FOOD PERSON is From Clive’s weekly series celebrating chefs, tastemakers, and founders in and around the food world. Focused around creativity, entrepreneurship, and personal origin, Food Person explores the unique and beautiful connections we all have to food and dining. Today, for the debut issue of Food Person, Sherród Faulks of DEEP BLACK shares his thoughts on dining, minimalism, and Martha Stewart.
What is your connection to food?
My connection to food runs deep. I started cooking when I was 14 years old, mostly as a way to feed us because my mom was not a good cook. But for me, food is more than just a way to feed people, it’s a way to bring people together. Of all my favorite memories, what sticks out most is going to my Aunt Ella Mae’s apartment for holidays with family. She’d prepare for days, and we’d all just sit around and have such a good time, and just enjoy each other’s company, and the food of course. And I will never forget the look on her face when she would survey the room and see people smackin’ lips and licking fingers and having such a good time. The look on her face I never forgot. I cannot get it out of my mind. To see the honor it brought to her to be able to feed her family and bring them together, even when sometimes they didn’t want to be brought together. She had that ability. When she sat a pot of food down, you came. No matter what was going on, you came when Aunt Ella Mae said so. And I love that ability of food to not just bind people together, but hold them fast in ways that other traditions simply don’t. So that’s my connection to food — its ability to hold communities together no matter what.
“I consider the way a fork sits in a dish, the way it looks on your table at an angle, the way the curve of a platter allows you to get the last bits of sauce from the corner.”
How are you expressing those values around food and gathering through your work at DEEP BLACK?
I’ve cooked professionally, been in food competitions, sold at markets, and worked in kitchens, so I’ve had a lot of experience with not just the creation of food, but how other people experience it. I’ve worked in a lot of restaurants where the presentation of the food was secondary, not only in just the plating, but in the way it exists within the greater context of the restaurant. The kind of design I do at DEEP BLACK is called holistic design, and we always consider the thing in the context of its space. When I create ceramics, I try to think about all these little bits of functionality that add up to this complete package of a dish. A dinner bowl may seem simple, but as you look closer, there are all these little details that are meant to enhance not only the food, but the experience of dining. My dinner bowls have trim rings at the bottom, little engravings so when you pick it up, you get a tactile experience. I consider the way a fork sits in a dish, the way it looks on your table at an angle, the way the curve of a platter allows you to get the last bits of sauce from the corner. I think that in giving the dishes their due attention, it allows the food to stand out more. For me, that’s the goal — to enhance the experience of eating.
I know you’re passionate about providing a beautiful, luxury home experience through your ceramics, but at an approachable and accessible price point. How are you doing that?
I don’t think affordability and luxury are mutually exclusive. You can treat yourself to a high-end experience at home without having to go anywhere. Bring out these bowls and plates I made for you, and I guarantee you your night will become that much more elevated and special because of it. Keeping my prices affordable requires a lot of thought and a lot of consideration. For me, the answer is minimalism. When you pair something down to its most minimal form, you cut out things that don’t need to be there, and that’s cost savings. And secondly, it allows you to get to the true essence of what you want that piece to be. So for me, the affordability comes from being able to pair things down to their simplest form, in their most functional, beautiful state. I don’t waste clay, and I use glaze mindfully to enhance the piece and not just for decoration.
“Deep black is the name of the color I see when I close my eyes.”
Tell me about the name DEEP BLACK.
You are the first person to ask me this, so thank you so much! I’ve been wanting to share this for awhile. Deep black is the name of the color I see when I close my eyes. It’s the color that exists in my imagination from which I bring forth everything I’ve ever created. It’s the background color that’s always existing in my mind, that only now have I felt comfortable leaning into. We always talk about walking toward the light, and finding the light in things. But we forget in order to have light, you have to have shadow. You have to have contrast and balance. So for me, the name is a way for me to reference the space where my creativity comes from.
In addition to dining at home, I know you’re really passionate about restaurants. What do you look for in a restaurant?
I want to walk into a restaurant, and feel the vibe. I love that hum of energy you get in a restaurant where you can tell that people are genuinely enjoying themselves and the company they’re with. My partner and I went to this wine bar, Press 626, last weekend, and it was so beautiful. It was dimly lit, and there was a hum of conversation and clinking glasses. The food was excellent and drinks were phenomenal. We were there for like 3.5 hours just having the best time and enjoying each other within that space. That’s what I look for in a restaurant — a place that’s going to give me a night to remember. Some other recent amazing spots are Codex, Alkaline, and The Pink Dinghy.
Dream dinner party: who’s on the guest list and what are you serving?
Easy! Number one, Martha Stewart. She knows about this, but I’ve had an obsession with that woman since I was in high school. I had a first edition copy of Entertaining, which I cooked from cover to cover. Next, I want Oprah. I want Jamie Oliver, because he is almost single-handedly responsible for getting me into cooking. Beyonce for sure, and she can bring her husband if she wants. Masaharu Morimoto — I want him there to give me critiques on my food. And my dad has to be there too, because he’s a major inspiration for me. He’s one of the few men in my life that cooks, and cooks really well. I would probably serve something East Asian, because that’s my wheelhouse. And for dessert, I would end with something real down home and country.
Which piece of Deep Black ceramics would you have on the table?
I like family style meals a lot. I like the energy it brings to a meal. So I would want to use a really big, wide, shallow salad bowl. And I would want to serve a really interesting, elevated, frou-frou salad you could possibly think of. I would also use really beautiful, simple dinner plates that look like a blank canvas.
What are some of your favorite cookbooks?
Cook With Jamie by Jamie Oliver. I actually don’t own a copy anymore because I used it so much that the spine fell out. The recipes have the most beautiful progression from easy to more difficult, so it’s great for the beginner cook. The recipes have this ramp to them, which I adore in a cookbook. I love when the chapters get more complex, and then we crescendo to a big dish. You don’t see it very often, but this cookbook has it. There’s a photo for every recipe — another personal preference of mine. And there’s a lot of technique in the book. It’s just such a good book for a beginner to intermediate cook. I’ve given it to so many people as gifts. Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots is also a fabulous tome of southern cuisine that is updated for the modern era. Michael Twitty has a great family history memoir with a little bit of cooking sprinkled in. It’s called The Cooking Gene. It traces his family’s history from parts of Africa through slavery and into the present day. it talks about his journey with food, and coming to terms with his ancestry, which is something I also had to do. It’s just a really well written, easy to read book.