Rita Jammet, a true epicurean and restaurant legend, knows that the key to living her best life is to never take a single bite for granted.
“When my kids were very little, I wanted to get them to taste every vegetable that existed. So I found an alphabetical list of vegetables, and I bought one for every letter of the alphabet, and I cooked and pureed every single one of them. I believe in exposing kids very young because it forms their palates. They ate everything when they got older.
When my son Nicola opened Sweetgreen (one block away from where he grew up!) he said to me, “mom, after you served us all those vegetables— now it’s our turn to feed you.” It was the best feeling.
"My parents fed me everything, but I did go away to boarding school very young. My first boarding school was in Beirut, and the second in Geneva. I remember the snacks from both of them— In Lebanon, they gave us man’ouche, a bread with za’taar on it. It was wild thyme and sesame seeds and sumac and olive oil, warm from the oven, served with hot chocolate. It sounds crazy, but this combination was so good. In Geneva, every day I looked forward to le goûter— I don’t know how to directly translate it in English, but it was a lovely little snack that was very important to me. It was always the same— a crispy bread roll with a chocolate bar, every day at 4 pm. Snacks were very important. At home, we ate Lebanese Iraqi food. To this day, when my kids come home, these are the foods they crave that we all love— hikakeh, crispy rice, with a fragrant spicy chicken, lemon, cardamom, saffron dish.
Everything led me to be an epicurean. Life is about finding deliciousness in all forms.
"For that you have to experience everything and everyone with an open mind, and question everything. Why is this? Who made this? When your mind is open and you treat life as a quest to find good, happy moments, you acquire wisdom as well. Food is the most direct pleasure you experience when growing up. You don’t know who you are when you’re growing up, but when you’re trying to figure out, you start with the basics— what are the things that make me happy? I have a genuine sense of wonder when I get to eat delicious food. It’s about gratitude— appreciation for the people who have created something so marvelous that I have the privilege to experience. I take nothing for granted, so I’m never blasé about anything.”