Tell us a little about where you grew up and how you got into food and cooking.
מסעדה (Mis’ada) in Hebrew means restaurant and the root of the word means seudah. Seudah means bringing people to the table to spend quality time together. I grew up in Israel in a small town next to Tel’Aviv called Ranana which means “fresh”. Growing up, I used to eat a lot of street food outside and I used to eat with my friends in their house. It was such a small community that we could just experience everything the Jews have to offer. They all brought different flavors from their home. My family is from Latvia, I also grew up with my grandmother and she used to be a great baker. I think my grandmother is my biggest inspiration; she used to cook for us, especially on Fridays and Saturdays which are usually the big dinners in Israel.
What brought you to open Miss Ada?
To be a chef, especially in New York, you have to be dedicated to what you do and you have to be very concentrated and opening a restaurant, you get to create more of your style. This is one of the best food neighborhoods that I know; I used to live here a long time ago and it’s really changing and has come a long way. I think this neighborhood is really great for what we do here. The farmer’s market is about 3 minutes away, and all the locals can experience this great produce and food already in the area. Many of our regulars know good food and wine and want to have a great meal but don’t necessarily want to go to Midtown to these really expensive restaurants, they want to experience something new and something fresh and I think that’s what we provide to them here at Miss Ada.
What do you find appealing about the design of Japanese dinnerware; what makes it mesh well with your Mediterranean dishes? Also, when you’re creating a new dish do you try to match the food to the dish or the dish to the food?
I think the dishes we make over here look really nice on Japanese plates. It compliments what we’re doing here and makes them nicer than just putting it on a white plate. Sometimes my cooks will ask me “chef, what plate should I put this on?” and I tell them to just be creative: if this dish works for you, what you have in your mind, you can plate it there. And as much as they’re nice looking, they’re also very sturdy which makes it functional as well since they can stand up to a restaurant environment.
Food is becoming increasingly globalized in our modern economy. Ingredients, ideas, techniques, all being shared more rapidly and extensively than ever. What would you consider the heart of your cooking? Is there a point at which you feel adopting new ingredients/techniques affects the core identity of your food?
We’re getting good ingredients coming in from the farmer’s market. Even things I wasn’t seeing 5 years ago are growing and rapidly coming into kitchens and especially things people don’t really have in their house; new flavors, new experiences for them. If you know the core of cooking, you can bring these all together in modern cuisine and it works beautifully.
Do you have any future projects you can tell us about publicly?
At the end of the month, we’ll be opening a new location called Little Ada at the new Time Out Market in Brooklyn. Little Ada is mainly going to be hummus bowls and some specials with very fresh ingredients. We’re excited for you to see it.