A real-life venture by the real-life Joy

Morgan Goldberg
Updated May 24, 2017
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Being portrayed by Jennifer Lawrence in an Academy Award-nominated film is a good sign that you’ve made it. For Joy Mangano, inventor of the Miracle Mop and countless other products, being able to open a restaurant is the personal sign of her long, successful career.

An HSN regular, Joy is a seasoned entrepreneur just beginning to explore her culinary ambitions at Jema, the Huntington, NY restaurant she recently launched with chef Franco Sampogna.

We chatted with Joy all about her inventing career and how it led her to the food industry:

How did you decide to enter the restaurant industry? 
My great-grandmother was an amazing cook. The first thing I ever learned with my great-grandmother was how to roll gnocchi off the fork in her apartment in Brooklyn. My grandmother and parents also had a restaurant for a short period of time, so I’ve always been a cook and wanted to have a restaurant. 

How has your experience with your inventions helped in opening a restaurant?
I’ve had a few food-related inventions. I invented the Piatto Bakery Box, a collapsible bakery box, because I was in the kitchen so much and I used to make pies and cupcakes for the kids at school. Every mom came with a shirt box with 24 cupcakes because the Tupperware cake holders couldn’t hold 24 cupcakes, and I thought there has to be a better way.  As time went on, I got very involved in a technology that was ceramic non-stick, so chef Todd English and I created the first ceramic non-stick pan in the world. It went crazy.

How did you settle on global flavors and local ingredients as the inspiration for your Jema menu? 
Chef Franco discovered things on Long Island that I never even knew were here and I’ve been here for 60 years! It’s been a journey to me to discover what we naturally have here in New York and on Long Island. Chef Franco found these cold pressed juices I would’ve never known about. We have farmers who are growing asparagus just for the restaurant.

Do you use any of your inventions at the restaurant? 
Oh my gosh. Are you kidding me? They mop with my mops! They use my buckets, steamers, hangers; Fragrance in the bathrooms; Shades Readers, too! Listen it’s so funny, I always say I could keep myself in business even in my house! Because I touch a point in everybody’s lives, it was easy to infiltrate here. I get the phone call, “we need to mop the floors, we need some mops!”
Are there any kitchen problems you think you could solve with an invention?
It’s an interesting thing. I am a control freak, but I absolutely know my limits and there is no way I step foot in the kitchen. There is nothing I can say on that note, but that I think it’s fascinating what chef does in the kitchen. I want to understand all the appliances he has because he does amazing things with the appliances that I’ve never heard of and I’ve been making appliances for chefs for a long time. When I do get to that stage, it might get a little scary.

Any front-of-house inventions?
We need umbrellas. They got them in a rush, but I do make a great umbrella. I just need to make it bigger and put the Jema insignia on it and we will be using my Single-Touch Umbrella out there.

Do you see more restaurants in your future? 
I can answer that very candidly: No. There is just so much depth and character to Jema and we’ve only just begun. It’s not the kind of thing to duplicate. Right now we are so immersed and so excited and in the discovery stage. It’s truly a labor of love. It’s a beautiful thing to be able to do that in life. I’ve had a long career and I’ve dealt with a lot of people and somebody said to me “tonight is going to be such a dream for you,” because it’s where I feel at home. I always secretly aspired to be the best, so I believe that we have something here that is so stand-out, something that will add to the communities around us. People can come to have an amazing experience, amazing food, amazing warmth, and they don’t have to go into the city to get that level of food. I’m just so proud of it.