Thursday, June 22, 2017

The f Word

I caught the end of Gordon Ramsay's cooking show The f Word last night and was reminded that I had not yet written about last week's conversation at STORY on Women in Food, at which the f word got dropped a bit in a wide range of topics masterfully moderated by proprietor Rachel Schectman: 

fresh story
food & wine magazine
jack's wife freda
front door
follow your heart

I loved co-founder Maya Jankelowitz's expression that part of the recipe behind Jack's Wife Freda's success is the dedicated daily practice of empathy, generosity and hospitality.

For her, everything starts at the front door, where a connection with the visitor must be made and a tone set for an environment in which to recognize the guest.

She learned this during her arrival to New York from Israel and initial stint as hostess at SOHO's iconic Balthazar but I have the impression that it is simply who she and Dean are as human beings.

Maya's instinctive and adept focus on the guest was beautifully exemplified at STORY.
Upon pulling up in a cab outside for pre-event set up, she noticed a few of us early bird attendees starting to wilt in the heat on the sidewalk outside (or maybe we were whining about it just a bit...)

"Do you need any help?" we asked her and her husband as they set down a large plastic thermos and several paper shopping bags on the sidewalk.

"No," she declined." Then, as she slipped through the store's front door, she turned to us.
"I will bring you a glass of lemonade once we set up, " she said.

The doors to the store opened for us a short time later and we fashionable foodies filed inside to collapse into seats, sighing in relief at the blast of cool air that greeted us.

We then noticed a small bar area and as made our way there, I overheard Maya saying to one of the store team, "There she is."

As I stepped toward the counter, she expertly navigated the crowd to hand me a glass of ice cold minted lemonade.

"Oh no," I smiled, "please don't do that."
Making eye contact and smiling back, she replied matter of factly, "You were first to arrive outside. I promised."

As a lifelong merchant who has spent a few years opposite the customer myself, my heart warmed to this genuine gesture and laser sharp focus on the art of intuitive hospitality.

The lemonade was as magical as the moment Maya created for me.
The recipe below was perfectly printed on STORY's vibrant mural wall: 

When Maya signed my cookbook following the talk, she asked me if I had been to the restaurant.

"Yes," I replied, "I have visited them both, once with a friend from Vienna who loved the cafe ambiance." I promptly named the lavender waffles as a breakfast I had tried and loved.

Of course, this delicate dish, included in the new cookbook, is officially called Rose Water Waffles and has nothing to do with lavender.  It is inspired by the floral distilled water preparation used in the Middle Eastern pastries Maya knew growing up. 

I attribute my flub to the high heat and to my small shopping frenzy involving the purchase of the cookbook and happy discovery of the restaurant's signature striped t-shirts offered for sale by STORY (more fab than Comme des Garcons, I exclaimed to Maya), and the complimentary issue of Food & Wine presented to us by powerhouse Editor in Chief Nilou Motamed and finally, to my being slightly starstruck by evening's f-antastic end...

Apologies to Chef Julia!  

Jack's Wife Freda cookbook, Food & Wine Magazine...
(event photos are mine, STORY mural by Claudia Pearson)

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