When they aren’t traveling for work, Ayesha Curry and her husband, NBA star Steph Curry, have dinner with their kids every night. It’s not always elaborate. Sometimes it’s just a sheet-pan recipe they share perched on bar stools around their kitchen island. But it’s made with love by Ayesha at least three nights a week.
Preparing homemade meals every other night would be impressive for any two-parent working family, but it’s almost unimaginable considering everything on Ayesha’s plate—in the kitchen and otherwise. She’s mom to daughters Riley, 5, and Ryan, 3, and 10-month-old baby boy Canon. The uber-busy entrepreneur just opened the third location of her restaurant, International Smoke (a collaboration with chef Michael Mina) in Miami; a fourth is coming to Del Mar, California, in June. Her Homemade Meal Kits just hit the shelves at Northern California Whole Foods stores. Her eponymous cookware is sold everywhere from Macy’s to Walmart, as well as on her website, shophomemade.com, which she just relaunched with GoDaddy. She’s a brand ambassador for CoverGirl and the Honest Company. And she’ll be executive producing and hosting Family Food Fight, a culinary competition series that pits home chefs against one another, premiering on ABC June 20.
The role couldn’t be more perfect for Ayesha, who leveraged her self-taught skills (see her favorite summer recipes) to become a powerful player in the food world—an industry that isn’t welcoming to women, especially those of color.
“I think a lot of people do not take me seriously,” confesses Ayesha, who turned 30 in March. Despite her ever-expanding empire, people chalk up her success to her pro-athlete spouse. “They think this is something I’ve obtained because of my husband’s income. That’s not true. He hasn’t invested a dime in my restaurant business.”
The man Ayesha does credit with boosting her career? Her mentor and restaurant partner, Michael Mina, who came to the U.S. from Egypt as a child and found success as a young chef in San Francisco in the late ’80s and ’90s. The two first met when Ayesha had lunch at one of his award- winning restaurants. “That year I made it a point to ask hard-hitting questions other people might be afraid to ask when meeting someone you admire,” she recalls. He must have been impressed, because soon enough, they were cooking together—and Michael had to shoo her out of the kitchen, she laughs. “I think that’s when he realized I had the bug, and our partnership just grew from there.”
It wasn’t that other people believed Ayesha shouldn’t be in the kitchen—some pundits just thought she should stay there, at home, quietly. “It’s this weird hierarchy of misogyny,” she says. “When my career was starting to take off, this male reporter bashed me on live television, saying I should be more like the other [basketball] players’ wives. He literally said, ‘They sit there, they don’t cause any problems, and they look pretty.’”
“Why am I not allowed to have a passion and a dream and a voice?” she marvels. “That started a fire in me. I could not be stopped, and I wanted to prove myself. Now the conversation has shifted. Stephen doesn’t get any negative [questions] about me. Especially in the Bay Area, people say to him, ‘I like her food a lot,’ and that’s been special for me.”
Stepping out of Steph’s shadow and gaining her own spotlight in culinary circles isn’t the only way she’s reckoned with her role in the world. Her mother is Jamaican and Chinese, and her dad is Polish and African American. “Everyone was from a place other than Canada and that's how you identified yourself, not black or white. I identified as Jamaican because that's where my mom came from," she says of her childhood in Toronto, where her neighbors were mostly Asian and Indian. “In the states I'm simply 'black.'"
It’s also a lesson she’s passing on to her daughters. “They’re fair in complexion, and they’ve said: ‘I’m not black; look at my skin.’ And I said: ‘No, no, no. You’re a black woman. You have melanin. It’s part of who you are. Our descendants are from Africa. This is what that means.’ It’s been a journey teaching them that, and that black comes in many different shades."
It hasn’t always been easy, though.
“My own community needs to embrace everyone better. Sometimes I feel like I’m too black for the white community, but I’m not black enough for my own community. That’s a hard thing to carry. That’s why my partnership with CoverGirl was special for me because I felt like I didn’t fit the mold [of a CoverGirl],” she adds. “I’m not in the entertainment industry, in the traditional sense. I’m not thin; I’m 170 pounds on a good day. It’s been a journey for me, and that’s why I want my girls to understand who they are—and to love it.”
