Meet Linda Miller Nicholson, the Pasta Artist Behind Gigi Hadid’s Newly Renovated Kitchen Cabinets

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In the years since she first blended beets into dough to make a colorful dinner, she skyrocketed to Instagram fame and gained a few fans famous for other reasons: Her celebrity client list includes Matthew McConaughey, Snooki, and Katy Perry. But when Gigi Hadid unveiled what she called her passion project/dream spot on Instagram this week, “Made with a lil help from some of my favorite creatives,” she revealed Linda’s most complicated project yet: a permanent installation of edible art (see slide 4). 

Even in Gigi’s digital tour of a home bursting with color and patterns, the cabinets stuck out, but it was all in a day’s work for the woman who turns naturally colorful foods into pasta dough and creates witty, edible art from them — as well as outfits and almost anything else. 

While puzzling out how to create the exact right shade of pasta for Ruth Bader Ginsberg’s skin tone using cacao, harissa, and a little activated charcoal, Linda paused to share with us how, at Gigi’s behest, she turned her ephemeral creations into something permanent for the first time.

How did you end up designing the cabinets? 

Gigi has been a longtime Instagram follower and supporter, and through that I came to discover over the years that she’s a real, genuine, authentic person. Somewhere along the way, my perspective changed from like, “Why is this supermodel following this esoteric pasta account?” to realizing she’s just like a good, fun appreciator of creativity and art and things. She really thinks out of the box herself, so when she had the idea to put something together with colorful pasta, she immediately had the filled cabinets in mind.

I was thinking of the near-impossible logistics of that, knowing the texture of my pasta. It’s a totally different thing than commercially machine-produced and dried pasta — a complete other process. So I was just thinking there’s no way. I suggested some really nice photographs that could be embedded behind the glass and look like it was filled with pasta, and she was like, “Nope, nope, nope. It has to be pasta.”

So I went to the drawing board — the pasta board? — and started playing around from an R&D perspective, trying to figure out how to make this something that would actually live for a long time. I was considering the fact that there are subway lines underneath [her home in New York] and what the sun was going to do to it. I was trying to test for durability.

Then I had to establish a process for making them live permanently. I tested and failed a couple of different things until I hit on basically two ideas that worked. One was boiling the water ever so slightly, just to give it a little bit of clumping, and so any moisture would actually leech out of it. It hits the boiling water and it makes it kind of glue-like. After that and a drying process — we’re talking multiple days — I hand-lacquered each individual piece three times for durability.

How long did it take to make them? 

It was probably six weeks or so of research and development before I even got started. Then after I figured out how to make the pasta durable enough, I had to figure out the colors. We knew that low-level Missoni Roche Bobois settees (the couch seen in the first slide of Gigi’s post) would be interacting with it in the most proximal sense, so trying to work out a juxtaposition that would work from a color perspective, and looking at those samples and trying to interweave my, let’s say, excessive love of color with Gigi’s slightly more understated perspective. 

It’s actually been really interesting to me to read some of the internet reactions that have come out as a result of that post, because almost everybody who sees it, whether they are judging or not, it’s like “She’s really not afraid of color!” And I look at her project and think, “I could cram like 15 more rainbows into that!” She actually pulled me into a much more subtle realm than normally I work in, but it’s funny that that is not the collective internet perception at all. 

We settled on that and also the patterns — if you look closer at the actual pasta pieces themselves, you can kind of see this sort of Missoni-esque weave throughout the individual pieces. I was trying to figure out how to accomplish that and how everything would play together well, on a larger scale too. Each of those cabinets are three-and-a-half inches deep, then they’re huge, so I had to calculate the volume that would go into each one. You just see the front façade, but there are pieces behind there — there’s a lot of variance among the color of each one of the individual pieces of pasta, so how that would look over time was also a consideration.

The actual project, when I started, took a month. And it’s a very stinky process with all of that lacquer — I’ve been wearing masks longer than most of us!

How much pasta did it take? 

I’m not really sure. I had to build myself a little volume box and then put pasta in until it was full, but I had to wait until it was all super dry, for a week, before I did the whole thing.

I will say, when I flew over with all of the pasta at the end of it, I had to two massive pieces of checked luggage. There was probably 50 pounds of pasta.

What other celebrity pasta gigs have you done recently? 

I’m being haunted by Saved by the Bell right now. 

Just before the pandemic I was supposed to do Access Hollywood, and they had me make Mario’s face out of pasta. I made a Mario Lopez lasagna sheet and shipped it to LA, then I was going to meet it in LA. I like to call him Mario Dough-pez, and he’s just sitting in some freezer somewhere; who knows if he’ll ever see the light of day!

Then when I had to cancel all my classes, I started selling rainbow pasta dough kits and one of my first customers was Tiffani-Amber Thiessen, who ordered them for her kids.

So is pasta decor the next hot trend? 

I think creating bespoke pasta facades is a very unique design idea that is not for the faint of heart. If you are bold and daring and have a deep love and passion for pasta, as Gigi and I share, I think something along those lines would be fantastic.

Thanks so much for talking with us, Linda! For more colorful creations, follow her on Instagram @saltyseattle.

Naomi Tomky

Contributor

Seattle-based writer Naomi Tomky uses her unrelenting enthusiasm for eating everything to propel herself around the world as an award-winning food and travel writer.

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