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The four “F”s — family, friends, food, and fashion. I talked a lot about these defining areas in our lives as I cooked with Maya Jankelowitz of N.Y.C.-based Mediterranean bistro Jack’s Wife Freda and Winnie Beattie of boutique and brand Warm. We got together in Winnie’s beautifully ecclectic home to celebrate the launch of Maya’s cookbook for Jack’s Wife Freda, a book I’m thrilled about, as it reveals the beloved café’s most popular recipes and its history. As the three of us chopped, tossed and composed three of our favorite JWF dishes, we shared many “me too” moments, as Maya puts it.
Meaning the, “Oh shit, I forgot to register my child for baseball.”
“ME TOO!”
Or the, “Life is so hectic that I barely see my friends anymore.”
“ME TOO!”
Or how about, “I really did plan to cook dinner at home at least once this week.”
“ME TOO!”
Or, “Oh me, oh my, I just need to order those swoony new Prada shoes.”
“ME TOO!”

But really, the biggest “me too” was in revealing that we all really do not know how we manage the mayhem of life – the “I feel like a fraud at times,” the “oh goodness, I am just making it up as I go,” or the, “I feel like in trying to balance the family, work, self-care trifecta, I seem to always be failing at one of them.” ME TOO! But you know what, each of us just do it. We keep on striding ahead, putting one foot in front of the other and doing our absolute best, day by day.

The takeaway here is that we need to share. And while this day came together to celebrate the JWF cookbook, what became clear is that we all crave connectivity, community and the reminder that we are a part of a great pack of women who voice our truths, our insecurities, and our successes. We are certainly not alone in however we feel on any given day.

I love these two women insane amounts, (as they love each other – they met during Maya’s days working as a maître d’ at Balthazar!). I am constantly inspired by them. I met Maya by being a cult follower – JWF has locations in both the West Village and SoHo, and the latter locale is my go-to breakfast and lunch spot. The food at JWF is the type of food I want to eat every day – super flavorful, Mediterranean with a Middle Eastern flair, slightly unexpected in its flavor profiles, and always consistently delish. It’s a family-owned biz, owned by Maya and her husband Dean. And the atmosphere, without doubt in part due to Maya and Dean’s warmth, makes you feel as those you are part of a greater community, even within the hustle and bustle. It is distinct, familial, and very much downtown N.Y.C.

Winnie is one of my nearest and dearest friends, my Amagansett neighbor, and our boys have the exact same interests — skating, snowboarding, and surfing. We also have a shared love of travel and often vacation together, often to somewhere warm. Indeed, “warm” has become Winnie and Rob’s mantra and is the namesake for their store and clothing line. Winnie is straight-up one of the smartest, most soulful, compassionate, giving, and creative women I know. She seems to have found some hidden hours in the day that only she has unlocked. Three boys, three careers. One, she is a beauty PR powerhouse, two, she is the creator of Warm, the quintessential downtown cool girl’s boutique for everything from fashion to jewelry to art books to bikinis to tabletop. And three, in the past few years she has expanded her empire to include a celebrated fashion collection in collaboration with Tracy Feith. Winnie and I are both wearing looks from the collection.

Maya, Winnie and I carved out two hours to be together, reflect, allow our guards to drop and share and receive so many “me too”s. In doing so we all quietly knew we need each other in order to know ourselves. Maya shared this oh-so-wise statement: “We find ourselves wearing so many different hats and juggling so many aspects in our lives that I learnt that the truth is that there is no separation. Work life, social life, home life. There is only one life. And being surrounded with like-minded people you can just always be who you are, not just one of your roles…We are all in a similar boat and that is a source of strength that keeps me going in life, as we are all just trying to figure it out.” Amen, ladies.

Q&A

  • Maya Jankelowitz

    • What is the core value represented in the food at Jack’s Wife Freda? 

      Family, love, community, home.  

      What inspired you and Dean to open Jack’s Wife Freda? 

      Everything! The world around us, secret ambitions, wanting to create and grow, giving back, sharing, hearts wide open. 

      What do you think are the keys to the two restaurants’ success? 

      Team work, hospitality, energy, staff, music, and consistency. If the food is good then that’s a bonus! 

      Tell us about the vibe of Jack’s Wife Freda. How do want people to feel here? 

      We want all people to feel as they are! Staff and guests alike. No expectations, but rather a place that people feel that they can just be. Any time of day and occasion. Come alone, come on a date, come with your family – and just be yourself. 

      What were the most important lessons you learned while working at Balthazar? 

      To always be decent, and to be the calm within the storm. Be light and loose, no matter how trendy the place you are standing at is. 

      What inspired you create your upcoming cookbook? Can you speak about the process? 

      We always wanted to do something like the cookbook, and we were definitely dreaming of it. But once we were approached by Sarah Hochman at Blue Rider Press, she really made us understand what it is to put a cookbook together, and with the team of people around us we had a great 18 months developing the book. It was a great creative outlet and one of the first moments since we opened the first restaurant 5.5 years ago, that we could take a pause and reflect, see what we have created, and step outside the frame to see the picture. 

      If there were one thing you’d want your cookbook readers to come away with, what would it be? 

      To believe. To dream and to be happy cooking.

      You have incredible, adventurous personal style. How would you describe your aesthetic? 

      Freestyle? Comfort, color, patterns, mood. I love to wear anything that inspires me.  

      Think fast…food or fashion? 

      I can’t do it!

      How has your style evolved over the years? 

      I guess slowly maturing… still growing up. 

      We talked a lot about the balance of work and mommying and the value of sharing our truth and our struggles. Can you share a bit about the importance of the “me too”? 

