“You are asking all the right questions, Carson.”
Elizabeth Chambers is in the midst of a high-energy waltz around a kitchen in the Today show studio. There are pans and pots and dishes—all glistening—set out carefully in place on the countertop, like chess pieces on an board (if everything involved in the chess set was tailor-made for Instagram). Chambers—C.E.O. of Bird Bakery, wife of Armie Hammer, and mother of three-year-old Harper and one-year-old Ford—is extraordinarily chipper, especially for having slept only from 2:30 to 5 A.M. the night before. She is wearing a patterned red-and-white blouse with dark jeans, her hair in a casual updo. Carson Daly—in a blazer and button-down—is working to keep up with her steps around the kitchen. “I think they should win every award,” he says after sampling her coconut cupcake—the ingredients swapped out for a “lighter” post-holidays recipe. (At another point, Daly playfully takes the frosting dispenser and hoists it into the air, squirting frosting directly into his mouth.)
Chambers and Daly are live on air for a four-and-a-half-minute segment before Daly darts out, though not before grabbing a cupcake for the road. Chambers—who appears regularly on Today for baking-related segments—is then greeted by new Today co-anchor Hoda Kotb, who giddily shows Chambers a photo of her almost-one-year-old daughter on her iPhone. Before leaving the premises, Chambers makes sure to take photos of all the items and setups in the studio, several of which will make their way to her Instagram account (she’ll later tell me over breakfast that she has more than 95,000 photos on her phone). On her way out of the building, Al Roker bids her farewell, as one might a cousin on the way out of a holiday dinner.
It’s been a busier-than-average year even for the constantly on-the-move Chambers, who has accompanied Hammer at many of the awards shows and publicity stops for Call Me by Your Name, the Italy-set romance that earned four Oscar nominations last week, plus a Golden Globe nomination for Hammer. She attended the Gotham Awards, the National Board of Review gala, and the Golden Globes, where she showed a flair for taking a classic look and adding a memorable twist. At the N.B.R. gala, she added a smart shift to a traditional black party dress, opting for an unusually cinched waist on her Y.S.L. dress, and at the Globes she dressed up her Alexandre Vauthier black couture gown with a prominent white bow.
All the while, Chambers, 35, has been overseeing the growth of Bird Bakery, which she founded alongside Hammer in 2012. The first location was in San Antonio (Chambers’s hometown), and a second came in Dallas a few years later. The company has grown in scale—now regularly facilitating events, partnering with eateries like Shake Shack, and employing about 80 people. “I always say a bakery is not as effortless as romantic comedies make it look,” she tells me over breakfast, adjacent to the Rockefeller Center skating rink, following the Today filming. “Definitely there is a lot of behind-the-scenes blood, sweat, and tears. But also it’s a lot of physical labor; I don’t think you really think about that.” Chambers is very involved in the recruiting process, and speaks about her employees with the clarity of someone who remembers all her friends’ birthdays and sibling names (she was recently at the wedding of one former employee).
Chambers says she was always a baking obsessive (“All through my 20s, you would come to my house and I would package [baked goods] and give them away”), and opening a bakery always felt, in one way or another, in the cards for her. There were a few pit stops along the way, though. During high school, she was recruited as a model, and she went to live in Tokyo for four months (alongside “Gisele [Bundchen] . . . before she was Gisele”). Just your typical high-school adventure, modeling overseas alongside Gisele! During college in Texas, she earned a gig at Access Hollywood in Los Angeles and began commuting back and forth. This kicked off a television-journalism career: her first job out of college was at Al Gore’sCurrent TV, and she’s since contributed to E! News and appeared as a judge on shows like Cupcake Wars and Sugar Showdown. (She met Hammer in 2006 via a mutual friend, when they were both dating other people; they eventually started dating in 2008.)
Like any television figure in 2018, she is also an Instagram personality. With more than 100,000 followers, Chambers regularly posts shots from her day-to-day life with her family (Armie, Ford, and Harper are recurring characters, and Hammer was present in all nine of her “top nine” most-liked ‘Grams from 2017). When asked about her Instagram prowess, Chambers laughs somewhat bashfully. “I love it, I love Instagram. For Ford’s birthday, for example, I wasn’t really thinking about taking photos and I was like, ‘Wait! We don’t really have any good photos!’ It’s his birthday party and I didn’t hire a professional photographer and I was so focused on the party. Then I was like, ‘Oh my goodness, wait! This moment has to be documented!’”
