Great Jones Founders Sierra Tishgart and Maddy Moelis Know Exactly What to Bring to a Cookout
It is wildly relieving to know that Great Jones co-founders Sierra Tishgart and Maddy Moelis are not professional chefs. They began their streamlined, aesthete-friendly cookware company because they, like most of us, wanted to be more confident in their cooking.
Still, they know a lot more about food (beyond eating it) than I do. I asked Maddy and Sierra about their cooking styles; about what I, a non-cook, should bring to a summer barbecue; whether or not you can make drinks in a pot — you can!; and, as professional chefs say in that terrifying, unhelpful way, “a handful” of other things.
Butter-up some homemade popcorn, read below, and enjoy.
Bonobos: How do you use cooking or food as a form of self-expression?
Tishgart: I am trying to give myself the freedom to be more spontaneous with my cooking. There’s obviously a lot of structure in following a recipe, but that can also create some stress: you have to make sure you have the perfect ingredients and measurements. I’ve gotten much more spontaneous. It has been very freeing.
Do you think that freedom comes from getting more comfortable with it?
Tishgart: Yes — not feeling like it has to be this perfect meal!
Moelis: Since we started Great Jones, we’ve had conversations around: do we need to become more sophisticated, “professional” home cooks? What does cooking now mean for us? The way that I’ve become more comfortable in the kitchen is [by] doing it with other people, cooking with my fiancé, my friends, or my mom. And not making it a whole to-do, but using it as a way to decompress and relax at the end of a long day. Even dicing or cutting something up, focusing my energy, is cathartic for me.
Cooking tells a story through food. What kinds of stories do you want to tell, whether through food, cookware, as founders? Your call.
Moelis: The way we’ve created something from nothing is an accomplishment that we probably don’t reflect on enough. One year ago, Great Jones pieces were just renderings on a computer screen, and now they’re in thousands of people’s homes across the country. How cool is that? What makes me extremely proud in all of this is building a team. [For some], it’s their first job. Each of the women on our team took a risk to join us at this early stage, so it’s extremely rewarding to see everyone’s hard work contribute to the growth of Great Jones.
Tishgart: We’re first time entrepreneurs. There is so much that we have figured out in a short amount of time, largely by asking questions and knowing what we don’t know. It hasn’t been without its challenges, but part of what makes us feel empowered is seeing so many successful female entrepreneurs, and seeing that we can help pave the way for even more.
Something that’s on our mind right now: how we can follow through on being the managers that we desired, or needed, as we started our careers. How can we create the company culture that we wanted to see in the world? And how can we make sure our relationship, as co-founders, is strong?
Moelis: It sounds so cliché, but learning to trust my own instincts, as well as Sierra’s and those of each new team member we bring on, has been critical to get to this point. Within our team of eight, everyone has their own work style and communication style. Each time we bring someone new onto the team, it’s been so important to communicate our broader goals and build a foundation of trust early on, so that each person feels empowered to do their job to the best of their ability.
Tishgart: This company is our child, but how can we stay involved in all the parts of business without micromanaging our team? How can we set them up for success — because that’s the only way that they’re going to then feel like this is theirs in any comparable way.
I’m really excited about Great Jones’s “Potline” texting feature (text 1-814-BISCUIT with a “what should I cook” question and someone from the Great Jones team will answer on Monday and Wednesday nights). Can we pretend like I’m texting the Potline now? Given that it’s summer, let’s pretend I’m invited to a rooftop barbecue thing. I’m not a great cook. What can I make to bring?
Tishgart: Making popcorn in our Dutch oven is a great party move. It’s festive, people grab it with their hands, everyone loves it, and it’s so much better when it’s fresh. We make it in the office all the time. We put turmeric on it, Japanese Furikake seasoning, or nutritional yeast. It becomes this fun centerpiece of a party, and all you have to bring is a bag of kernels.
If I was hosting a summer party, I would make food that’s as good cold as it is hot. Especially for the summer. I really like roasting a big chicken in our Dutch oven and then putting out a bunch of different sauces and dips and breads.
Moelis: On Potline, one of the recipes we recommended was simply grilling a baguette and putting ricotta and grilled vegetables on top. My fiancé read the Instagram post and he was like, “We have to do this.” That’s what you can bring!
Barbecue etiquette: Do you think that it’s better to be late and show up with the bread and ricotta and a bottle of wine, or is it better to be on time but empty-handed?
Tishgart: Late with things.
Moelis: Well, to the barbecue, late with stuff. To the meeting: on time!
If you were making a summer drink in one of your pans, what drink would you choose?
Tishgart: It would be a spritz.
Moelis: That’s a popular one these days. Margaritas. I would make a margarita.
Tishgart: If you’re having a party, put a punch in our Big Deal stockpot and get a ladle.
Moelis: It has lines with measurements. It makes it easy to make a drink.
Last question. Your pots and pans make such great gifts. What would you suggest I get for the cook who probably has everything already?
Tishgart: If it’s for a really avid cook who has a great collection, I would suggest our Deep Cut, which is our deep sauté [pan]. It’s a custom mold, and the decision to make that shape — it’s deeper than a skillet, but still great for frying — was based off conversations with serious chefs. For serious food people, even if they have a full, big fancy set, the shape just doesn’t really exist in the market, and it’s versatile.
If you want to make it even more memorable and distinguished, you can engrave the lid. That [idea] came from hearing about people passing down cookware between generations and being this really special thing that you could hold onto. Putting someone’s name or a date or even a cheeky message on it hopefully makes it even more valuable among all the other things they have.
Amelia Diamond is a writer and creative consultant. Follow her on Instagram, @amilli0naire.
Photos by Liam Goslett