Like everyone else, Sierra Tishgart OPC ’08, the cofounder of Great Jones, an online cookware company, is weathering the COVID-19 lockdown as best she can. It’s rough, trying to run a fledgling online business remotely. On the other hand, if Tishgart is stuck at home, so are her customers. With time on their hands and restaurants closed, people might be ready to try whipping up something themselves. Great Jones is there to help.
“We’re in the business of home cooking, which is a good business to be in right now,” she said philosophically. “Our goal is to get people cooking more frequently and more confidently.”
Great Jones offers a range of kitchen essentials, including a Dutch oven, stockpot, saucepan, a deep sauté pan, large and small skillets, and a baking sheet. Although the inventory is simple, the design and style are sophisticated. Every detail has been thoroughly researched. Pot handles, for example, are welded on, so there are no rivets for food to get caught in, and they have been subjected to infrared thermography tests to make sure that heat dissipates properly. And with a retro nod, products come in a range of colors that would not have been out of place in your mother’s ’70s kitchen, including mustard yellow, marinara red and broccoli green.
The company’s name, Great Jones, is an homage to cookbook author and editor Judith Jones, who in turn discovered several other great cookbook authors, including Julia Child, James Beard and Edna Lewis. (It’s also the name of the street in Lower Manhattan where they are headquartered.) In order to get customers cooking more comfortably, the Great Jones website also includes favorite recipes from current top chefs Alison Roman, Roxane Gay and Andy Baraghani. It even offers a free text message service (called “Potline”) for recipe suggestions and real-time cooking advice.
Tishgart inherited her cooking gene from both parents. “I definitely grew up in a family that valued cooking and gathering around a table,” she said. Her mother made a family breakfast every morning, “no matter what.” Her father built his own pizza oven.
The multitasking life of an entrepreneur came naturally to Tishgart. At PC, she was the head of student government, captain of the girls track team, and also wrote her first op-ed for the Philadelphia Inquirer on the perils of drunk driving. “The PC English teachers took me seriously,” she recalled. “They respected my writing and encouraged me to pursue getting published at a young age.” For her Senior Comprehensive Project, Tishgart worked for Barack Obama’s campaign during the 2008 Pennsylvania primary and, though still a high school student, helped lead their college outreach program.
She majored in journalism at Northwestern University and, while still in college, got a side job as a features editor at Teen Vogue. After graduation, Tishgart decided she wanted to become a food editor, cold-emailed New York Magazine and got a job. Working there for the next five years, she became senior editor of the magazine’s food and restaurant blog, Grub Street, won a James Beard Award, and even hosted a regular segment interviewing chefs on CBS This Morning.
During her magazine career, Tishgart authored articles on many subjects, with titles ranging from “How Big-Name New York Chefs Found a New Platform for Success in Philly" to “The Chef Who Lost His Ability to Cook." But an article she wrote for Bon Appetit last March sums up her career arc: “I Left My Dream Job to Make Pots and Pans. What Was I Even Thinking?”
Tishgart made the jump with Maddy Moelis, an old friend from summer camp who had a background working with startups. The pair spent nine months building their inventory and website, raising more than $3 million in funding from investors, including restaurateur David Chang and Nic Jammet, founder of Sweetgreen. She also landed a spot on Forbes magazine’s “30 Under 30” list.
Running a business, does Tishgart have time to do any cooking herself?
“I cook so much more since starting the company,” she said, “but in an extremely casual way.” The popularity of cooking shows such as The Great British Bake Off and celebrity TV chefs, from Gordon Ramsay to Guy Fieri, have made cooking seem fun but also intimidating. Tishgart says not to worry.
“I think people feel they’re not cooking unless they’re roasting this whole lamb shoulder,” she laughed. “My cooking often looks like me making an omelet in my pajamas. I cook often. It’s just not show-off cooking. But any cooking is better than none.”