It’s perhaps an established fact among friends and industry insiders that Carol Lim and Humberto Leon are avid home cooks. The interest of the inseparable co-founders of Opening Ceremony — the New York-based multi-brand retailer — in the culinary sphere, though separate from their meteoric trajectory in fashion (Lim and Leon are the former creative directors of Kenzo) has somewhat discreetly run in parallel.
“We cook all the time every day,” says Lim, noting that she mostly does it for her kids. She lists recipes to Korean dishes like jang-jo-rim (soy-braised beef) as heirlooms that her mother passed down to her. “Same for me,” Leon chimes in. “I generally cook for my family and when I have people over at least once a week.” Leon would make his own East-meets-West dishes like his “Chinese lasagna”, a dish that has baked pork chop over fried rice and a liberal layer of cheese on top of it.
Growing up in San Francisco as the children of first-generation immigrants (Lim’s parents are from Korea; Leon’s mother is from China, and his father was Peruvian-Chinese), both Lin and Leon were accustomed to the rich, diverse flavours of Asian cuisine at home. “I got to spend a lot of time around the Korean community and eating incredible food,” recalls Lim. “Sometimes they would have Korean pack lunches, it was always it was maybe too progressive for that time because I kind of wanted to just eat what everyone else was eating.”
Meanwhile, Leon, who is of Cantonese descent, equates dim sum feasts as big family affairs and warm herbal chicken broths as comfort. “As a kid, I would also eat macaroni with diced up ham in a chicken broth,” says Leon, referring to the classic dish of Hong Kong-style breakfast cafés. “It’s basically what Cantonese people think is Western food, but it all has an Asian twist.”
In 1992, as fate would have it, Lim and Leon met as undergraduates at the University of California in Berkeley, bonding over their Asian-American upbringing and scouring malls in Los Angeles suburbs. A decade later, they found Opening Ceremony with their simple but pioneering idea: They would source under-the-radar tchotchkes and apparel from their travels around the world and bring them together under one roof. Over the years, Opening Ceremony has bolstered emerging talents from countries like Korea, China, Russia and Argentina, and became synonymous for its off-kilter and D.I.Y. purview to fashion.
Having always surrounded themselves with multidisciplinary creatives — artists, musicians, skaters — it was only a matter of time for Lim and Leon’s love for food to intersect with their business. The duo had collaborated with Asian-American chefs like Mission Chinese’s Angela Dimayuga for Kenzo’s dinner parties (a fete in New York featured soy-braised peanuts and duck stuffed with sticky rice), and went on to feature Dimayuga as part of Opening Ceremony’s cohort of Asian icons modelling their Fall/Winter ’19 collection. But it came full circle when Lim and Leon became part of the Maison Martell’s Home Live family, of which they become show hosts and collaborators to gastronomists who cook cognac-infused dishes.
To Leon, the partnership makes perfect sense: “Growing up in a Chinese household, I think you get introduced to the flavour of cognac at a very young age. It goes really well with Asian food, which is mainly what I cook. There’s this kind of nice sweetness that complements the cuisine’s savoury nuances.”
Above, watch Lim and Leon get nostalgic about their Asian-American upbringing and sketch their favourite childhood food.
The Unfaltering Carol Lim and Humberto Leon
On Set | Carol Lim & Humberto Leon
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