      Yes, we need each other to know ourselves, and to mirror back the greatest of truths. We find ourselves wearing so many different hats and juggling so many aspects in our lives, that I learnt that the truth is that there is no separation. Work life, social life, home life. There is only one life. And being surrounded with like-minded people you can just always be who you are, not just one of your roles.  

      When we got together to make our cookbook lunch (Winnie, you and myself) I felt just at home, guard down, and you realize there are so many “me too” moments to share and receive. We are all in a similar boat and that is a source of strength that keeps me going in life, as we all just trying to figure it out. Those moments are very heart warming and what keep me going.   

      Your favorite dish at Jack’s Wife Freda? Most popular? 

      Any breakfast dish (my favorite meal, hence breakfast served ’til 5 p.m. every day). The Green Shakshuka, the Rosewater Waffles, the Mediterranean Breakfast, Poached Eggs with Haloumi – all delicious. And Peri Peri Chicken for dinner! 

      Classic NYC restaurant that makes you swoon? 

      Raoul’s, Blue Ribbon Sushi.

  • Winnie Beattie

    • Clearly you have an amazing sense of style — you curate the perfect mix of chic and cool. When did your love of clothing and fashion start?

      Aww, thank you! I was a huge tomboy growing up as far as playing sports with the boys, and into college I always loved surfers and skater boys. I think my sense of relaxed, or as you so kindly say, “cool,” was influenced by them. And living between the Midwest and Hawaii, where fashion was not highly valued, I always had my nose in magazines looking at what everyone in the big cities was wearing.

      What was the initial spark that led to Warm? Can you talk about the name and its inception?  

      When I married Rob, my husband, we joined a mutual love of travel, beach life, and earthiness. We always would say, “Where warm should we go next?” and would not leave a trip until we had decided where our next one would be. “Go where it’s warm” kind of became the mantra…

      Did you always know you wanted to design a collection?

      I went to art school and studied design, but then my career led me to other areas in fashion and beauty, but secretly, yes, I was always longing to create.

      Can you talk about your creative process and how you work with Tracy?

      Since he lives in L.A. and I am in N.Y.C., it is a very visual relationship with many texts and FaceTimes…we, too, have a shared sense of beauty, style and what is cool, so we are very much on the same page. Our mood boards at the beginning of every season almost always have many of the same images. He is definitely the draper, illustrator, and sewer, and true artist…I kind of work in the creative direction, styling, and vibe. I also have the perspective of being a buyer, so I have the added value of hearing what women want — and do not want — all day long.

      How would you describe the Warm aesthetic and lifestyle?

      There is very much an ease and effortlessness to our kind of girl. She is certainly chic, but very relaxed and cool. We want her to be comfortable and look chic but not overdone. We want our clothes to be lived in, traveled in, loved in, and worn often. There is not a preciousness to them, although they are all made with the finest fabrics and very special small batch-sewers in L.A. We love a girl who is perfectly imperfect, a bit messy, even. She can be wearing $2,000 shoes but maybe she did not wash her hair, and her toenails are chipped from surfing…

      What was the career and life genesis that led you to where you are today?

      I worked for some great designers 20 years ago, none more awesome than Tracy himself. Being in those entrepreneurial environments, but where art and style and craftsmanship were valued, led me to wanting to do my own thing. I also love special, hard-to-find stores with precious, well-thought-out selections.  Rob and I are lucky enough to travel often and thought perhaps we had found a cool thing or two along the way and decided to showcase those treasures in our store.

      Who is the quintessential Warm girl?

      Anyone who loves to get into some mischief while wearing a brightly-colored dress…we love really natural, not-too-fussy types who are really unfussy about their style but still have an incredible sense of one.

      Favorite pieces of clothing you own, and why?

      Rob’s vintage Clash t-shirt because it is soft and tattered and I always think of him happy and surfed-out with a beer in his hand when he is wearing it.

      My Warm Latitude Dress — a big, long, soft cotton dress that I wear over a wet bikini but also with heels in the city.

      My Supreme slides, which are usually worn with the fanciest of dresses.

      Tell us the story of how you and Maya met.

      Maya used to be the front face at Balthazar, where Rob and I ate often early in our courtship. We live nearby. She always found us a table and took great care of us. So much so that when we got hitched we rented out Balthazar and had a massive dinner party.  She and I always saw each other in the neighborhood and when she went out on her own we became very regulars at JWF. Not just to support Maya, which of course we wanted to do, but the food and vibe and happiness of it…perfect!

      How would you describe Maya?

      Beautiful and fierce. She is so quiet in her confidence. I love watching her stay calm when there are hundreds of people lined up for brunch at JWF. She smiles, brings drinks to everyone, and makes sure everyone feels taken care of and tended to. She is a real earth mama that way. She also has a wicked sense of humor, which I value greatly in a pal. And her sense of style is its own force of nature. She mixes things and puts things together like few others. She has fun with fashion and is experimental, which is why she is one of my muses.

      What was your takeaway from our day in the kitchen together, talking fashion and mummying?

      What fun that was! We are all hard working, super busy women. It is not easy running businesses, being moms, being wives…taking care of everyone and trying to find a little for ourselves as well. I think we all felt some reassurance that we feel overwhelmed by it, but I think the three of us really have a sense of humor about it all, which makes it totally manageable. I mean, my kids came home halfway through the shoot and in five minutes almost broke our chandelier, fell off of the stool, made a mess, and asked for food…but we all laughed and it somehow got even more fun in a different way once they were there, too.

      Your favorite dish at Jack’s Wife Freda?

      Breakfast: Rosewater Waffle. Lunch: Greek Salad. Dinner: Grilled Haloumi and Chicken Prego.

      What does a Sunday meal look like in your family?

      With three boys….loud and with tons of food.  Sunday dinners are beautiful chaos.

      What’s next for Warm?

      We are expanding our collection, launching new categories, and will be launching our e-commerce soon!

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