Mossface March 2024

Where did you grow up and what did you grow up eating?

I grew up in Connecticut in a single parent household. My dad is from Alabama, so I grew up eating a lot of Southern Food. He was born in Louisiana and then grew up in Alabama. He loves to cook from his roots and is an incredible cook who has taught me so much. In my household, cooking was our way of communicating and showing love.

So how did you start cooking?

When I graduated high school, I was supposed to go to Berkeley, which I did but I took a few years off to learn more about who I was, what I wanted to do, and what my path was. I ended up traveling a lot and when I was back home in Connecticut I worked at a restaurant called Bloodroot Vegetarian Restaurant started by a feminist collective in Bridgeport, CT. It’s still my favorite place in the world. It’s right on the water and is all vegetarian. It’s very political and has no hierarchy, which set me up for success with my relationship to food but not for my understanding of how the food industry works.

What kind of things did you do in the kitchen there?

I started as a dishwasher but they have a beautiful system there where everyone learns each station so  we always moved and shifted around. We had a diverse group of women working in the kitchen and everyone would bring recipes from wherever their home was and then we’d teach each other how to make those things. It was an eclectic menu that was made with whatever was in season. I did a bit of everything.

Wow that sounds like a special way to enter the food world.

It was. We made a family meal at the end of every shift and would sit together round table style. We made whatever we wanted to eat. They were always so generous with ingredients. We also all had our own garden plots, we also foraged for mushrooms and put whatever we found on the menu. I recommend going if you’re ever in New York City, it’s just a train ride away.

Your culinary practice extends to the sonic and scent realm. It feels like the point of connection between the cooking, music, and scents is the earth – can you share more about your practices around food, music, and scent making and your connection to nature?

It started in college. I studied interdisciplinary research at UC Berkeley, my focus was on the senses and I had a specialization in olfaction. I did a lot of research on how the senses affect each other and play a role in how we perceive. Most of my studies were about how sound affects the way that we perceive flavor. I learned about this phenomenon called sonic seasoning in which different frequencies create different flavors. Lower frequencies bring out bitter notes, whereas higher frequencies bring out sweeter notes. So I started an experimental sonic dinner project where I brought guests together to eat, and musicians to play while they ate and tasted their food. The participants were always blindfolded because having that visual experience already determines so much of what the experience is without even having a first bite. So taking sight away lets you dive into your imagination and deeply embody the present moment and experience how these two things are working together. It's been such a fun project, I like hearing  where people go in their mind during the dinners. What they see is the best part of  every event. I'm always stunned.

Do you still do these events?

Yeah, I had one just last December.

And the project is called Moss Face?

Yeah, Moss Face is the umbrella title for all my work and then when I do the dinners I just call it Sonic Dining series. I did my last dinner in a cute spot in Oakland called Two Two that bridges fashion, art practice, and events together.

Do you play music also?

No, but I love the experience of sounds so much. I feel like musicians have this special gift that they give to the world which is infinite. Listening to music has the capability to bring you to places, interplaying with memory and the astral body. It's something that I love, but no, I don't make music myself.

You mentioned the astral body, so now I want to ask you about this element of mysticism in your creative practice. You make mead infused with medicinal herbs from different places you’ve been to, you share a lot about your dreams, you made tiny croissants to share with ghosts in a graveyard, you made a vetiver ice cream “as a vehicle for spells.” Can you share some insights into the mystical elements of the things you create?

Yeah, there's so much to that. Spiritual practice looks different for each person. I think it's such a multidisciplinary thing and there are many moving parts. The thing that I'm interested in is the dream world. I spend a lot of time in that realm, and it's just so mysterious to me that I feel like I have multiple existences elsewhere. It's such a mystery. I love existing in it and exploring it, but I still don't understand what it is. So a lot of my practice is exploring these other realms. Sometimes I feel like a cat, I get really into something, and then I get a little bit nervous to fully dive in. I remember reading this book called The Art of Dreaming by Carlos Castaneda, and reading about the dream world. It became so real to me that I got a little bit nervous. What we explore is so powerful, but we also have to be careful. I think that food, music, and scent are all vehicles for exploration of the dream world. I spend a lot of time with scent and food to craft those vehicles for certain explorations or certain experiences. With the plants that I use, I spend time with them to understand how we are working together, then I also research a bit about their history. I learn their usages and understand how cross culturally there are certain facets to these botanicals or ingredients that are similar. I think it's so beautiful that we can come from different cultures, but these planets are bringing us together. I’ve learned about many plants from the time I spent traveling and learning from friends. Like the vetiver ice cream you mentioned, I made it with a friend of mine in Thailand who runs this company called Wasteland that uses agricultural byproducts to create sodas and drinks. She gave me some vetiver that she foraged and it was so complex and beautiful that I had to do something with it.

Do you have any fun dreams you want to share with me? Do you keep a dream journal?

I do! And I actually use voice memos on my phone.

When you wake up?

