The duo behind LA’s Kismet and Mad Capra talk about their veggie-forward food, and why they moved across the country to open their restaurants...without any funding.
For all the LA vibes emanating from Sarah Hymanson and Sara Kramer’s “deeply Californian” food, the pair might still be cooking in Brooklyn if it weren’t for one somewhat risky, seriously life-changing decision.
Their paths to the restaurant industry were decidedly different. Hymanson’s introduction to the kitchen was, in part, an exercise in independence: “I’ve always cooked at home when I was a kid and as soon as I could make choices about what I was eating, I did. I was a vegetarian from a very young age.”
For Kramer, food was important for a different reason. “I was a performer when I was young,” she says, “so I was always really concerned about the quality of food I was putting in my body and how that affected my performance.” Kramer undersells herself a little here: She was the star of Mamma Mía on Broadway.
But the chef-owners of Mad Capra—a falafel stand in DTLA’s Grand Central Market—and Kismet—an all-day restaurant in the central Los Feliz neighborhood—first met in Williamsburg near the beginning of their culinary careers. And it wasn’t friendship at first sight.
Says Food & Wine Restaurant Editor Jordana Rothman, Sarah and Sara “didn’t really like each other that much” when they were coworkers at neighborhood grocery Brooklyn Kitchen. The collaborative spark ignited a few months after Kramer opened her first restaurant, Glasserie, in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint neighborhood. Hymanson came in to dine and scope out the scene: “I was like, ‘Oh, Sara Kramer opened up a place in Greenpoint?’” Jokes Kramer, “She was coming to size me up, to give me the once-over.”
The rest is history. Hymanson was inspired by Kramer’s Middle Eastern-influenced cooking, and Kramer was quick to take her on—“to have someone as smart and accomplished and dedicated as Sarah come and work for me was like a true dream prize.”
Fast forward to 2013, when the pair packed up their knives and moved to Los Angeles. Hymanson explains their leap of faith: “We were like, ‘In order to be successful, you should be bold. Right?’” Thinking back, Kramer laughs—“we decided it would be a good idea to announce to the press that we were moving to Los Angeles to open a falafel shop and a restaurant— without any funding, or location, or partners, or anything.”
Food & Wine Editor in Chief Nilou Motamed, for one, thinks they made the right decision: “There’s so much incredible food coming out of LA right now, and Sarah and Sara are certainly adding to the sizzle. With Kismet, they are reinventing how we think of Mediterranean food and Israeli food.” Moving to LA could have spelled disaster, but “we’re really glad they did.”
For more on our latest class of BNCs, check out the rest of the Food & Wine Best New Chefs 2017.