John Legend’s Deep Cooking Roots
The award-winning singer talks about his love of food and its important place in his family’s life.
John Legend may have just completed his EGOT (winning an Emmy, a Grammy, an Oscar and a Tony Award), but he hasn’t yet written a cookbook, which means in his household when it comes to matters of food he defers to his wife Chrissy Teigen, who just published her second best-selling cookbook.
“We’re both really into food and we both love to cook but, obviously, she’s a bit more of an expert than me,” he says. “I don’t consider myself a creative recipe maker like Chrissy is and that’s why she can make a cookbook and I haven’t chosen to do that.”
But Legend has been cooking since he was a kid. “My parents got divorced when I was ten. We lived with our dad and we just kind of had to figure out what to do. And I started gravitating towards cooking and so I would cook for the whole family when I was 11, 12, 13 years old,” he remembers. “It would be like Rice-A-Roni or Manwich or something but sometimes I would roast a chicken or steam some broccoli. And I started to figure out how to execute recipes when I was pretty young.”
That love of cooking helped bring him and Teigen together. “It was a really cool thing for our relationship that we could bond over something like that,” he says. Cooking, he says, “is like a performance. It’s a way of showing love. It’s a way of fostering community and family. It’s an important part of every day for us.” Although, Legend admits that he and Teigen still once fought over the meaning of the word simmer. (In a nutshell, he believed that it meant the low setting on the stove… She didn’t agree.)
Will one of their two young kids carry on this family tradition? “I always wonder if my daughter is going to love to cook because of us or hate it because of us,” he says with a laugh. “We’re always cooking in front of her. Just every day she sees us cooking and so hopefully she’ll grow up with a love of food and love of making things from scratch.”
Legend and Teigen seem to truly have fun when they cook, playing music or turning on the television to watch their guilty pleasure, reality TV, or perhaps some football. “I just made a Christmas album, so I’m really in a Christmas mood lately,” he says. “It’s coming out soon, so I’ve been humming Christmas songs all summer, which is a weird thing. I would listen to that while I was cooking.”
Even after all these years writing and recording hit songs, hearing music is, generally, relaxing for him. “Listening to other people’s music is still a cool escape for me. I kind of analyze it but I just get into the beat and get into the groove if it’s good,” he says. “And if it’s really good, you don’t have to think about it, you just feel it. It’s almost physical.”
As for the EGOT, he still seemed shocked when I chatted with him weeks after the Emmy ceremony. “It’s so exciting. It’s nothing I ever expected or even imagined. When I was younger I just wanted to make music and be a Grammy winner, hopefully. I never considered the E, the O or the T. But here we are.”
John Legend has partnered with Naked and Wholesome Wave on the Drink Good Do Good campaign. Record a shopping cart dance video and post it on Instagram with #FillYourCartForGood, and Naked will donate produce to communities around the country.