In an effort to inspire and promote the most well rounded of lifestyles, Crunchy Radish is releasing the next installment of Meet the Makers. Here we highlight companies and people who are making strides in the health and wellness industry. Up next - Marissa Lippert, registered dietitian, owner, and creator of Nourish Kitchen + Table.
Nourish Kitchen + Table is a take-away shop and cafe located in Manhattan's West Village which focuses on seasonal and local cuisine. The food is light and inspiring, and there is always a plethora of delicious options which include harissa roasted chicken, sesame oil massaged kale salad, sweet potato noodles, and bite size dark chocolate brownies. I had the opportunity to sit down with the owner and fellow RD, Marissa Lippert, and hear her food philosophy and the story behind her picture perfect cafe.
How did Nourish Kitchen + Table come about?
I always knew that I wanted to own a boutique cafe, and it took a number of years to fully formulate the vision. In grad school the idea started creeping into my head and then over the course of seven years the idea developed into what it is now.
As someone who studied clinical nutrition at New York University how did you make the transition away from the traditional practitioner route?
In graduate school I took the opportunity to study media and journalism on the side, and I was trying to get into that world after school. From day one I knew that I did not want to go the clinical route, and I was determined to do something else. I would go to networking functions with editors and assistant editors and was trying to figure out how to get into that pool of people. I had the expertise and could write and had a background in journalism. I was getting this degree, and I knew that there was a need for dietitians who could write and communicate the information in a viable manner.
After school, I ended up being more of a contributor versus on staff. I also fell into private practice, not by happenstance -that was just my route after school. I ended up doing both for a while, contributing to magazines and working in private practice. I was able to get a lot of market research over the course of eleven years about what people were needing in terms of food and what their questions and concerns were pertaining to how to eat.
What is your culinary background?
I took classes at ICE, but I have always been a home cook and now I do not get to cook that often. I would call myself a self-taught cook, and I have been able to transition that into a restaurant setting. Much of our kitchen staff has formal culinary training and fine dining training, which is different from my background. We can do a mix of both worlds. We can do elevated and more formal food or informal. The point of this whole space was to feel like you are walking into your own dining room or living room.
Did you always want to have a retail component to NKT?
I knew that I always wanted to do both. I started in fashion after school and the retail component completed the story for me. Whether you are entertaining or just feeding yourself, the act of holding a beautiful bowl makes all the difference. Whether you make yourself a salad or breakfast and you are holding that bowl and it is beautiful, it has energy and feeling. It changes the experience of your eating, how you perceive and appreciate the food, and how it sustains you. This approach is different from eating out of a yogurt container super fast and shucking it as you are walking down the street.
What is your food philosophy and how does that translate through NKT?
My food philosophy hinges around balance and moderation, placing fresh fruits and vegetables at the core of most meals, and going back to basics - ingredients that are made or produced with integrity and quality the way that they would have been when your grandparents would have eaten them. At Nourish, we place a lot of emphasis on salads, vegetable-forward dishes, fruit-heavy desserts...and we focus on smaller producers and local purveyors whenever possible. Partnering with people and brands bringing great product and building relationships around the food we eat makes all the difference both in taste and health-value!
I've noticed a strong Moroccan and Persian influence to a lot of the food served here, is that your background?
It is not my background, but it's evolved that way. One of our original former employees is Persian, and I've always leaned toward Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisines. The flavors are just unreal. There are other cultures and cuisines we are influenced by, but people have come to know us for our harissa chicken, our rose tea loaf, and our orange blossom crumb cake. For me and the rest of the staff, when you have a reference point to a dish or food, whether it is family or travel or a happy experiment gone awry, I think it makes the food more intriguing to our guests.
Are you responsible for the menu?
When we initially opened and for the first two years, my ideas and recipes were the soul of the menu. Currently, we work as a team in the kitchen. Our executive chef, Russell Yows, recently joined us and brings an incredible background and creativity to our food. He and I work together on new ideas and how to best execute them to meet the needs of an establishment like this. We meet and think as a unit in the kitchen and generate ideas as best we can which stimulates people that much more. Its nice to see your work up on the counter.
Has the menu evolved much over the course of the two years or has it stayed true to your initial mission?
I think it is always evolving. We have a pretty robust catering business which I was not expecting and that is awesome. There are other areas that I would like to develop more. We are relaunching our website and focusing more on our online retail.
Where do you find most of the retail items you sell at NKT?
I find items on travels, or even on instagram, and making relationships and networking with people here. Our aprons and indigo napkins are from Caroline Hurley who lives nearby in the West Village and comes here. The retail brings in the element of style and merchandizing that I would miss if it wasn't here.
What are the signature dishes at NKT?
We are known for the harissa chicken and the kale salad. We are bringing in another chicken dish, so we may have two signature chicken dishes!
With the growing catering and event side of NKT, what are your "go-to's" for setting the mood and displaying food?
Bright colors and visually impacting foods are essential. There is a reason that when you serve a buffet, people want to dive into the food when it is done properly and it is beautiful. Having different colors, cuts, and shapes, and certainly bringing in seasonal produce makes all the difference.
With fall right around the corner, what are some of your favorite recipes or foods that you are excited about?
The farro will come back. We have a mushroom, thyme, truffle farro that people go crazy for which we run through fall and winter. We have a really good fall kale salad that will be coming out. I am looking forward to pomegranate seeds, figs, and squash.
Do you have a favorite season cooking wise?
I always want to say summer, but now I am ready to move on to fall. I am excited for fall produce. There are aspects of all the seasons that I love. They all have great qualities.
Running a business in New York can be beyond stressful. How do you find time for yourself and relax?
I try and exercise a couple of times a week. I take classes at Equinox, dance classes, sometimes Bari, or I will run outside. I try and see friends throughout the week. Not sure yet - it has been a process of figuring it all out and how to balance it all out.
Where do you get your inspiration?
Everywhere - mostly travel. I get inspiration from farmers' markets, cookbooks, whether they are historical or newer ones, and magazines, looking at pictures, and seeing how different spice blends are used in different areas of the world.
Any favorite NYC restaurants?
What are your five kitchen essentials that you can not live without. Food items included?
A good chef's knife, microplane, mandolin, garlic, and spices. My favorite spices right now are aleppo pepper, Tasmanian peppercorn, and cumin.
A huge thank you to the wonderful Marissa Lippert for taking her time to talk with me. It was a pleasure to learn about her and NKT. Go check out Nourish Kitchen + Table if you have not yet or shop some of the beautiful artisan items online!