Elite Choreographer Justin Peck Shares the Most Memorable Meals of His Life and How He Came to Work with Shepard Fairey

By Ernest Myers |
FWX JUSTIN PECK

© Alberto Oviedo

Justin Peck has become something of a phenomenon in the dance world. Already a soloist with the New York City Ballet, the 27-year-old San Diego native recently won adulation from the New York Times as "the most eminent choreographer of ballet in the United States." In only a few short years, he has released a flurry of new ballets (including two collaborations with singer-songwriter Sufjan Stevens), been named the New York City Ballet's choreographer-in-residence and was the subject of Ballet 422, a documentary feature. 

His latest ballet, Heatscape—which, in addition to Peck’s choreography, features set design from artist Shepard Fairey—is about to open at the Miami City Ballet. We chatted with Justin about food, fashion and how he came to work with the celebrated street artist. 

How did your collaboration with Shepard Fairey come about?
I really started to get into Shepard's art when I was exploring Miami. I came across the murals he had done for the Wynwood Walls and was immediately taken with them. Luckily, I discovered we had a mutual friend who was able to get me an introduction. I asked Shepard if he'd be interested in collaborating on a project, and to my great surprise, he said yes. 

The backdrop is stunning.
What's interesting about this piece is because it's a backdrop for the stage, it's designed with a translucence to it—the light is able to move through the backdrop in interesting ways, giving a 3-dimensional quality to his work that isn't possible in his work on concrete walls, for example. 


Photo: Gene Schiavone

What does a typical food day look like for you?
I never like to waste a meal or an appetite on mediocre food. Breakfast is usually oatmeal or the occasional scone from Levain Bakery in New York and great home-brewed coffee from the Brooklyn Roasting Company. Lunch is usually something light and healthy, like a salad from Indie Food and Wine or Épicerie Boulud—both are right near work at Lincoln Center. And I often cook dinner at home, but when I go out I love ramen at Ippudo, or tacos from Empellón Cocina, or Cuban food from Coppelia, or…the list goes on and on. 

What's the one food you absolutely crave? 
I'd have to say a good chicken parm sandwich.

On the topic of the less healthy, what do you like to drink?
I love a Perfect Manhattan (equal parts sweet and dry vermouth) or a Penicillin from Weather Up in Tribeca.

You've spent a lot of time in Miami over the last few years, most recently on Heatscape. What restaurants stand out to you there? 
Miami’s food scene is really starting to explode. My favorite spots: YardbirdLucaliKhongPubbelly Sushi27 RestaurantMacchialinaOak Tavern and Bodega.  


Photo: Gene Schiavone

What are your most memorable dining experiences?
My work has given me the opportunity to travel all around the world, and I feel lucky to have experienced some outstanding meals. The ones that truly stand out: Hawker Fare in San Francisco, Animal in Los Angeles, Boat Street Cafe in Seattle, Underbelly in Houston, Bouchon in Las Vegas, Koyoshi Sushi in Osaka, Japan, and Noma in Copenhagen.

What can we look for next from you?
I have two ballets premiering for New York City Ballet that I've very excited about. One will be a collaboration with the artist Marcel Dzama and Bryce Dessner of The National. 

You can also see clips from Peck's new piece below and read more about him over at CBS.

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