She’s known for strutting on the catwalk, staring down at us from billboards and travelling around the world to highlight humanitarian causes, so it came as somewhat of a surprise when we heard Jessica Kahawaty was spearheading Mama Rita - a food delivery venture that launches today.
And that’s where her mother, Rita, comes in. “Jessica doesn’t really know how to cook. She only eats! But she has great taste for food and everyone trusts her taste when it comes to ordering or tasting menus,” laughs the culinary queen of the family.
The 32-year-old influencer agrees that when it comes to kitchen prowess, her mum is in charge. Together they make a formidable twosome as Jessica is the authority when it comes to what she should include in the carefully curated menu. She tells Grazia that it was an intensely personal passion project for her. “I curated it myself based on all my favourite food that my mom cooks. Our family comes together around food and we are all so passionate about it."
What are the Lebanese-American influencer’s top picks from Rita’s repertoire? “How can I choose? The Moloukhiye, kale salad and pesto pasta! Can we also talk about The Fruit Paradise? It’s layers of avocado purée, fruit, mango purée and topped with soaked nuts.”
Rita – who often accompanies her daughter on her assignments around the world – has always had a knack in the kitchen. “I started cooking when I got married and never once have I burnt a dish or got it wrong.,” she tells us. “Some people have a flair for cooking as it’s like art – done from the heart and effortlessly.”
So what’s on the menu at Mama Rita? Wholesome, home-made plates that’ll leave your taste-buds tingling. Think signature Middle Eastern and continental dishes like beetroot hummus, quinoa salad, hearty beef stroganoff and the African-inspired peanut butter chicken.
The stunning matriarch insists everyone should sample her paprika chicken pasta. “It’s not a typical dish and it hails from Venezuela. It’s extremely unique for those wanting to go on an adventure as it’s unlike any other pasta sauce.”
The duo haven’t forgotten about dessert either. “We love sweets! However, my sweets are very balanced as I always reduce the amount of sugar used in any recipe and often try to use natural sweeteners. We also eat many times a day which people can’t believe sometimes. As soon as we finish lunch, we are thinking of our next snack!”
Rita, whose desert island ingredients would be pine nuts, pomegranate and avocado – her favourites – admits she has food heroes who have inspired her. “Chef Cyril Lignac. I’ve recreated a lot of his recipes. He inspires me a lot with his desserts and fun personality which is a must in the kitchen!” But when it comes to cookbooks she always returns to “My own. My late-mother Nahil taught me everything I know and I hand-wrote it all in a book that I cherish so much. I take it with me if I travel and write new recipes that I’m inspired by.”
Although she admits it’s going to cause a stir, Dubai-based UNICEF Ambassador Jessica feels this new direction is par for the course. “Everyone knows how much I love to eat and a lot of people who have been closely following my journey online have guessed that I’m venturing into food.”
She explains to Grazia: “It’s probably surprising because it’s not in fashion or philanthropy which I do most, but it’s not out of line as we are foodies in the family and are extremely passionate about eating! My mother has always been by my side throughout my career, often travelling with me and even shooting together for publications and brands. So, it’s time I stand by her and create a food brand dedicated to her life passion."
- Mama Rita is available to order now at mamarita.com