This week, we caught up with the brilliant cookbook author and superstar pastry chef (not to mention the owner of London's cult bakery Violet), Claire Ptak...one of whose many claims to fame is having been picked by Meghan Markle to craft her infamous wedding cake. We were eager to know what personal possession Claire would place in her so-called 'Permanent Collection'.
Claire Ptak: I have a rug handmade by the Inverness, California based artist Sue Taylor. The back is woven on a loom and the pile is hand pulled through the backing. Sue has been making these rugs for over 50 years. Mine was commissioned by her daughter, my longtime friend Dakota, and it features a mermaid, a pirate ship and various sea creatures, all of which remind me of the seaside village I grew up in Northern California. It’s a work of art and my daughter, Frances, loves to look at it and find the magical surprises hidden inside it.
Permanent Collection: Why did you select this piece?
C.P.: I chose it for so many reasons, but mainly because it reminds me of how complicated life and friendships can be. But also because it's from a movement called 'Funk and Flash' that involved a lot of people in my parents' generation who lived in the area around where I grew up. They were all hippies looking for an alternative lifestyle outside the mainstream and stood against the Vietnam War. A lot of them were following a band called The Youngbloods and moved to West Marin, which is a beautiful, wild part of Northern California.
P.C.: What’s the best gift you’ve ever received?
C.P.: It has to be all the beautifully handmade dresses, blouses and little coats my mother, Elisabeth, made for me and her short-lived children’s clothing line in the 1970s. She saved samples of many of them in the hope that I would one day have a daughter and—as luck would have it—I did! Frances wears the pieces now and it’s the most amazing gift. I plan on saving them for when Frances has a daughter (fingers crossed!)
P.C.: Tell us about your favorite flea market (maybe a place one might find one such rug?)
C.P.: It’s always the Alameda Flea Market, that huge rambling antiques fair that covers the length of several football fields out beyond the Oakland docks. Or, at least when I’m lucky enough to make it on the first Sunday of the month the ONE month of the year I find myself in California. There's just nowhere quite like it in London...
P.C.: What’s your favorite museum/gallery?
C.P.: I love London's Hayward Gallery. I love its Brutalist architecture and being near the National Theatre which is one of my favorite theaters in London.
P.C.: What food or dish would be the equivalent to your ‘permanent collection’ thing?
C.P.: Chocolate chip cookies! I’m always adapting the recipe and lately, it’s been a version made with brown butter which imparts a caramelly flavor that I’m totally in love with. I play around with using different chocolates but I never use nuts. I always have a bag of cookie scoops in my freezer ready to bake off because they have to be warm and gooey. I’m not interested in a cold chocolate chip cookie.