Yeah, I remember a couple dreams I can share with you. I remember a good one and then I actually had a stress dream the other night. I love spiders, and I had a dream that I had this mini circus and there was a playground blacktop where I was teaching this giant orb spider circus tricks. I felt a lot of affection back and forth between me and the spider. So that was a pleasant dream. And then a stress dream was about school. We've been learning these molecules in class that are all similar, and we're learning them by family. So we have like 17 molecules that all smell green, some smell slightly floral, or earthy, or creamy. And I had a dream that we were in class and we were studying all these molecules, but the family was cheeses. I just remember being like, is this molecule Cheez-it? And my teacher was like, you're an idiot.

I had a very vivid stress dream last night, too. I'm having a birthday party tonight and I had a dream that half of the party showed up three hours early!  And I was not prepared at all. I was like, what are you all doing here? And then people started cooking in the kitchen and making pizzas from scratch and I wasn't wearing my party outfit!

Oh my god what a nightmare!

So funny. So I want to know about some of your adventures. Can you tell me about your travels and cooking?

One of the most life changing trips was to Tanzania. A week before moving into the dorms after graduating high school I felt overwhelmed. I had spent the summer sleeping outside at a summer school and I just wanted to keep living outside in the woods. So I looked into National Outdoor Leadership School or NOLS. The next thing I knew was going on a NOLS trip to Tanzania. I spent about three months in the jungle and the desert learning how to use a map and a compass, cooking with very little. There've been a lot of times in my life where I lived in trailers, or tents, or on farms, in cabins just cooking with just a camping stove. In all of those experiences it was fun to see what I could make with just a little bit.

Wow, that's really cool.

That trip changed who I was to my core. It set alive in me the desire to travel and see different parts of the world. Connecting to food and people through cooking was always natural to me. It's a love language that speaks past language barriers. One example of cooking abroad was when I lived in Bangkok and did a brunch pop-up there. But one thing I will say is that cooking has always been more of a fun thing, and honestly I never felt like it was something I was particularly good at.

Why do you say that?

I mean it's something I love to do but I never wanted to do it professionally. I like cooking for people, for friends and for loved ones. But I think maybe it's a confidence thing? I'm not sure.

I understand that, I have this confidence issue as well and I've been cooking for seven years. I still feel like an amateur sometimes.

Your food is so beautiful, I hope to try it someday.

It would be so fun to cook for each other. I would love that. How long is your program? (*if you didn’t read my intro on the landing page, Moss is currently in perfum school in Grasse, France!)

It's one year long. And then there's like a six month long apprenticeship.

Oh, amazing. In France, also?

The apprenticeship is unique to each individual. We have to find it and it can be anywhere in the world.

Wow. That's so cool. Can you talk a little bit about wine and your experience with it in relation to your olfaction research?

Yeah actually in the last few years I started to sink more into wine and fermentation, like mead making. There's just so much overlap between perfumery and wine. So that's also been like fun for me to explore.


What are the overlaps that you see?
The aromas are the main overlap. Since I've been in perfume school and we've been sitting around the table and smelling these molecules, it reminds me of the experience of smelling wine. We're training the nose intensely to pick out 10 to 15 different notes; it's a similar experience to wine. When you have a wine versus a material for perfume that you don't know, you're not necessarily trying to identify what it is right off the bat, but experiencing the aromas. When experiencing the smells, I want to know where I'm going. It feels so visual. the other night, I was talking to my boyfriend on the phone about one material that I smelled. When I smell it, I don't even need to close my eyes, I just immediately visualize him smiling, pulling this big juicy dirt-covered turnip from the ground.

Oh my god, that's incredible!

It was one of the only ones I got right on my first practice test because I didn't even have to think about it. That vision came quickly and it's precious to me. I think it's a similar experience with wine, you have these visceral olfactory experiences. 

Did you work at a vineyard? I was doing my research and I saw you worked somewhere that looked like a vineyard. 

Yes, Ojai vineyard! It is such a magical place. I think their wine is special and the family who runs it is everything to me. I lived in their fruit orchard in a tent for three and a half months. They opened their hearts, home, and family to me. 

Is there something that you've been enjoying eating or making lately?

I live in a sweet place but I don't have an oven. So at the end of each week, I go to this little bakery that is right across from a fountain and I get a pastry. I sit on the edge of the fountain and I eat it with my eyes closed and try to identify all the notes. So today I had my end of the week treat. It was a brûléed apricot tart with crème pâtissière. I also love thinking about each step, the love, the time, the patience, and the early mornings that went into making this small pastry that I ate too quickly, but very thoroughly. I worked as a pastry chef last year so I've been enjoying having that weekly moment.

That is such a beautiful routine to have.

I think it will be an easy one to sustain.

Is there anything else you want to share with me?

Yes! I wanted to mention that I curate a dish similarly to how I would a perfume. I like to build flavors with a top, middle, and base. I also want to say that everything I've come across on my path has taught me something. Being able to share these things is also sharing this web of experiences and beautiful people who share their beautiful experiences. Cooking and working in food has been a way to continue to connect with each other, the world, and the earth.