Why should models have all the fun? Each month we’re finding a “real woman”—i.e., of any shape and size—and giving her the model treatment in The Realest. We bring the wardrobe, stylist, photographer and blog editor—she brings her anything-but-one-size-fits-all personality and style—and we all head out on location for an IRL photo shoot to showcase our monthly Dress Spotlight.
The enterprising and razor-sharp Monica Dimas is an always-on-the-go chef and business owner with a sense of humor and personality that make her supremely fun to hang with. And that’s basically what we did for the day in the industrial kitchen at Gate Valve Studio.
With a long list of work history at some of Seattle’s most-talked-about restaurants (like Café Campagne, Spinasse and Mkt.), Monica decided to focus her chef chops, culinary roots and desire for a new direction on opening two Mexican street food concepts—Neon Taco and Tortas Condesa. Now she’s the one being talked about—most recently as the 2015 winner of StarChef’s Seattle Rising Star Concept Chef Award.
While getting her into some of our favorite dress silhouettes for spring, we chatted with Monica about her style, favorite things in her closet and what food trends she’s into—and not so into. Like at all.
On her style: “I have an androgynous style. It isn’t harsh; it’s purposeful, because I have soft features (round face, curly hair, big eyes) that I balance out with less feminine clothing. I like tailored and well-fitted pieces along with oversized men’s shirts. An empire waist dress makes me look like Wendy from Peter Pan.”
Favorite things about spring: “I love a good, bold print on a simple dress—accessorizing is fun and can also be bold without it detracting from the pattern. Spring is a good time for that, since you still need to stay warm while the sun is making its way out. Also, spring seems to get people out of their comfort zone, and you start seeing people’s wardrobes really wake up. That’s when I start shaping my style resolutions for the remainder of the year.”
Food trend dos and don’ts: “I’m happy everyone has kale and peavines (when in season) now. They’re so versatile and good for you! Also, bean-to-bar chocolate—all day, every day. I love chocolate, and everyone should experience the loveliness that is bean to bar.
“I definitely dislike trendy diets or liquid meal replacements. I think people should just try mindful eating and getting the body moving sometimes. I love eating everything in sight—and I do. But I also know that my heart and body will not magically get rid of cholesterol from the too many times I ate pizza last week. I have to make sure I eat whole grains and veggies. Don’t get me wrong, I love a good juice with my breakfast and lunch, but I do not support replacing a meal with a juice. It’s unhealthy. Mindful eating is a trend that needs to happen. I would stand behind that.”
A day in the life: “As a business owner, there are always lots of little things that pile up, so I’m constantly trying to work through the pile while checking in with my employees, filling in at the restaurants and making sure our menu is seasonally reflective. I love the food my restaurants produce—it represents part of my childhood and part of who I am as a chef. I use the techniques I’ve learned and apply them to Mexican comfort. The people who work with me are so solid, and my favorite thing is being able to provide a positive working environment.”
Favorite things in her closet: “Clothing my mother makes for me: there’s always a little hint of her personality in them. And vintage statement dresses.”
Chef/personal life wardrobe balance: “I wish I could run around with two outfits! Instead I make wearing black all the time work for me. I’ll wear to work what I would wear after, but I change my shirt and shoes while working, and I’ll add some lipstick after.
“If I’m wanting to go somewhere with heels on, I’ll save it for a night I’m not working. My style works in most situations—wearing well-made clothing in black never goes out of style. It’s versatile.”
Monica’s next chapter: “I’m going to be working with Rachel Marshall (of Rachel’s Ginger Beer, Montana and Nacho Borracho) and Kate Opatz (Montana and Nacho Borracho) on new projects. That, and trying to make sure I don’t let work consume every part of my life. I love what I do, but I also love good coffee and a record with my Sunday Times. I know a true work/life balance doesn’t exist, but a relaxing Sunday off goes a long way. Also, I’m hoping to launch a project close to my heart with a local artisan–but I can’t go into details…it’s still a secret!”