The lovely Zoë François (aka Zoebakes) has been baking for as long as she can remember. “I was eight when I baked my first Dutch baby,” she says. “I didn’t know that’s what I was baking at the time but it was fascinating and delicious, and I never looked back!” Here she shares her current baking obsession, her favorite bath ritual and the secret to caring for her beautiful curly hair…
What was life like growing up?
I grew up on communes with my parents in the 60s. They were seekers for the meaning of life, and we moved around a lot — they even took me to Woodstock when I was two! There were parts that worked really well, and there were parts that were really difficult. I ended up going to 16 schools by the time I graduated from high school, and it was incredible because every time we moved, I got to reinvent myself and change my name. I never really had a permanent circle of friends, because I was always the new kid, but it helped me adapt to just about every living situation.
What did you learn about beauty growing up?
Everything I know about makeup today I learned from Seventeen Magazine. I had a subscription and I used to hang all the covers on my walls. It was my salvation in high school because all these kids knew what they were doing, and I just had no clue. I always dressed like Annie Hall, and Diane Keaton was my fashion icon. She was it, 100%. I saw her on the street when I was in New York once, and it took me a solid two minutes to maintain my composure. She’s as cool now as she ever was.
What do your mornings look like these days?
I shower first thing, because it’s where I do my thinking — it’s sort of like my meditation. My skincare routine is very basic because I have incredibly sensitive skin, so I use Cetaphil to wash my face. After that, I use CeraVe moisturizing cream and their skin renewing gel oil, then coffee and then work. I actually like writing now, but it used to be terrifying to me, so I typically start out by baking something to get into that headspace. Baking and photography is where I get fuel — it’s the joy for me.
What do you like to bake in the morning?
I start out by feeding my sourdough starter; her name is Stella. It’s just the right combination of zen and geeky precision to do while I have my first cup of coffee. There are few things as satisfying as creating a sourdough starter from nothing more than flour and water, then turning it into a gorgeous loaf of bread.
What does your makeup routine look like?
I never wear makeup unless I’m doing TV stuff and I have to. It’s not that I don’t like it, it’s that I don’t know what I’m doing, so for me less is way more. It’s almost like baking — it’s a total skill to put on makeup without looking clownish! My daily makeup is eyeliner and mascara — very minimal. If I’m doing an instagram video, I’ll add some chapstick or lipgloss. My hair on the other hand, is a whole other situation.
I was just about to ask about your hair. It’s amazing! How do you take care of it?
Other than recipes this is the #1 question I get! I got my wild curly hair from my aunt. When I was young she taught me to take care of it by moisturizing it with almond oil. I never brush my hair. I don’t even know where a brush is in my house! I wash it maybe once or twice a month with either DevaCurl One Condition or Pattern conditioner. I’ll sometimes use DevaCurl No-Poo cleanser, and every day I condition my hair with a leave-in. I usually air-dry it, but in winter it’s way too cold, so I use the DevaCurl diffuser attachment on my hairdryer to dry. Then to finish I use Catwalk Curls Rock Amplifier. If I am going out for a special occasion or going on TV, I have a curling wand to tidy up some of the crazier curls. It takes some effort to tame the beast!
How did you start making recipe stories on instagram?
I would put up photos of things I was making and link to the recipes, but nobody was making them. I realized my stuff was maybe a little more intimidating to a home cook then it should be. It’s not that it’s difficult, it’s just that they needed the tricks to get there. Someone commented with a question once on a recipe so I said, ‘I’ll just make you a video to show you what I mean,’ and posted it to my Instagram story. I started with fifteen-second instructions and all of a sudden, it went from a few people to 200 people making the recipe.
I have no idea what day of the week it is anymore, but I do IG Live posts on Saturdays with my son to mark it as ‘the weekend’ and make it special. I think this time in history, as strange and devastating as it is, is going to make cooks out of people. Right now people really want to learn. They have the time and necessity because they suddenly have to feed themselves. If there is a silver lining — I have to put a caveat on that because so many of my restaurant friends are suffering so greatly — it’s that there will be an education in the kitchen.
What is your favorite thing to bake?
Right now my entire world is cake because I’m writing a book on cake — flavor combinations, textures, techniques, cultures of cakes and what they represent — there’s a whole language of cake! It’s my obsession right now.
Do you have any nightly rituals?
My personal trainer recommended that I soak in Epsom salts, so that’s how I unwind and relax, especially in the cold winters in Minnesota. All other times I’ll use jojoba oil, lavender oil, or rose oil in my water. When I read in the bath it has to be something that soothes, so I go with romantic, exquisitely written food journeys — few things inspire me like traveling to eat. I take Liebling into the bath and read about great meals in Paris.
What’s your beauty philosophy?
For me, being natural is what my understanding of beauty is. Growing up, the women around me weren’t wearing makeup or dyeing their hair, and they were the most beautiful women to me. When I was 23, my husband and I went to Europe and we were in line at a museum and I saw a woman who seemed so old to me, and she was probably the same age I am now. She had white hair and she was the most chic, beautiful creature I’d ever seen. At that moment I was like, ‘I cannot wait to be that age!’ I’ve always wanted to be in my 50s and 60s, and since I turned 50 I’ve never felt more comfortable in my skin or in my body. It’s everything I thought it would be!
Thank you, Zoë!