And anything that sparkles."
What’s a normal lunch or dinner look like for you?
"My fiancé and I are both chefs, so we really don’t cook that much at home. We live in River North and love eating out at our neighborhood restaurants. Some of my favorites are GT Fish & Oyster, Gilt, and RPM."
Where were you trained and how was that experience?
"I trained at the Culinary Institute of America (CIA), which was a great experience. During the culinary program, I realized that I wanted to work and train in fine dining restaurants, so my first job out of school was at Tru. I then worked at Avenues at the Peninsula Hotel and later at Joel Robuchon at the Mansion, MGM Grand before starting Boutique Bites."
Joie top, Zara skirt, Kate Spade pumps and bracelet.
How did you go about deciding what your company philosophy would be?
"Working in fine dining was the perfect background for what I do today. Restaurants at that level are all about the details and guest experience. The vision for my catering company was to create a highly stylized and unique event experience for my clients."
"I started miniaturizing everyday foods like tacos, Chicago-style hot dogs, and cheeseburgers, and displaying them on really cool, sleek pieces. Word spread quickly about my mini-bites and that’s what I’ve become known for."
Tell us about the new arm of your business, Edible Style! That sounds right up our alley.
"Edible Style by Elaina Vazquez is my new multimedia enterprise aimed at bridging the worlds of food and fashion. We are in the process of launching the first five 'looks' this summer through our hard copy Edible Style Guide, as well as a new lifestyle video series called 'Fashion to Fork,' which is focused on styling everything from yourself to your spread for fabulously fashionable entertaining at home."
What prompted you to start Edible Style? Would you say you have an inner-fashionista?
"Edible Style has been in the works for a while. I though it would be fun and interesting to create a lookbook of sorts for the culinary and party world. The party looks vary from 'Prim and Proper' to 'Tailored and Timeless.' I definitely have an inner-fashionista, and this new business allows me to have a hand in food and fashion! The goal is a book and television series."
Barneys New York jumpsuit, Cole Haan pumps, Express cuff, Chanel purse, Tiffany & Co. sunglasses.
Who are some of your go-to designers?
"Kate Spade, Isabel Marant, and Chanel."
How about go-to shops in Chicago?
"Edith Hart, Sarca, Barneys, and Zara."
Being in the kitchen (Heat! Grease!) must affect your skin and hair. What do you to do take care of both?
"I’ve developed a theory that working in a kitchen is actually good for your skin. With all the heat and steam, it’s almost like a daily facial!"
"For my hair, I’m big on hair masks and serums. I love Kerastase Elixir Ultime
and Bumble and bumble Bb Shine Finishing Spray
. I’ve always been a ‘girly girl’ and even a hot, greasy kitchen can’t change that."
How would you say the catering business has changed over the years?
"I started Boutique Bites in 2008 right when the economy was at a low point, so every year has been better and better for my company. When I first started my business, we catered mostly in-home dinner parties. Now we cater a lot of weddings and corporate events. The longer you’re in business, the more people know about you, so it’s easier to grow more rapidly."
Two Penny Blue blazer, LOFT shorts, J.Crew T-shirt, Alexandre Birman pumps.
Tell us about one of your most challenging projects to date.
"We recently planned and catered a wedding in six days. It took place at a private home for one of the nicest couples I’ve met, so that made the process much more enjoyable. But to organize food and beverage, staffing, a tent, all rentals, setup with moving furniture, and breakdown all in six days was definitely a challenge. Luckily, the wedding went beautifully and the client loved everything."
What other Chicago chefs do you admire and why?
"Well I know it’s cheesy because he’s my fiancé, but I totally admire Anthony Martin, who’s the chef of Tru. He’s constantly coming up with such inventive and creative new menu items and plating ideas. We bounce a lot of ideas off of each other, and he’s definitely my biggest source of inspiration for my business. Amanda Rockman is my favorite pastry chef in the city. She’s a great friend, and I love her desserts and work ethic."
"I’ve admired Stephanie Izard since she won Top Chef and opened multiple successful restaurants. I love to support female chefs and business owners, and she definitely has it figured out. Giuseppe Tentori of GT and Boka is a great chef and really nice person. You can’t beat that."