A minute into our meeting in a quiet booth at New York's Koi restaurant and I decided: There's nothing artificially sweet about Ayesha Curry. The author of the new cookbook, The Seasoned Life, simply is who she is: A Toronto-born, Charlotte-raised, church-loving girl who isn't afraid to express her love for her husband and kids — all while having a life of her own, too.
"A lot of people don’t realize how young we are," the 27-year-old says. Though he's a two-time NBA MVP, her husband, Stephen Curry, is only 28. "I haven’t even had my chance to make my mark in this world, and I don’t think it’s fair that because my husband plays basketball, people put me in a bubble and are almost offended that I’m doing my own thing.
"I have my own passions, goals and dreams — and luckily, a very supportive husband. I also have two daughters that I want to set an example for." I quickly learn that underneath Curry's sugariness, there's definitely some spice.
I also learn that she's not just another celeb labeling herself a foodie because it's hot right now. The story begins in Toronto, when Curry was 13 and her parents threw her a cooking-themed birthday party.
"I had like eight or nine cousins and friends over and my parents had filled up the dining room with groceries," she says, her eyes wide and bright. She has the kind of open, expressive face that makes you want to nod and mimic her emotions as she speaks. "It was the first time they really let me experiment and do whatever I wanted in the kitchen. I just fell in love. My friends were probably expecting to come and play games and dance, but we had so much fun."
I don’t think it’s fair that because my husband plays basketball, people put me in a bubble and are almost offended that I’m doing my own thing.
The middle child of five (two older sisters, two younger brothers), Curry says that both her adolescence and her relationship to food were influenced by her multiracial background. A Jamaican-Chinese mother and African-American-Polish father ("Kids at school called me 'United Nations.'") combined with an upbringing in both Toronto and Charlotte, NC, resulted in a palette that's equal parts colorful Caribbean and decadent Southern.
"I grew up in a melting pot, so I always felt like I could relate to all kinds of people," Curry says, her slight Canadian accent peeking through. "I try to have an openness when it comes to meeting new people — and trying new flavors."
Food wasn't her initial career path, though. As a kid, she appeared in print ads and commercials starting at the age of 3. At 17, she moved to Los Angeles to give acting a real shot. "That's all I thought I was capable of doing," she says. "But once I was old enough, I realized I had been doing this so long, it was automatic — not my personal choice. When I realized I didn't actually enjoy acting, I had to make the grown up decision to go down a different path."
Her move to Los Angeles wasn't a total bust, though. It was in California that she reconnected with an old acquaintance via Facebook: Stephen Curry, a kid she used to hang out with at church youth groups in Charlotte as a teenager. He was in town for a basketball camp. By the time they were 23 and 24, Steph was a rising NBA star playing for the Golden State Warriors and they were married with a newborn daughter, Riley (now four). Ayesha needed a creative outlet — and a way to share their whirlwind West Coast life with their East Coast and Canadian family.
"I started blogging about faith, our family, and the recipes I liked to try," she says. "But everyone always gravitated toward the food. I felt a fire inside of me and realized: I could make a career out of this."
The self-taught cook has also slowly built a major social-media following (she's got a cool 4.2 million Instagram followers) with playful dubsmashes, cooking videos, and funny tweets. Yep: There she was, a virtuous young face new to the harsh lights of celebrity.
Anyone who understands the ruthless landscape of social media could have predicted it wouldn't be long before the Twittersphere turned Curry into a caricature. Her December tweet — "Everyone's into barely wearing clothes these days huh? Not my style. I like to keep the good stuff covered up for the one who matters" — launched a thousand memes; she was accused of slut-shaming and an image of her smiling face in the kitchen was paired with judgmental statements like, "This recipe is quick and easy, just like you trendy women that don't wear clothes," and, "I think you all will enjoy my recipes, because unlike you gals, I don't put just anything in my mouth."
But Curry swears she took it all in stride. "Honestly, I just thought it was so funny that people made up this persona of me while I was at home confused as heck," she says. "I've realized social media is not a great way to show your personality, because it never comes across as what it truly is. But I just got to keep doing me. I think in time people will get to know me."
Despite being burned by the meme machine, Curry stays true to what she believes in. She earnestly mentions her faith in God multiple times — a topic many celebrities tend to avoid during interviews — and when I ask her views on Colin Kaepernick choosing to kneel during the national anthem, she keeps it real.
"Look, that took a lot of courage," she says. "He is definitely raising awareness and he's entitled to express himself however he wants. But I personally choose to stand because, I mean — we have a Black president. I’m proud of our country. Yes, we have got some major things to work on, but ultimately, we live here. So for me, I’ll probably find another way to use my voice."
I love food, because it evokes emotions and brings people together, but I also don’t take it too seriously.
"I cooked and plated all of the food in the book for the photographs," says Curry, "because I hate when I open a cookbook and everything is so beautiful — and then I make it at home and it looks nothing like that. Here, what you see is what you get.”
"I love Chrissy Teigen," Curry says. "She doesn’t care about what people think, she eats the food that she wants to eat, she is who she is. When she was pregnant and released her cookbook, I was just starting my own book and nursing Ryan. It wasn't so much that Chrissy was always giving me all this advice; she just got what I was trying to do. Having a friend that could relate to me put me at ease and let me know: It’s gonna work out."
The Seasoned Life is just the beginning of Curry's food career: Starting October 22, she'll be in living rooms on Saturday afternoons with her new Food Network Show, Ayesha's Homemade — a dream she's had since falling asleep watching the Food Network as a little girl.
"I love food, because it evokes emotions and brings people together, but I also don’t take it too seriously," she says. "I think cooking should be easy and fun. And you should be able to enjoy your company while you're cooking, so I'll have my friends and family on as guests. And I put them to work — if you come to my house and I'm still cooking, you're helping me!"
A book. A cooking show. Curry promises these are just the appetizers. There will be more additions to the menu, including Gather, a food-delivery service set to launch later this fall. There's also a possibility she'll have more mouths to feed sooner rather than later. "We definitely want another kid," she says. "It'll be okay if it's a girl or a boy. But at this point, I have a feeling we'd probably get another girl!"
Right now, Curry is treating The Seasoned Life like her youngest baby. She promises that even the most novice chef can get something out of it. "In college, Steph once made me overcooked cream of wheat with way too much salt," she says. "He is not a cook and even he was able to accomplish some of my recipes."
The best part? "If you mess something up," she says, "you can always try again."