Meet Summer Peet, NOTO FACE and Private Chef currently hosting a traveling dinner series, Mujer. We've been loving on her, and her deliciously cool presence on social media over the past few months. As we've been leaning into hero ingredients throughout September, we jumped at the chance to connect with her about her craft and experiences as a Private Chef, what's important to her, and what ingredients she likes to work with.
Photo credit: Lauren Kallen
Please introduce yourself to our community!
My name is Summer (@maiden_cdmx). I'm a private chef currently living in Mexico City. I moved here at the beginning of 2022 after nearly six years in New York City, where I definitely left a piece of my heart. Mexico is an incredible place to be cooking and growing though. Right now I have a traveling dinner pop-up that goes to different cities both in the U.S. and Mexico. I also do some other projects, including right now working with a local restaurant on their menu design.
What made you feel most connected to food, choosing it as a career/artistic medium and sharing that with others?
I've felt closely tied to food my whole life, though I never thought I would pursue cooking professionally until I moved to New York. I grew up in Washington State where my mom had a big garden and grew all of our fruits and vegetables. At the end of the summer we froze batches of blueberries and green beans to eat through the winter. In the fall we pressed cider and made honey. Year round we would have fresh eggs from our chickens. So I've always known that the basis of a good dish is using the best, most local ingredients you can get your hands on. This is still how I cook.
For many years I painted and drew and channeled my artistry into those mediums. I had a moment where I realized something had shifted and I was putting all my creative energy into cooking and baking for people. Part of the beauty of food is that it brings people together – gathering friends (and more often, strangers!) around a table is for me just as important as the process of creating a dish. In sum, cooking for me is equal parts what happens in the kitchen and what the intention is for the finished plate – how people will interact with it, how they will feel eating it, what it will remind them of.
What are some of your favorite ingredients to use in your cooking?
It changes all the time of course! I love acids and vinegars – a big bottle of red wine vinegar, lemons, and limes are things I always need in abundance. My fridge will forever contain a massive jar of homemade preserved lemons. Living in Mexico city I have access to an incredible variety of products that I never had in my New York kitchen. I use a lot of chilis – morita, chipotle, and guajillo are some of my favorites right now.
I tend to get obsessions and ride them hard for a few months to a year. 2021 was the year of the fennel bulb. Before that, it was golden beets (Two things I still adore very much). This year's ingredient has yet to reveal itself, but if recent months are any indication, tamarind is in the running. I'm using it in everything from a light fish soup to a chocolate shortbread cookie.
What are you favorite NOTO products and ingredients?
I've been using NOTO for years – the Rooted Oil the longest. I love scents but since I'm working with food all the time I can't do anything too overpowering. The Rooted Oil is the perfect blend of earthy, warm, and natural; it has become my signature smell and my skin loves it. I also religiously employ use of the Deep Serum. The rose-hip oil and sea buckthorn do great things for my face and I'll probably be using it forever. I also just tried the Resurface Scrub for the first time and I'm obsessed! I care just as much about what I put on my body as what I put into it, so NOTO more than fits the bill. I recommend it to all of my friends.
How do you set the ambiance for your work space? What's your favorite comfy outfit to work in? What are you listening to?
I love to cook to music – it has to be upbeat! This used to mean a lot of Latino pop and Reggaeton, which was the only thing that gave me enough energy to cook until 1am on a Friday, wake up on a Saturday morning at 7am and start prepping for my take-out pop up orders. These days I'm leaning into more soothing rhythms: Joni Mitchell, Ray Charles, Kate Bollinger, Natalia Lafourcade. Cooking for big groups and for events can get stressful, so sometimes it's helpful to counteract that. :)
As for what to wear: I'm a 5 days a week jumpsuit kinda gal. I have my cooking jumpsuits, cooking at events jumpsuits, long day of markets and grocery shopping jumpsuits...why wear anything else?
How do you balance traveling for your food pop up, being a one woman business, and still making time for self care?
Oof, I'm still figuring this one out! Last year I probably would have said morning pages (I love The Artist's Way), long baths, and longer walks. These things are all still true, but I'm learning it's mostly about boundaries. Saying no to some thing in favor of what my body needs – often times this is a night in alone, with a cup of tea, and heading to bed early. I'm learning to put myself first, and quit worrying so much about the notion of disappointing others (pro tip: they very often are not!).
What do you want to invite more of into your life right now?
Unexpected pairings and the element of surprise. One of the small joys that brings me back to the kitchen again and again is the pleasure of unexpected pairings, when two ingredients coming together in the most delightful, unanticipated way. Peaches and tahini. Grapefruit and sweet potato. Kohlrabi and pecorino. Persimmons and chicories. I could go on.
I'd like to invite more of the same in the non-consumable camp. Some ones of late that come to mind: Wool socks and airplane seats. Long car rides and roadside bouquets. Thunderstorms and hot showers. Old friends and wine with lunch. New friends and late Sunday dinners. Foggy mountains and early mornings.
Any recipes or kitchen tips you want to share with our community?
Taste while you cook, without exception. Don't forget texture – think about contrasting smooth with crunch and crisp. A handful of fried capers improves most things. As does a squeeze of lemon. Oh yes, and fresh herbs. Everything in moderation, except herbs.