Sophia Roe is a chef and wellness expert who understands the power of good food — and how it can bring people together. Her favorite thing to make for you during the holidays? Literally anything you want.
As a kid, I spent holidays having takeout — usually just whatever was open on Christmas, which was typically Chinese. For me, it was a special occasion. I entered foster care when I was 12 or 13 years old. Normally on holidays, you'd get some sort of visitation with your family, but I never got that. The court ordered that my mom wasn't allowed to see me.
As a grownup, that has put me in a space where I'm kind of down for anything on a holiday. Once I started being a private chef six years ago, I worked Christmases and Thanksgivings, making food for other people on those holidays. I love the idea of meeting a bunch of people. That's literally why I got into food. For me, it's a really special, special thing to want to get people together and cook anything.
My mom is a substance abuser, and I never met my father. Food was how my mom and I got along. I remember distinct moments where my mom would come home really late, and she always had a baguette and cheese. I remember what it was like to go into the kitchen, and be seven years old, and cut some toast, put some cheese on it, warm up the tea that my mom loved, and give it to her. I remember her face, and thinking, "this is me and my mom connecting. She's so grateful for me in this moment. My mom loves me right now because I'm giving her this thing." Most of the time she was annoyed with me. She was sick — it wasn't personal. But even though she was this person who had this sickness, we needed food to survive.
These days, making food as a chef for the holidays, I make everybody exactly what they want. Tell me exactly what you're in the mood for, and I'll make that for you. It might seem hard, but it's not any different than a normal Thanksgiving where you're making nine million sides. For me it's the same, it's just customized. This Thanksgiving, I made pizzas from scratch at my house. We had three different kinds of dough, one pizza had sauce, one had Brussels sprouts. People get exactly what they want. That's my tradition.
Food and feelings are the most deeply connected things the universe has ever seen. How many times has somebody asked you what you feel like having for dinner? What do you feel like having for lunch? Those two things are so intertwined, you almost can't see one from the other. When you have a great meal with people that you love, you love those people more. You love that food more. When I feed someone, they love me differently than before I fed them. It's a different type of connection. I think it's because we both shared something that we need to survive together, which is special. It's just this really interesting, deep-seated thing that we all just want to hang out with people that we love, and eat. It's why traditions are always wrapped around food. I make food because ultimately I feel like it's the greatest gift you can give somebody.
As told to Bustle's deputy lifestyle editor Kathryn Kattalia. This interview was edited for length and clarity.