Family time growing up meant putting on a suit and eating at La Caravelle, the restaurant my parents ran in New York. It was one of those places that defined French cuisine for a lot of Americans: Dover sole, soufflé. And my parents loved to get my two brothers and me involved in the kitchen at home. Since my mom couldn't exactly hand a knife to a five-year-old, she would let me use the salad spinner. We had a pull-string model, and I'd always want to make that thing spin really fast and then stop it.
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The food at home was simple and rustic, and we ate the salad at the end of the meal--right before dessert. From time to time, my mom, who is Lebanese, would make fattoush, but usually it was just a classic French lettuce salad with mustard or balsamic vinaigrette. I learned then that the start of any successful salad is super-dry lettuce. This is so the dressing can stick to it.
As I got older, the spinner became a staple in my kitchen--and not just because I opened a salad restaurant. Especially if you're working with lettuces like romaine, it gets rid of moisture without bruising or crushing the leaves. (At Sweetgreen, we have these big, hand-cranked industrial ones.) And I always spin twice: Spin once, dump the water, then spin a second time to get it extra dry.
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The salad spinner hasn't been innovated on much over the years, but I think that speaks to its pure, utilitarian function--and to how well it works. Sure, you could always use a paper towel or a dishcloth to dry your lettuce, but this is a lot more fun--and effective.
Nicolas Jammet co-founded Sweetgreen with his friends Nathaniel Ru and Jonathan Neman in 2007.