LA’s Kismet co-owners on global inspirations for their recipes

Written by Amy Ta, produced by Bennett Purser

This lunch spread is based on recipes from “Kismet.” Photo by Chris Bernabeo.

Chefs Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson came to LA from Brooklyn in 2015 and opened a small cafe in Grand Central Market, then two years later launched Kismet in Los Feliz, serving items like Persian crispy rice, fried cauliflower, and artichoke hearts with butter beans and tarragon. Then in January 2020, they opened a spot specializing in rotisserie chicken because they wanted to focus on takeout. Well, talk about kismet — because a few months later, the COVID-19 pandemic made customers switch from dining in to ordering to-go. Kramer and Hymanson now have three Kismet Rotisserie locations in Southern California — plus a new cookbook of family recipes and favorites from their Kismet empire. 

Squid with grilled broccoli is featured in “Kismet.” Photo by Chris Bernabeo. 

Kramer says their food has Mediterranean, Middle Eastern, and Californian influences. She draws much of her cooking ideas from her mom, who is South American, Middle Eastern, North African, and Spanish. 

“She has a very broad sense of flavor. And her cabinets are very, very full of things that were always quite mysterious to me, but that I learned more and more about over time, I was very lucky to have a very delicious childhood. I think it still the major touch point for my family — that we can all agree on good food,” Kramer says.  

Meanwhile, Hymanson — with an Eastern European and Jewish American background and downtown Chicago upbringing — says she personally draws inspiration from Vietnamese, Chinese, Indian, and Cambodian cuisines. 

Chicken schnitzel with giardiniera is featured in “Kismet.” Photo by Chris Bernabeo. 

No matter what dish you’re cooking, “the devil really is in the details,” emphasizes Kramer. 

“You can make anything that's easy — [turn out] great. Or you can make anything that's easy — terrible. So we would just recommend that even if you think it's easy, put a little extra attention into it,” Kramer advises. 

One section of the book is devoted to tahini, which Kramer says is a super versatile sauce. “A lot of people failed to make the distinction between tahini paste and tahini sauce, and they are very different things. … When you combine tahini paste with water, lemon juice, garlic, salt … it turns into a very delicious, very luscious, good-on-everything sauce.” 

Some items that she pairs tahini sauce with are syrupy, candied kumquat; Calabrian chili with olives; chocolate chip cookies; milk chocolate tart. 

Tahini with green olives is part of the “Kismet” cookbook. Photo by Chris Bernabeo.

Sara Kramer and Sarah Hymanson are co-authors of “Kismet.” Photos by Chris Bernabeo. Courtesy of Penguin Random House.