There are few people as accomplished (and nice) as Ayesha Curry. The Canadian-American has made her mark in the worlds of gastronomy with her successful Food Network show, Ayesha's Home Kitchen, and the release of two cookbooks, 2016's The Seasoned Life and 2020's The Full Plate. This is in addition to her numerous restaurants with MICHELIN-Alum Michael Mina including the Mina Test Kitchen of International Smoke (a pop-up) and permanent fixtures in San Francisco and Las Vegas, Mina/Curry International Smoke. And while her culinary acumen is well documented, Curry is also a champion of her adopted American city, Oakland, California.
Married to Golden State Warriors point guard Stephen Curry, the couple set up in San Francisco and the Bay Area quickly becoming staples and leaders in the community. In 2019, the couple established the Eat. Learn. Play Foundation in Oakland, combatting childhood hunger and increasing access to quality education, and providing safe spaces for children to stay active.
For Curry, Oakland has become home, and most recently she's launched what she calls, "her love letter" to the city with the opening of Sweet July, an elegant emporium for the home. Private-label home goods and lifestyle products sit alongside a carefully edited curation of labels from creators of color. The most recent addition? Curry's own label, Sweet July Skin, a clean, beauty label infused with traditional Caribbean superfoods.
Below, we chat with Curry about her culinary history, why she loves Oakland, her favorite MICHELIN Guide spot, and what's next for her and Sweet July.
When did you first fall in love with gastronomy?
My love of food definitely started when I was a little girl. My parents both worked, so cooking was a way I could contribute and I absolutely loved it.
When did you know you wanted to turn your passion into a profession?
It wasn’t until after I had my first daughter that I really started to write and share my recipes. I launched a blog, initially to stay connected with family and friends on the east coast, which started to get traction and helped to parlay into my first cookbook and eventually my series on Food Network.
What is the experience like owning International Smoke with Michael Mina?
It’s such an incredible collaboration. We’re a convergence of two people from very different backgrounds, but with a shared passion for expressing love through food. There was a level of trust and respect early on that we’ve maintained, which has allowed us a safe space to get creative and dream big with International Smoke.
What is your goal with the restaurant?
The goal is to highlight global grilling. No matter where you go in the world, every cuisine uses their own fire and grilling techniques. There’s so much to learn about a group of people through their food, so the hope was to create a restaurant experience that showcases that. It represents that while we all come from different places, we’re more alike than we are different.
How did you develop Sweet July? What is one piece from the collection that every chef should own?
Sweet July is all about finding gratitude in life’s little moments which can be as simple as your morning cup of coffee. The piece every chef should have is our Telegraph Ceramic Collection. Beautiful hand thrown ceramics in classic tones that are the perfect backdrop for make whatever dish you’re creating. They’re a gorgeous weight and come in all different sizes from everyday dining to serving platters for family style - which get used the most in my house.
You’ve recently expanded Sweet July with Sweet July Skin. What has this process been like? What’s your go-to product?
Sweet July Skin has been a passion project for me which began development a little over 3 years ago. It’s a line of products fusing proven actives with Caribbean ingredients which pays homage to my Jamaican heritage. I’m obsessed with every product in the line, hence why it took so many years to fine tune the formula, but I would say one standout is our Soursop Vitamin C Serum. It’s this gorgeous citrus scent courtesy of soursop extract, that has Ferulic Acid and other actives to truly make your skin glow. It’s a product I keep having family and friends come back to me telling me that their skin has never looked better since incorporating it into their skin routine. I just beam with pride every time I hear someone who’s used and loved the product.
What’s the best thing someone can do for their skin?
I would say consistency is key. It’s tempting to jump on the newest trends, but people forget that often results won’t appear until after regular use for a number of weeks. I think the other big thing, and something I focused on a lot in developing our line, is using the best, cleanest, quality ingredients. Just like cooking, the end result is going to be better with what you put in, so it was important to me that we keep the products as clean as possible avoiding any synthetic or artificial fragrances or ingredients.
Sweet July Magazine is back this holiday season with our newest Reunion issue. It’s packed with uplifting stories and tons of great information from wine pairings, to entertaining tips and everything in between. I’m so thrilled for people to read I can hardly wait for it to come out on December 12th.
Where do you go to unwind after a long day?
Bar Shiru is a Tokyo inspired cocktail den. They play jazz on vinyl, it’s a total vibe.
Where do you take out of towners for a true Oakland meal / dining experience?
Farmhouse Thai is a staple right in the heart of Jack London Square which is a fun area to walk around and explore.
Where do you get cooking supplies / tools?
Preserved Goods is an amazing shop with tons of goodies. There’s also Hida Tools and Hardware that has amazing Japanese-style knives. For food/groceries, you can’t beat Berkeley Bowl.
Where do you go for cookbooks?
Omnivore Books in San Francisco is the place to go. It’s magical.
What’s your hidden (food) gem?
There’s a tiny spot called FAVA in Berkeley that’s basically just a window and a few seats but the food is incredible. It’s a great lunch spot for something fresh and flavorful.
Where’s the best pizza?
Arizmendi is always solid. Pizzas change daily and are always vegetarian. I’m a big sauce girl so I love that they usually have a yummy dipping sauce.
What green space do you escape to?
There are amazing hikes and trails in the Berkeley hills.
Where’s the place to go for dessert? (What’s your favorite item?)
You can’t beat Fenton’s which is a classic Oakland ice cream parlor. Although I’m also excited for Monique Feybesse’s new spot to open, Tarts de Feybesse.
What’s the spot that’s locals only?
[MICHELIN Guide Bib Gourmand] Snail Bar. Amazing natural wine and small plates.
Hero image: Seth Smoot