When Robyn Lawley isn't appearing on the cover of Vogue or in the pages of the Sports Illustrated Swimsuit Issue, she happy to be working in her home garden in her newly adopted city of Los Angeles, where she grows everything from kale to strawberries. And Lawley knows how to put this fresh, homegrown produce to good use. She's an avid cook who would prefer making her own breakfast at home to eating out, and she has the recipes to back it up. Lawley regularly updates her site Robyn Lawley Eats with photos of her favorite meals, and many of her recipes, inspired by her blog of the same name, are collected in her cookbook.
As if she needed to add any more skills to her resumé, Lawley is also a great host for a hands-free French toast-eating contest, a duty she graciously and enthusiastically took on at Extra Crispy's first BreakFestival this weekend. That might be because she makes a mean French toast herself, but really, Lawley is down to make and eat any recipe, especially if it uses fresh ingredients. I spoke with Lawley about her favorite breakfasts, tips to making the perfect French toast yourself, coffee culture in her native Australia, and the importance of learning to grow your own.
Extra Crispy: What do you usually have for breakfast?
Robyn Lawley: I usually have eggs with kale. Every morning, I’ll have eggs, kale, garlic kale, and a few tomatoes. Any vegetables I have. I really love having fresh veggies and fresh brekkie. It’s my favorite. And I grow a lot of my own tomatoes and kale.
Oh, you do?
Yeah, I have my own garden. I moved to Cali, and I have a full on garden. In my opinion, I think growing your own gives you real, not power, but just an ability to know what it takes to grow vegetables. And I think that’s really a great way to know your food.
And there’s something so satisfying to be like, I grew this myself.
You have no idea. You’re like, yes! And the food tastes so good. It’s so much better tasting. Tomatoes are the best tasting if they’re fresh. Basil, everything’s really good if it’s really fresh, so I’ve gotten used to just growing my own food. I used to live in New York, but when I got pregnant, I moved to L.A. for that reason, just because I wanted my own garden and all that.
It’s so much easier to do that when you’re in a place that’s warm all the time.
I know. You could realistically have a garden in L.A. all year. You could really. I love it. I love L.A. for that reason.
Does your daughter help you in the garden at all?
Yes. Actually, she loves it. She races out there and really loves the garden. It’s so cute.
Is there any breakfast from Australia that you miss?
I think Australians, we do breakfast good, but there's nothing I could really remember in terms of breakfast better. I definitely think Americans are pretty good at breakfast. And if I ever want French toast or anything like that, I’ll just make it myself, so I don’t think there’s actually anything I really miss in terms of breakfast.
Do you have any go-to breakfast dishes?
I make pretty damn good French toast. What else do I make that’s really yummy? I mean, I make all kinds of breakfast like eggs and quiches and stuff, but my French toast is the best because I make it really thick and delicious.
What’s the key to a good French toast?
Brioche. Use brioche bread, and use your local ingredients. The more local, the better. I’m a big believer in the fact that if you use eggs that are local, they’re going to taste better. And then use local syrup. When you use local food, I feel like the food is so much better tasting, and grown in so much more holistic ways. My French toast is the best.
You’ll stand by that.
I’m really into French toast.
Do you have a favorite breakfast when you’re in New York?
I think I like brunch better. I love going to brunches here. There’s a really good brunch at Five Leaves. But it’s always hard for me because I cook so much that I’m a bit judgy. They have to be really, really good for me to say it’s better. But there’s a lot of good coffee places, too.
And you’re from Australia, which has such a great coffee culture.
Oh, my God. We’re coffee snobs. Have you been to Oz?
I’ve never been.
Really? But you knew that. Because no one ever knows that. Melbourne has the best coffee and the best breakfast, and everything in general. Because we do coffee here OK, but I have to say—coffee in Australia. I love coffee, and if your coffee sucks, I’m done. I’ll never come back. I’m out. There is good coffee, though. Blue Bottle's amazing. I love Blue Bottle, and Toby’s is good. So there are good places.
Is there anything you want to teach your daughter about food that you wished everyone knew?
For me, like I said, I’m a big believer in trying to grow your own, and the reason for that is because I feel that as a society, we’re really forgetting to do that. And I think it’s just bizarre. I lived in France, and everyone had their own garden. That’s just the way they do it there, and it’s weird because, you think about it, and not many people know what they’re doing and it becomes a thing we demand of other people but that’s partly why I moved out to Topanga. So I could learn how to grow kale and tomatoes and strawberries and everything. And once you really know, you appreciate food better and then you learn how to do it yourself. That’s awesome, that’s what you want to do. And not only that, you help the environment, you help CO2, you help the bees, you help everything. For me, learning how to grow my own was really important, and that’s what I did.