The New York Diet

Elle Creative Director Joe Zee Styles Julia Roberts, Loves Roadside Burritos and Setagaya

<i>Elle</i> creative director Joe Zee with breakfast at Café Cluny.
Elle creative director Joe Zee with breakfast at Café Cluny. Photo: Melissa Hom

As the creative director of Elle, Joe Zee is at movie premieres (he styled Julia Roberts for the Duplicity opening and stayed for the flick) and on reality TV (as a judge on Stylista and a cameo on The City) — part of his job to move the brand “beyond the printed page.” But just because he’s a face in the fashion world doesn’t mean he forgoes food. Colleague Anne Slowey may have filed a sparse Fashion Week food journal, but Zee says waiters often question his overeager orders. He just returned from Paris Fashion Week, so check out Zee’s New York Diet to see if he devours food like he feasts on fashion.

Saturday, March 14
I returned home from a three-week trip late-night Friday. We were in Paris for ten days and I was in Milan before that. Saturday, I got up early to go get my hair cut. I’ve been going to Neighborhood Barbers on East 9th Street for the last eighteen years. I always do this ritual. I get my hair cut and then I grab a coffee at Pick Me Up café next door. Coffee is my vice. I had a large coffee with skim milk and Splenda.

I had to drive out to Long Island to attend my friend Michel Botbol’s 40th-birthday party in Bellport — he’s the V.P. of design for Ralph Lauren — so I went to pick up the car because I was driving out with some friends to my house in Sag Harbor.

I picked up another coffee along the way at Joe’s coffee shop next to my apartment. Again: large coffee, skim, Splenda. We drove out to Sag Harbor and I had a chicken quesadilla at this place called Estia’s. It’s on the bridge turnpike, but it’s literally a house on a road. It’s really neighborhood-y for Sag Harbor; they always have fresh ingredients and everyone knows you. Even in the chicken quesadilla, it was fresh roasted chicken, corn off the cob, peppers and onions, homemade coleslaw, and French fries. They do this combination of fresh orange juice and iced tea, their take on the Arnold Palmer; it’s sooo good. Everyone I’ve ever introduced it to has sworn by and dreamed of that drink.

Later that day, jet-lagged, trying to stay awake and get ready for the party, I had a sugar-free Red Bull.

We went to Michel’s party in Bellport and I basically just ate canapés and finger food. We stood in the kitchen and waited for the pigs in blankets, which Michel describes as the cocktail food of choice for Nan Kempner whenever she had parties. I thought that was interesting. We had little bits of pita bread with tzatziki. I had two Ketel Ones with soda and extra lime, my drink of choice, and then three bottles of water. I drink a ton of water — I could probably drink three to five liters a day. I had a bite of the chocolate-raspberry birthday cake and then we went home at midnight and pigged out a little bit. My friends had anticipated we’d come home and would want to eat, so we’d gotten some groceries from Citarella in East Hampton during the day. When we came home I had a cupcake and some cheese and crackers.

Sunday, March 15
Sunday morning I made this special blend of coffee that I get from a place in Sag called Dreamy Blend. It’s actually chocolate and coffee, so it’s amazing. Again, people get addicted to that when I introduce them to it. And I had a flat everything bagel, toasted with butter, from the Golden Pear. It’s flattened so it doesn’t actually have the dough inside. No, it’s not scooped. It’s like if a bus ran over a bagel before it’s cooked so that when they actually cut it in half and toast it, it’s crunchy instead of soft.

For lunch, we stopped at Estia’s again before I drove home. I had scrambled eggs with fresh corn, tomatoes, and mushrooms, and whole-wheat toast. And the OJ-iced-tea combo again. Then I drove home that night to attend a black-tie event sponsored by YSL to celebrate the 125th anniversary of the Metropolitan Opera.

I got back to the city, parked my car, and had a Pinkberry frozen yogurt with my friends. Small, original flavor, with bananas and strawberries. Then I grabbed a peppermint tea from the deli across the street.

At the black-tie dinner, Mercedes Bass — I guess she’s a social — was the chair of the evening. She had joked in the introduction that it was a recession meal. I had a wedge of iceberg lettuce with bacon and pico de gallo and chile-ranch dressing. For the entrée, we had Kobe beef meat loaf with truffle macaroni and cheese and spinach. I had one glass of red wine and two glasses of water. I was sitting next to the actress Zoe Saldana, and we were talking about how we die over the truffle mac and cheese at the Waverly Inn. It didn’t compare at all; I love the Waverly Inn’s.

I got home, and before bed, I had half a liter of SmartWater.

