Jess Damuck

The Salad Freak author on cooking for Martha Stewart, smoking with Snoop Dogg, and growing up on Shelter Island.


When people are like, “Oh, you’re not a chef, you’ve never worked in a restaurant,” I’m like, “Dude, I cooked for Martha Stewart for over 10 years. That’s the most difficult customer you’re ever going to get.” I feel like if I can impress her, I’m pretty confident.

I always loved cooking. It was something I enjoyed doing for fun even as a middle schooler. My dad would let me have dinner parties when my mom was at work, and just make a huge mess. I’ve also always been obsessed with Martha Stewart. I think at a very early age, I identified her as someone who had a lot of the qualities I wanted. I love the idea of entertaining and making things look beautiful. But then I put that to the back of my mind because it didn’t really seem like a career. Instead, I wanted to be an orthopedic surgeon.

So I did that whole thing. I was working at the Hospital for Special Surgery in New York and studying for my MCATS. I loved interacting with patients and a lot of the academic parts of it. And I liked working with my hands, but I didn’t like having to go to the same place every day and being in a room with no windows for many, many hours.


I don't think they were expecting me to turn down scholarships for medical training to go to culinary school.



I basically spent a huge chunk of my early life hanging out with old rich ladies while my dad was cleaning up their lawn.



To me, weed is part of creating the whole vibe and experience of a dinner.