She continues to wrestle with that herself. She once playfully confessed to getting her “boobs done” after many months of breastfeeding, but she’s come to see her cosmetic surgery in a different light.
“I didn’t realize at the time, but after having Ryan, I was battling a bit of postpartum that lingered for a while. It came in the form of me being depressed about my body,” she explains. “So I made a rash decision. The intention was just to have them lifted, but I came out with these bigger boobs I didn’t want. I got the most botched boob job on the face of the planet. They’re worse now than they were before. I would never do anything like that again, but I’m an advocate of if something makes you happy, who cares about the judgment?”
What gives her confidence these days is being a working mom. “It makes me feel like I can take on anything,” she says. “The little things that used to seem like problems aren’t problems at all anymore. Things roll off my back more easily.”
For that, she credits a role model. “I watched my mom be a working mother my whole life. I’ve never known anything else other than strong women in powerful positions.”
Setting the same example for her own girls—“showing them there’s no ceiling”— is important to her. “If you’re a stay-at-home mom, and that’s what you love to do, that’s a beautiful thing. But on the flip side, if you have a passion, I think you’re doing yourself and your children an injustice by not showing them that you’re capable of doing both in some capacity, whether it’s a hobby or a day-to-day job.”
Pursuing her professional path while raising three kids doesn’t leave time for much else. She tries to prioritize the occasional date night with Steph. (The most recent one: watching The Voice while enjoying steak and wine at home.) And while Steph is undoubtedly a hands-on dad, the mental load of family management falls to Ayesha. ("That would be too much for him to take on. His plate is SO SO full. The thought of that makes me laugh," she says.)
Self-care, she admits, takes a backseat. “I was laughing with my friends because I looked down at my toes. I had a gel pedicure that’s been growing out for six months. I basically had a black-tip French manicure on my toes,” she jokes.
Sometimes, she’ll squeeze in a bath or a splash of wine after the kids are in bed, but she always sets aside 10 minutes a day for a devotional. “My faith is everything to me,” she says. “It’s what keeps me grounded. If I didn’t take at least those 10 minutes for myself, I’d be a crazy person for sure.”
That said, she knows she has it good compared with most moms. “My parents live out here now. My older sister is our nanny. That’s what she was doing by trade for a decade, and she was available, so I snatched her up. I wouldn’t be able to do what I’m doing if I didn’t have my village helping me.”
And yet she’s missed a milestone or two—and struggled with the inevitable sorrow that comes along with it. Last year, when she was hospitalized with hyperemesis gravidarum (extreme morning sickness) while pregnant with Canon, Riley lost one of her front teeth. “She came to visit me with the tooth in her hand, and I fell out crying because I had been waiting for it, and of course it happens when you’re not there. I still think about Riley losing her tooth—and it wasn’t even her first!”
The illness took a toll on more than her body.
“I was there, but I wasn’t there,” she recalls. “There was a point when I had a picc line in my arm, and had to walk around with a medicine pump bag attached to me. Not only did I fall back a year from work, I feel like I fell back a year on motherhood.”
So how did she cope? “Knowing everyone is going through the same thing. But I don’t think the mom guilt ever goes away. If I don’t pick up my kids from school one day, I feel guilty. It’s just the name of the game.”
That’s one big reason she’s not taking on more projects in the next year, besides, possibly, a second cookbook. Her focus isn’t on adding anything, but on nurturing everything she currently has. That also means the Curry family is most likely done expanding. “I don’t think we could take on much more without bringing in reinforcements—and I’m too hands-on to want to relinquish more than I’ve relinquished already,” she acknowledges.
All the emotional highs and lows of working motherhood are worth it, however, for the sake of her life’s mission: making mealtime meaningful.
“Especially with millennials, everybody’s eating out, everyone’s in a rush, and our cellphones are by our side 24 hours a day. I noticed that people were forgetting the basics—getting in the kitchen with their kids, sitting down at the family table, enjoying a meal together, and building relationships.”
She wants to change that, one busy family at a time—starting with her own.
Her Go-To Goods
Her eponymous line includes jewelry, cookware, bakeware, bedding and more—but we asked her to pick just three faves she can’t live without.