The model who eats and eats and eats

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Chrissy Teigen is not a picky eater.

"I lick the cheese off Doritos and put them back in the bag," she said. "I will eat pretty much anything as long as it's salty. Or sweet. Or spicy."

She is that rare thing, a model who eats. And eats and eats and eats, according to constant posts on Twitter, Instagram and her blog, So Delushious!

"This picture just got me pregnant," she once wrote, lusting after a house-cured pork belly she helped make during a three-week intensive cooking course.

Teigen, 28, is one of the funniest and unlikeliest voices about food on Twitter, where her audience is approaching half a million people. She has more than 700,000 followers on Instagram. Her popularity is probably due first to her appearance in the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue; this year, she was its first Asian-American cover model.

Also driving her social media profile is her long-time relationship with singer John Legend. She was hired to stand around in black lingerie in his 2006 video for Stereo, and the two have been together since. They married last autumn.

From their travels and honeymoon in Italy, she posts images of pasta, whole fish and gelato. But in daily life, she is just as likely to put up a beauty shot of a Bloomin' Onion at Outback Steakhouse or of the packets of Cholula hot sauce that she orders in bulk or a video of herself drunkenly eating Cheetos right off the upholstery of her sofa.

It is probably those last items that earned her a judge spot on MTV's new cooking competition show, Snack-Off. Amateur cooks vie to invent a credible snack, using only leftovers and junk food, for maximum appeal to a young audience. (The main ingredients in the first episode were marshmallows, Vienna sausages, popcorn and beef jerky.)

"I'm the farthest thing from a foodie or a food snob," she said. "Those people terrify me."

Her father, Ron, is Norwegian- American; her mother, Vilaluck, is Thai. She grew up in Snohomish, Washington, where there was not even a Thai restaurant, much less a market to buy jasmine rice and curry paste.

"Even in Seattle, you couldn't buy green papayas then," she said. "My mom kind of gave up and learnt to cook corned beef and cabbage instead."

She did not start cooking until well after she had left home and is still cautious about attempting her mother's Thai recipes.

But she has great respect for the work of chefs, a high tolerance for chilli heat and a terrific appetite for variety. Her last meal, she said, would be the unlimited dim sum at Sense, the Cantonese restaurant at the Mandarin Oriental in Tokyo. "Hopefully I could eat myself to death," she said.

Models are famous for claiming in interviews that they regularly indulge in doughnuts and In-N-Out burgers. But the punishingly low body mass index demanded by the fashion industry does not allow for many indulgences and prompts scepticism. Social media such as Instagram has become a forum for "thin-shaming" posts, calling out stick-thin models and celebrities who say they eat "normally" and claim that they never exercise.

Teigen more often experiences the opposite: Anonymous commenters remark on her "fat" face and "weird" looks.

"Putting on that weight momma," one follower said after she posted recent shots from an MTV appearance. She tends to fire back with spirit (and profanity), earning herself even more loyal fans.

Let the record show that she did not pretend to eat much at a recent lunch, as she was about to put on a tight orange lace minidress for the awards ceremony of the Council of Fashion Designers of America. She clearly knew her way around the estimable Bash Burger at Lure Fishbar (served on a potato bun, topped with a caramelised onion and bacon jam, American cheese and shaved pickles) but ate exactly one king crab leg and one sushi hand roll.

"I am a nutritionist's nightmare," she said. She admits that when she is working (for example, when she appeared on the June cover of Cosmopolitan or was gearing up for a Victoria's Secret catalogue shoot), she eats virtually nothing.

"Some models survive the time without food by living on coffee and cigarettes," she said. "For me it's red wine and cookbooks."

But in between, she prowls new restaurants (the lasagna verde, a Thursday special at Frank in New York City, is a favourite), is a regular at Taco Bell and binges on ribs and ramen.

Many of her cooking narratives seem to have been posted when Legend is touring and she is home in Los Angeles, passing the time with a bottle of wine and cooking projects such as deviled eggs, seared scallops or eggless Caesar salad dressing. Or seriously not-on-a-diet, opposite-of- Gwyneth-Paltrow recipes, such as "cream cheese-stuffed jalapeno peppers with bacon and sausage and unicorns and fairies and vodka wait no vodka but everything else good in the world".

Fortunately for the 1.6m-tall Teigen, she occupies a niche in the fashion industry reserved for "curvy girls": swimwear model.

 
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