A Taste for Something Unique
Celebrity foodie Poppy Tooker shares her collection of over 100 pieces of food themed jewelry.
With a knife around her neck and a fork and knife in her earlobes, Poppy Tooker is a force to be reckoned with. Author of multiple cookbooks, the cooking instructor, food authority, and star of radio and TV is the definition of “foodie” extraordinaire. Tooker loves food so much, in fact, that she loves to adorn herself in food and cooking related jewelry.
“How could you grow up in this delicious city, surrounded by all the exciting flavors and not be a devoted ‘foodie,’” says the vivacious woman with over 100 pieces of food related jewelry. “I started cooking as a child and never stopped. I’m really not happy if everyday doesn’t include a trip to the grocery store and time in my kitchen.”
Tooker squarely blames well-known jewelry designer Mignon Faget for launching her passion for this unique looking jewelry.
“Some of her earliest pieces were food inspired,” Tooker says of Faget. “I thought I’d die if I didn’t have her gumbo necklace, and I spent years obsessed with her fig. I still consider those early pieces an important part of my treasure trove of jewelry.”
Forget the diamonds and pearls, just come up with a crawfish necklace or a redfish pin and you have Tooker’s undivided attention. No wonder Food and Wine magazine wrote, “She may wear red beans in her ears and make finger puppets from crawfish – but Poppy Tooker’s cooking classes are no joke!”
And indeed she does have red bean earnings, along with a red beans necklace, and numerous crab necklaces and pins.
“My first pieces were Harriet Huwlett’s ceramic creations,” she says. “Her work was on sale in the Hermann-Grima gift shop in the French Quarter and I quickly bought her red bean earrings, gumbo necklace and a crab claw pin.” In time she also acquired her dream food inspired Mignon Faget jewelry.
Tooker’s absolute favorite piece in her collection is a Thomas Mann knife.
“He made it for a silent auction that was part of a fundraiser for Nathanial Zimet, the chef of Boucherie, when he was shot by a robber and required a great deal of medical care,” she explains. “I practically had to stab a woman to get the knife in the auction,” Poppy says with a smile. “But, you see, it is mine,” she adds as she leans over to show off the miniature knife around her neck. Poppy likes the fact that the New Orleans food community came together and held the fundraiser for Chef Zimet, and that the knife bears the inscription: “For NZ – Thomas Mann.”
She also includes another Thomas Mann creation in her all-time favorite list.
“After the tragic Hubig’s Pies factory fire, Thomas Mann made a sterling silver Hubig Pie pendant especially for me. It is definitely a treasure in my collection.”
Not one to shy away from the attention of being a food celebrity in New Orleans, Tooker says she doesn’t mind the attention her unique adornments attract.
“People love my food jewelry,” she says. “When I teach cooking classes I’ll have a ladle in one ear and a whisk in the other, and sometimes my taxidermied silver crawfish claw around my neck, and I never fail to get comments, but it’s the knife that causes the most fun reaction. It frightens some people who think it’s sharp and could deepen my cleavage. Actually, I get more attention with the knife than if I had a five-carat diamond hanging around my neck.”
Where does Tooker find her food jewelry? “It’s everywhere,” she answers. “Jewelers have been turning food into wearable art for generations. I have lots of vintage pieces – a strawberry, frosted glass lime earring and a matching pendant, and a big gold and silver shrimp that can be a pin or a pendant.”
She says she is always on the hunt for food jewelry and never misses the opportunity to explore flea markets and consignment shops while traveling. “You never know where you will find a treasure,” she says.
Tooker has found others that share her passion.
“When my fellow chef buddy, Robin Schempp, and I first became friends we compared food jewelry and discovered we owned a lot of the same pieces – little knives, spoons and forks, pea pods, and wishbone pendants and bracelets,” she says. “We often give each other pieces and even have been known to wear them at the same time.”
What would she love to add to her collection? “I have everything from dime store to sterling and 18-karat pieces, and maybe one day I’ll have a diamond strawberry from Cartier,” she replies, then quickly adds. “Until I find that Cartier diamond in my champagne glass, I’ll be contented to wear my knife around my neck.”