Monday, March 16
Breakfast for me is a large coffee and never at Starbucks. I love cheap deli coffee. I grab a large coffee with skim and Splenda at a deli-magazine-newsstand downstairs at work. It’s always Splenda; if they don’t have Splenda, then Equal; if they don’t have Equal, then Sweet & Low. I only use half a package.

I went to meet Carter Smith — our cover photographer and a friend of mine — and his parents visiting from Maine for lunch down at Café Cluny. I had a tuna burger, medium rare, with wasabi mayonnaise, French fries, and Pellegrino. And then I had to run back to my office for a meeting before I could even have a cup of coffee.

I was styling Julia Roberts for her premiere of Duplicity that evening, so I had to go down to her place to help her get ready. Then we drove up to the theater and I stayed for the movie. Inside the movie I had popcorn and Dasani water. It was fun. I love a classic spy thriller.

The party was at MoMA and they served food, but I had a Pellegrino, congratulated Julia, and sneaked out. My friend Keith Pollack, who is the online executive editor for Brant Publications, was with me at the premiere and we went downtown and ate really quickly at Setagaya Ramen. I love this place, because it’s totally Momofuku without the price. We were going to go to Momofuku and I was like ‘no, this one is better … especially in the recession.’ So I had shio ramen with gyoza and green tea. Then I went home and I had half a liter of water and went to bed.

Tuesday, March 17
Tuesday morning, coffee again from the deli downstairs.

For lunch I went to eat at Blue Ribbon Sushi in Columbus Circle with the global V.P. of communications for Gap. She was in from London for a few days and I’ve never had a chance to meet [her], so it was just an easy way [to do it]. She had heard that I wanted to go to Blue Ribbon Sushi, but that’s not really even the case. I’m a creature of habit, so I do all my breakfast meetings at Café Cluny, and I do all my lunch meetings at Michael’s. But it’s nice to do something different. At Blue Ribbon Sushi, I had the assorted sushi, a blue-crab hand roll, green tea, and water.

After lunch I was supposed to attend the Valentino documentary screening and the dinner at the Plaza Hotel, with Zac Posen and Christopher Niquet, who is one of our contributors as well, but I’ve been sick. I had to cancel the dinner and the movie part, so I met with Zac Posen and Christopher Niquet for drinks at La Grenouille, but I drank Pellegrino. I left them and they went to the movie and I went and had dinner downtown with my friend Valerie at Bar Pitti, which has been my staple for almost twenty years. I was going to Bar Pitti before it was a boldface destination. I just love the casualness of eating there. And the food never fails. I had penne sugo, which is meat sauce, a thing they’ve been making for me off the menu for as long as I’ve been going there. I think it went on the menu about two or three years ago. I had this amazing spinach sautéed with garlic and then I had red wine and water.

Wednesday, March 18

On Wednesday morning I had to race up to Henri Bendel super early to tape a video for a program that Elle and Bendel is working on called Accessories A to Z. I grabbed a coffee at the deli next door to Bendel and went there. Then I raced downtown to meet a photo agent for breakfast at Café Cluny. I had coffee and oatmeal with fresh berries and walnuts.

It’s always hard for lunch around my office. So if I’m working, we usually get lunch from Equinox downstairs in our building. The food is quite healthy, but the lines are usually long. I had a brown-rice chicken burrito with lettuce, beans, and cheese, two liters of Fiji water. And then I had another liter of Fiji water later with Airborne and Emergen-C in it because I’m starting to get sick. I do it because I’d rather be safe than sorry. Emergen-C sort of gives me a little bit of an energy boost and Airborne O.D.s you on the vitamins.

Then I went to Equinox downtown to take a class. My friend Abby teaches the Hip-Hop Dance Class. I had a sugar-free Red Bull before and a VitaminWater during class. After class, I just went with Abby and another friend of ours, Danielle, next door to the gym to Benny’s Burritos. I had beef tacos, salad, and rice and beans. And then a margarita, frozen, no salt, that I didn’t finish. This isn’t really good Mexican at all, but it was just easy and I’ve been away in Europe so to come back and eat something American and not baguette and French butter was nice.

I went home, drank a half a liter of water and went to bed.

Thursday, March 19
Thursday morning, I had to be at our sales presentation super, super early to make sure the PowerPoint presentation was working. I was there at 7:30. I had two cups of coffee while I was setting up the presentation. Then I had to run out before 9 to go meet Michael Kors at his showroom for him to show us his new collection..

Elle Creative Director Joe Zee Styles Julia Roberts, Loves Roadside