My parents ran lauded NYC restaurant La Caravelle in the old-school mom-and-pop tradition: being there every day, greeting every customer. I don’t think one guest ever walked in without being spoken to by either my dad or my mom. During the week, even when we were five or six, if we wanted to see them, we’d put our little suits on and go eat at the restaurant.
This was how I came to understand entrepreneurship: building something and owning something and putting everything into your business. My parents were a great example of that.
The restaurant was fine French food—very classic. The pike quenelle was probably my favorite dish. It’s hard to find these days because it’s so old-school. There was also this dish made in the White House called Maison Blanche, which means “White House Chicken,” that they kept on the menu at La Caravelle. When [The Kennedys] took the White House, the chef from my parents’ restaurant actually went and trained their official chef. And I have such fond memories of the Grand Marnier soufflé.
Even though you could see La Caravelle and Sweetgreen as serving very different types of food, there’s one clear connection: a reverence for real food, and a respect for the ingredients and process behind a dish. There might be lots of butter in French cuisine, but there’s this real respect around exactly what butter they’re using, where it came from, and how it was churned.
When we started Sweetgreen, we didn’t see a lot that reverence for food in the fast-casual space. We wanted to bring that respect for ingredients to vegetables and make that food just as craveable—but without all the butter.