It was just a few years ago that you might have felt sheepish about warning the host of a dinner party that you are a pescatarian or asking a server whether a dish was, say, gluten- or dairy-free. Now, finally, the culture has changed. We are all free to let our freaky food flag fly. You have celiac? Tell us more! You’re vegan? How long and how do you feel? Dietary restrictions and food philosophies that used to garner eye rolls are now conversation starters. Today, more than ever, if you have the means, a vast array of choices—healthy ones—are on offer. You can pick from shelves of adaptogens, fermented foods, and probiotics at your local grocery store. Eat a diet specified according to your dominant dosha. Or chow down on a vegan Beyond Meat patty at any number of fast-food chains. We all have different needs. So we all eat different—and there’s nothing wrong with it. It’s just a matter of figuring out what’s right for you now. In the spirit of today’s eat-my-way ethos, we asked a spectrum of conscientious eaters how they feed themselves, and others, now.
The Fashion Designer Who Believes Simple, Communal Meals Feed the Soul
Today, if you visit Brunello Cucinelli’s company headquarters in the medieval Italian village of Solomeo, you won’t see any of his employees hunched over salads or fast-casual bowls on their desks at lunchtime. At 1 p.m., everyone takes a 90-minute lunch break at the brand’s cafeteria, where they commune over wine and a three-course meal typically of pasta, grilled meat, fish, or eggs, and fruit prepared by local cooks with ingredients grown on his land.
Cucinelli didn’t have much growing up. On his family’s farm in Umbria, breakfast consisted of bread and milk straight from the cow, lunch was tomato sauce with homemade pasta (they couldn’t afford to buy spaghetti), and for dinner, game that they had hunted. In his family of 13, food and company held equal importance. “There was a great respect for eating,” he recalls. “It was a rite. We would all sit around the same table, and everybody would tell a story.”
Now the founder and CEO is a billionaire, thanks to his namesake company built on ultra-luxurious cashmere sweaters and sprezzy Italian suits, yet he still has an almost religious reverence for the Umbrian way of eating from his youth: humble meals with family. “It was really very, very simple food, but still, I have it in my heart, in my mind, in my soul,” he says. Cucinelli follows the advice of the Benedictines, some of whom lived in Umbria centuries ago. “In the Benedictine culture of this Umbrian region, the recommendation is not to eat too much in the evening,” he says. It’s a piece of wisdom modern eaters are just starting to catch up to.
Cucinelli’s meals, while uncomplicated, are made with premium fresh produce from local gardens around Solomeo. “It has always been said that in Italian cuisine, every dish must contain not more than three ingredients or flavors,” he says of his devotion to simplicity. “Today we grow our fruits, our vegetables, the way we did 50 years ago. We do it according to nature. We don’t add anything chemical. Everything happens with respect and harmony with creation.”
Even on workweek days, he takes a short nap after lunch and encourages his employees to do the same. To Cucinelli, meals aren’t just fuel but sacred rituals, places where great questions are debated and stories are shared. “Our soul needs to be fed on a daily basis too,” he says, “as much as the body and the mind.” —Samuel Hine
The Michelin-Starred French Chef With a Vegetarian Tasting Menu
The New York City-based, Alsatian-born Jean-Georges Vongerichten, who operates more than 30 restaurants around the world, has long been a sovereign of fine dining. Now he’s pivoting toward a new role—as a champion for plant-based eating.