Why Great Jones Co-Founder Sierra Tishgart Makes a Habit of Cooking at Home
“I think something that really liberated me to cook more at home was learning that it doesn’t always have to be this perfect endeavor.”
There are many ways to live a healthy life. The Health Diaries is a weekly series about the habits that keep notable people living well.
Within a year, Sierra Tishgart went from working as a senior food editor for New York magazine’s Grub Street to co-founding a cookware company called Great Jones. The idea for the company started with a basic problem: Tishgart needed to buy some new cookware that would last and look nice, but the choices were overwhelming and expensive. She and her co-founder, Maddy Moelis, thought they could simplify the process, and they did just that. The pair made Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list for their millennial-focused line of pots and pans that cost less than $145 apiece, and Great Jones now competes directly with leading cookware manufacturers like Le Creuset.
This week, Tishgart talks with Elemental about her puppy Hubble, her obsession with green tea, that one time she fell asleep in the middle of her own dinner party, and the joy of cooking at home even when your schedule is busy.
I wake up pretty naturally every morning around 8 a.m. I’m a night owl and I do a lot of work late, so 8 a.m. is probably as early as I ever want to get up. I have a dog who’s about a year old, so my morning routine very much revolves around him. His name is Hubble. We’ll go play a little fetch in my backyard. I’m very fortunate to have a garden in New York; as much as my life can revolve around being out there in the morning, it does.
My constant every morning is that I have green tea. I’ve always been an avid tea drinker, although I do drink coffee occasionally. I have no routine in relation to what I eat in the mornings. As I’ve gotten busier with the company, some days I’ll just grab a pastry. Some days I go to Daily Provisions, which is a little café near our office; I get smoked salmon on an English muffin. Sometimes we cook in the office, or sometimes there’s a frittata I’ve made the night before. It’s very random and it’s usually a later breakfast while I’m in transit.
I worked as a food editor for many years, so food is an important part of my life; it’s something that I count on to bring me joy every day. I like to make sure that whenever possible, the thing I’m eating is the most beautiful version of itself. I define that as something made fresh and not processed. I especially love desserts and sweets. I feel fortunate to have enough disposable income to go to a really beautiful bakery where the experience is warm and inviting, and where the food is fresh.
I’ve dabbled in supplements, but I’ve never ever really stuck to anything. I tried! Like even now, I have Ritual vitamins on my desk. They seem nice. But I’ve never been able to get them into my routine.
When you own your own business like Maddy and I do, you’re always working. I typically have my butt in my seat at the office by 10 a.m., which is a little bit on the later side. But as I said before, I often work really late into the night so I like to give myself the flexibility to have a cup of tea into the morning, take my dog for a long walk, get a little bit of breakfast, and maybe take a call as I walk.
I used to be a writer so my day was very nomadic. Now my days involve a lot of meetings and check-ins with people in our team. And a lot of emails, which is not the most sexy and exciting thing to talk about. The nice thing is that we’re wearing so many hats. My mind goes from product design to marketing to event planning, all within the span of an hour. Some days I’m sitting in the office and other days I’m running around and helping spread the word about our company.
We want people to take care of themselves, go home at night, and really turn off, so our office clears out around 6 p.m. I’ll usually take a break then and go get my dog from home. We’ll go for a walk and I’ll think about dinner. Then around 8 or 9 p.m., I sit back down at my computer for another couple hours of work. That’s usually my quiet time, especially if I’ve been in meetings all day. That’s when I do my best creative thinking.
Exercise is something I would like to do more of. As our lives became more chaotic with Great Jones, exercise was the first thing to go. At the moment, my main form of exercise is walking and it’s also my favorite. I walk to and from work and that’s a little over a mile each way, so I’m at least putting in two or three miles per day. If I have plans or meetings, I also walk to those. Usually I look down at my phone and I’ve put in about five to 10 miles at the end of every day. New York is very competitive when it comes to exercise, but that’s not really my thing. I enjoy walking and think it’s a really lovely way to see the city and be efficient with my time. I’ll also intersperse the occasional hot yoga class in there.
Recently, our team has been cooking together in the office, and that’s a habit I want to keep. We have an office with a kitchen and it’s just wonderful to think about cooking as part of our culture. Similarly, that’s a thing I’ve been trying to do more of at home, even when I’m super tired. There are a lot of barriers to cooking, one of which is having the right pots and pans, which is why we started Great Jones. But I also try to make sure I set myself up for success on a Sunday. I try to make a big thing of rice and I keep vegetables and tofu in the fridge so I can make something later in the week.
The other day I canceled my plans because I was tired, and I was thinking about ordering something for dinner. But then I realized I had done a great grocery run. I had pasta, shrimp, and fava beans, so I threw something together. It was fun and I always feel really good after I cook like that. I try to make sure there’s some kind of home-cooked meal as part of every day; it feels really important to my well-being.
When it comes to work-life balance, my work is my life right now. I see that as a privileged position; we take really seriously that people’s employment depends on us. That’s just not something I’m able to turn off.
I’ve also been thinking a lot about phone-life balance. I think I had a normal degree of attachment to my phone before starting Great Jones. But now, any time I pull out my phone, there are work emails or other things I need to look at. It’s very hard not to feel tied to my phone at all times. I’m trying to see how to detach from that, but I don’t have it figured out yet. Phone time is not creative time.
Before bed, I try to put down my phone and read. Ideally that’s fiction, or something not work-related. But I also just fall asleep right away these days because I’m so exhausted. I’ll fall asleep with the lights on! I had a dinner party a little while ago and I fell asleep in the middle of it on my couch. It’s a joke with all of my friends now.
I tie health less to the physical, like how I look or what I ate that week, and more to how I’m feeling about myself. When I feel calm and confident in myself, I feel healthy.
I’m excited about a few new things at Great Jones. First, we recently launched something called Potline, which is a texting service where a real person from our team answers real-time questions to help you figure out what to make for dinner. It’s recipe inspiration and cooking guidance for when you’re walking home, you’re tired, and it’s a Monday night. You think: Should I just get a slice of pizza? But hopefully this removes a few barriers and we can help you figure out what to do with that chicken, rice, and sausage you have in the freezer.
We also have a lot of launches coming up in 2020. We recently launched our Dutchess, which is our Dutch oven in black and white. For a brand very much known for color, this was a departure. But people kept requesting it!
I love this work because I feel like I have the wonderful privilege of encouraging home cooking and hopefully making it feel more accessible. I think something that really liberated me to cook more at home was learning that it doesn’t always have to be this perfect endeavor. It doesn’t always have to be a measured-out recipe with set ingredients. When you strip away some of that pressure, I feel way better. Plus, I think cooking is so important for health, whether that’s the way you physically feel or the way you’re connecting to yourself or your community. It’s really fun to see people inspired by what we do here at Great Jones.
If you’re sitting on a big idea, my advice is to talk to anyone and everyone about it. The instinct is to keep it a secret. I definitely felt this way. But I think a lot of our success at Great Jones came because we looked to our network, and our friends of friends of friends, and even total strangers. They would sit down with us and we’d ask for their time and energy. Also, if I thought back on the last year, I would have said, “Oh my God, we can never do all of this.” But you just take it one step at a time. If you ask for help, you’ll figure out how to get through it.