For Alessandra Garcia-Lorido, Cooking Is an Expression of Body Positivity

“Enjoy the delicious pleasures in life.”

Great Ones is a celebration of humans we admire — and an exploration of why they cook, not just how. Alessandra Garcia-Lorido is a model whose credits include fronting a campaign for Gap and walking on the runway for Christian Siriano. She also loves to cook, and at home in New York City, she demonstrated how to make vaca frita, a traditional Cuban dish she cooks often. 

The first time I got into cooking I was about 11 and in San Francisco for my dad's job, and we were trying to figure out things to do. My mom had a cookbook with her, and I remember looking through and finding recipes for chili — as well as cupcakes that you bake inside an ice cream cone. 

That was the first meal I ever made. I became super hooked, and I would cook dinner for my parents all the time. Cooking is my way of making other people feel good. It's my love language, I guess you would say.

I travel so much for work; cooking is also what makes me feel good.

I travel so much for work; cooking is also what makes me feel good. It actually grounds me, and it's almost like therapy. Cooking is something that I can focus on outside of what I do or who I'm supposed to be to other people. I can just come into my little kitchen and do what I want. Sometimes all we can handle is making chicken and it coming out the way we know it'll come out.I got scouted for modeling just as I graduated high school, but I was set on going to college and being a student. A few years later, I ended up reconnecting with the same agency that scouted me, and I thought it would be cool to make some money of my own. And at that point body diversity — and diversity, in general, in the modeling industry — was just on the cusp. You could see it on the rise, and I thought it would be exciting to be a part of it. After I graduated college, I signed with IMG. The modeling industry right now is having an intense shift. I'm interested to see where it's going to go in the next two years. It could just go back to where it was. I don't think anybody really knows the answer because it's all so new. I find the fashion industry repetitive; I wish there was more creativity and risk-taking. For "curve models," like myself, high-fashion jobs are few and far between. Hopefully those opportunities will open up for even more for us.

Being a body-positive model and being someone who's into cooking go hand in hand. 

Being a body-positive model and being someone who's into cooking go hand in hand. I know so many models who are into cooking and feel empowered by it. Diet culture is often in the backs of our minds; women, especially, try and fit into ideals that they maybe aren't. Through cooking, and relishing food, you're able to give that whole industry a big "Fuck you." That's why I really loved Nigella Lawson when I was younger, because she made cooking and eating look sexy and so pleasurable. It wasn't performative. It was for herself. I don't need to feel sorry for indulging or enjoying myself. As a "curve model" you’re showing other people that it's okay to be happy with who you are — even if that's not every day because, you know, we're not all perfect. Enjoy the delicious pleasures in life.

Enjoy the delicious pleasures in life.

Cooking, to me, is a completely sensory experience. I'm so proud to be Cuban and a Cuban American, so I make a lot of Cuban food. My parents were born in Cuba right before the revolution, and cooking is a way to maintain this relationship with an island that I've never been to but is so tied to my family and our traditions and our culture.Vaca frita is traditionally made with beef, but I used chicken — probably a Cuban-American thing. Cover the chicken with water and a bay leaf, bring it to a boil, and simmer it for 45 minutes. Take it out, shred the meat, and take some thinly sliced onions and fry in a neutral oil in Deep Cut. Fry the chicken with lots of garlic — and you're supposed to use bitter orange, but you can't get that here, so I fake it with lime, lemon, and orange juices. Cuban food is garlicky, though everyone thinks it's spicy. There's not even a pepper that grows in the islands. The chicken gets really crispy with the onions, and then you pour the limey juice mix on top. I serve it with black beans and rice — which you'll always find on a Cuban table — plus fried plantains. 
Photos by Liz Clayman

The thing with Cuban food is it's not special-occasion food. It's all very easy to make — and cheap, as it's a lot of pork, rice, and beans. There are a lot of steps, but this is fairly easy and a perfect meal for a crowd.