Sisters Quentin and Jemima Jones are not only stunning and extremely talented, but have an immense amount of synergy when it comes to the kitchen. When we visited them in London, they prepared a feast that was both delicious and easy on the eyes. This was not a surprise as both sisters are visually inclined and have worked in fashion where aesthetics and presentation are of paramount importance.
Quentin, the artist-cum-director extraordinaire is known famously for her use of unique illustrations and collage in both her editorial and fashion films, while Jemima, once a model herself, now co-owns a catering company, Tart which focuses on providing healthy and exciting food on fashion and film sets.
We sat down with the girls after a jaunt through their family garden to talk all about, what else – food!
Tell me a bit about where you grew up. You were born in Canada and then relocated to London. As Children what were your favorite things about each city?
Q: Yes we were born in Toronto, and moved when I was 5 and Jemima was 2. In Canada I loved the snow in the winter, the vietnamese food, pancakes and maple syrup, and my yellow school bus. In London I loved paddington bear.
J: I was only 2 when we left canada, so actually can’t remember anything of it- but I do remember our subsequent return visits every few years. Toronto meant cosy, family time and always delicious food – we have a big and very foodie Canadian family. For me London is Primrose Hill, where we grew up. I can’t think of a more beautiful or individual village in London. I’ve persuaded Ben (my husband) that we should raise children here – which couldn’t be happier news.
What role did food play growing up. Did your family cook a lot or dine out?
Q: Our mum is an amazing cook, she makes amazing Italian and Indian food. That might be why those are my two favourite sorts of food. As a family we still have Sunday lunch together most weekends, and on holidays, the day is structured through meals.
J: Mum was always ahead of the game food wise, which I remember feeling a little shy about when I would take the previous night’s turmeric prawn curry into school. The other children would give it an ‘ew what is that’ look – as they munched on their own peperami and babybells. I would always plead with my mum to buy me such processed delights, but now of course I couldn’t be happier that she nourished and brought us up on such adventurous and exciting food.
Both of your parents are architects. Growing up, were the dishes they made reflective of their profession?
Q: I would say that my mum’s simple and unfussy approach to cooking reflects hers and my fathers aesthetic tastes. Where their buildings have clean lines and minimal detail, their food has few ingredients and honest presentation.
J: Both of my parents are absolute perfectionists, especially when it comes to interiors. They love symmetry. Our family house in France, built from scratch by my parents, is a work of art to me. Beautifully symmetrical, and simple, it all makes perfect sense – especially the kitchen. The same is true of mum’s cooking. Every detail is perfectly considered – every flavour, colour and texture.
Can you tell me some of your fondest childhood food memories?
Q: Discovering summer pudding my first summer in Britain- bread drenched in summer fruits, with clotted cream piled on top!
J: Pasta in tuscany.. Actually all of my fondest food memories are pasta based!
Are there any family recipes or food traditions that have been handed down to you?
Q: I would say mum’s bolognese sauce.
J: Funny, me too, definitely mum’s Bolognese. And also the ritual of eating together as a family, having prepared together, with everyone helping out. I can’t wait to do this with my children – have them standing on stools next to me chopping herbs and garlic.
You both had careers in modeling. Can you tell me bit about that time in your lives. Did your relationship with food change during that time?
Q: Modeling was never my main focus, it was always to fill the time between studying and to make extra money. So perhaps that is why I never changed how I thought about food. But also because our family is fairly healthy and naturally quite athletic and tall so weight was never an issue for any of us at any stage.
J: Modeling for me was simply a means to and end – a convenient and not unpleasant way to earn ready cash, whilst figuring out what to do with my life.
If the two of you were to plan a dinner party where you could invite two people you really admire, living or dead, who would they be and why?
Q & J: Oscar Wilde for the excellent dinner time sound bites, and Coco Chanel in the hopes that she could inject a little elegance into the evening, and me!
If you could be transported right now to one place with one dish and one person, who and what would it would be…
Q: I would fast foward in time to this July, when my boyfriend and I will be starting our Italian road trip. We land in Rome, and I want to go back to this tiny family run cafe down an alleyway where they serve the perfect Carbonara. Seriously al dente pasta, and just the brightest of egg yolks and insanely good large chunks of pancetta.
J: Right now I would choose the Aeolian island Panerea with my husband Ben (where he proposed to me in August last year) eating spaghetti vongole by the harbour and drinking very good white wine.
Who is your favorite person to collaborate with in the kitchen?
Q: Probably Jemima. We work well together right? Also now she is a pro, it means she can correct all my mistakes!
J: Yes it has always been Quentin, as a child we would go pretty out there on new inventions- we loved making asian after school treats like sesame prawn toast and ramen.
What is the “recipe” for success according to you
Q: Work hard, play hard
J: Attention to detail, without losing sight of the game-plan.
A Minute with Jemima…
How did you decide to get into food?
I always wanted to work in food from a young age, being totally obsessed, but it took me a while to figure out how. I didn’t fancy peeling potatoes in a soup kitchen. So when Lucy (my business partner) and I began talking about opening a beautiful deli I felt inspired and excited… and soon afterwards joined Lucy in building Tart.
Tell me a bit about the philosophy behind Tart.
Tart is a specialised caterer, which makes good on-site at fashion shoots and similar events. Tart provides a warm homely environment and exciting healthy menus for the fashion crowd- from high end campaigns to smaller editorials.
You specialize in catering fashion events and shoots. Was this always the goal? Did you want to keep a part of yourself in that industry, just in a different capacity?
I don’t think I ever dreamt of going into fashion catering, although I certainly dreamt of working in food- but without knowing in what capacity. So joining Tart couldn’t have been more perfect, giving me the opportunity to be a professional foodie, and in the fashion industry I already knew so well.
Is part of the reason you wanted to cater fashion shoots because you know people in that industry appreciate visual presentation?
Maybe that’s a part of it- food at fashion shoots was never that exciting when I was modelling or interning at magazines. It was either a big pile of cold takeaway sandwiches or someone would come in with industrial-sized pans of stodgy food, or a sad wilted salad that was dressed a few hours previously. The fashion industry demands and appreciates visual perfection, and also has the cash to make sure that food is fresh, healthy and cooked on-site. Hence our early success with Tart.
You were recently married, what role did food play? Did you still have a very hands on approach since you are used to doing your own catering?
The food tastings in the run-up to the wedding were certainly the most fun part of the whole planning process (which wasn’t particularly arduous, in truth, given we had Fait Accompli do the whole thing for us – Tart was super busy last autumn). I enjoyed being on the other side, working with one of the best caterers around (Mustard) and getting to direct exactly how I wanted my own menu.
Favorite part of your job?
My favorite part of the job I do is the ability to be creative all day, putting together new dishes and elaborate menus exactly as I want to do them.
A Minute With Quentin…
You are clearly drawn to things that are more handmade. This is reflected in your choice of medium. Do you like working with your hands as much in the kitchen?
Yes for sure. It is the only other place I can think intuitively.
You have mentioned not liking to do the same thing twice. Is your approach to food the same? Do you like cooking or trying new things constantly? Or would you describe yourself as a creature of habit?
Oh no, I cook the same things over and over again. Because once they are eaten they are gone. But once I make an image it carries on existing.
You studied philosophy before you went on to study illustration. What is your food philosophy?
Everything can be delicious if made well. I don’t believe in fussy eating.
Favorite part of your job?
I get to work in different ways on every project. I can follow my imagination, and make a living form it!