She says Harper, at age three, is just starting to connect that she has high-profile parents. “She really likes Armie’s voice in Cars 3—whenever anyone has any Carsstuff, she’s like, ‘My dad is Jackson Storm.’ And I don’t even know if she knows what that means, but she’ll say, ‘Did you know that?’ But her favorite character is actually not his, it’s Cruz Ramirez, it’s the female character. So she’ll say, ‘My dad’s Jackson Storm, but my favorite is Cruz Ramirez. He’s the blue car; my favorite’s the yellow one.’”
Hammer was nominated for a supporting-actor Golden Globe for his turn in Call Me by Your Name, in which he played an American student who spends a summer in Italy, where he falls for sweet European teenager Elio, played by 22-year-old Academy Award nominee Timothée Chalamet. Chambers was in Italy with the cast during much of filming (and in fact was pregnant with Ford for the last bit of the shoot). She describes the setting—they filmed in Crema, where director Luca Guadagnino grew up—vividly: “It’s just liquid, languid, dreamy. Luca did such a good job. I was just savoring and appreciating. It is such a beautiful town.”
Chambers—who regularly posts Instagrams featuring Guadagnino and Chalamet as well—is very much a part of the “family.” “Our apartment [during filming] was right across from Luca’s and I would go over and have face-mask parties with him every night, and Timmy and Armie [would be like], ‘Why are you guys doing face masks again?’ It was like everyone was at summer camp in a way.” They biked, and ate, and soaked up the scenery. “Yeah, I mean, we all rode our bikes everywhere— kind of what you see [the characters do] in the movie. There are three grocery stores; there’s one panini place. It’s just such a beautifully simple way of life. The meals are four hours. So you just really get to know everybody for who they really are—more so than you would if you were in America . . . Luca’s really good about savoring the moment and being in the moment. He’ll take tea and he’s like, ‘Mmm, this tea!’ I feel like, [in normal life], you get so rushed that you just move through things.”
She is, naturally, a fervent advocate for the film: “Obviously I am biased, but I think it should win every single award there is to win.” (The film earned a total of four Oscar nods, including best picture.) When Chalamet won the Palm Springs Rising Star Award for acting in January, he specifically thanked her in his speech: “Special thanks to Armie’s wife, Elizabeth Chambers, who is here tonight as well, who is as crucial to this process as anyone—and for letting me crawl all over your husband for two months. Thank you for that.” When the crew returned to Italy for press this past week, Chambers posted an Instagram of the group following one of their long, leisurely dinners, in which Hammer has her hoisted up on his back and Chalamet is pictured filming them with his camera.
Chambers says she enjoys the fashion element of awards season, though she takes it all as seriously as she feels it merits. “It is a fun process. I mean, yeah, no complaints. We’re not launching rockets and not curing cancer. It’s all, it’s fun.” She says she’ll ask Hammer for his opinion on her outfits, as well as her friend, model Rosie Huntington-Whiteley. “Rosie Huntington-Whiteley is one of my good friends. I literally run almost everything past her. She has such great style. I always say that her brain is like a mood board.”
With work in Texas and home in Los Angeles, as well as an abundance of other commitments, Chambers notes the extreme level of planning that has to go into maintaining their schedules; but the family will be settling down in New York for this summer, when Hammer makes his Broadway debut in the play Straight White Men. What is a typical day like for her when she isn’t on the road? “It’s so much. It’s either bakery stuff, it’s TV stuff, it’s brand development. So much [of my time is] on the bakery and the direction we wanna take it now . . . a lot of meetings actually, like in L.A., are more strategic. And [I’m] doing TV spots. There’s so many different hats, but it’s always kind of cohesive.”
Baking remains her lifeblood, though, and it seems clear that whatever paths she ends up taking will involve some kind of lifestyle foundation. It’s easy to imagine Chambers expanding the scope of her “brand” in the near future. “I feel like I definitely have an opinion about . . . an approach to life, you know? I’m very passionate and open about how things should be done. No one’s ever accused me of being unopinionated. I always am trying to find the interesting thing to do, and there’s definitely a way to incorporate that with the bakery and with the brand of the business. You just find inspiration in everything.” For now, though, while she has some plans for the future, things aren’t so bad for Elizabeth Chambers. “I would love for Bird Bakery to be a household name. And for everyone to have access to it, whether it’s in their pantry or by, you know, walking into a store or one of our locations. [I’d like to do] a lot more Today show, more babies, I don’t know. I’m so happy, and I feel so grateful every day. Whatever’s happening now, if it just keeps happening, I’ll be really happy.”