Nilou Motamed Brings Her Own Salt to Restaurants—And Thinks You Should Too

“How depressing is it when they give you those shakers of iodized salt?”

Food Network personality Nilou Motamed loves hot sauce so much it almost caused her great bodily harm. 

“I can’t believe I’m admitting this, but the first apartment that my husband and I lived in together had this old fridge, and the door broke off because I had so many hot sauces in the door,” the Chopped and Top Chef judge tells me over the phone. “It not only broke off, but it broke off on me. Imagine the scene from The Wizard of Oz where the house was on the witch, but it was like the fridge door filled with hot sauces.” 

Thankfully, Motamed was not injured (unless you count her pride), and the incident did not deter her from stocking up on the greatest spices, condiments, and, well, everything the food world has to offer. It’s this passion for curating, in fact, that led to her partnership with Foxtrot, a cult-favorite corner market in Chicago, Washington, D.C., and Dallas that recently launched a national shipping platform. 

“I’m always on the hunt for deliciousness,” the former Food & Wine editor-in-chief says as she tells me more about her curated gift boxes for Foxtrot Anywhere. The collections range from $60 to $100 and include her favorite finds from woman-owned pantry items to the ultimate gifts for hosts. “I’m hoping that each of these boxes that comes in the mail for folks—whether they get it for themselves or for friends who are curious food people—will enable them to really travel without traveling, and feel like they’ve had an experience without having to spend too much money.”

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Obviously, Motamed couldn’t help but include hot sauce in her box of go-to products. She delves into her favorite picks from Nilou’s Must-Haves, her best food travel hack, and more in Glamour’s latest installment of How I Eat at Home.  

Glamour: So, now that we’ve established you’re obsessed with hot sauce, what’s your favorite?

Nilou Motamed: That’s like asking somebody about their baby…. A new favorite that I was actually turned on to by the Foxtrot team is Shaquanda’s Hot Pepper Sauce. The packaging is super cool, really edgy. The person who makes it is a drag queen based in Bushwick [in Brooklyn], and they’re of Barbados descent. I spent a lot of time in Barbados; I used to actually host a rum and food festival there. Also, Pickapeppa Sauce is a really great condiment. That’s one of the things that was in the fridge door that fell on me.

Shaquanda’s Hot Pepper Sauce

$15AmazonBuy Now

You’ve spoken a lot about keeping restaurants alive amid the pandemic. Do you have a favorite takeout spot?

We get takeout from F+F Pizza. It’s the pizza restaurant that’s connected to Frankie’s 457 [in Brooklyn]. Actually, their olive oil is in one of the boxes. It’s pretty fancy and pretty artisanal, but it’s an old-school New York pie, but plussed up in a big way.

What four items are always in your pantry?

I always have olive oil, I always have sea salt—like, flaky sea salt. I always have chocolate—chocolate is important—and then something hot. I like sauces that I can then use as a base for food. So for example, the NY Shuk Signature Harissa that is in the box. It’s got so much sexy depth of flavor that you can build a sauce from that very easily and quickly.

What podcast are you listening to right now?

We’re a little bit hooked on true crime these days. S-Town was really compelling. [Reading:] “John despises his Alabama talent and decides to do something about it. He asks a reporter to investigate the son of a wealthy family who’s allegedly bragging that he got away with murder.”

Do you have a food-related travel hack?

When we travel, even if we go on a weekend away to an Airbnb, I have to bring my own vinegar. I’m not kidding around. And my own olive oil and my own salt. Jacobsen’s Sea Salt comes in a little carry tin, and I always have one in my purse. How depressing is it when [restaurants] give you those shakers of iodized salt? I don’t want that on my food, so I pull my own salt out of my bag and feel very indulged.

What’s an impulse buy you can’t help but reach for at the market?

I guess I already mentioned chocolate. If I see sexy-looking dark chocolate, I kind of can’t resist that.

Nilou’s Must-Haves

$100FoxtrotBuy Now

What kitchen tool gets the most use in your kitchen?

If I’m going to pick one thing, I would say the Microplane zester. You can use it for everything, and I love it. You can use it for chocolate, you can use it for cheese, you can use it for zesting limes and lemons. We use it for garlic when I’m making a garlicky vinaigrette. It makes everything into a game, like, “Let’s Microplane that!” A lot of Italian chefs are not into using a zester for cheese; they feel like that’s like sacrilege. But when I’m at home I can do whatever I want. 

It is funny to take all the input after 20-plus years of being in the food space and then you end up gravitating toward simple, delicious stuff—a great olive oil, the perfect sea salt. Having my Microplane zester, a good glass of orange wine, and I’m basically happy.

I keep hearing about orange wine!

Orange wine is wine that is left on the skin, so it looks all different colors. The flavor profile, I always say, is somewhere between kombucha and—it’s not gonna sound good—Band-Aids.


I know it doesn’t make any sense, but it’s natural wine, so it’s, like, a little bit yeasty; it’s a little fermenty, a little funky, a little barnyard. But what’s interesting about it is it feels so alive, and every bottle is different, so it’s a joy of discovery. Maybe natural wine and orange wine is a great metaphor for this whole collaboration. Foxtrot is all about discovery, and I’m all about curating that discovery and fundamentally giving people joy.

Emily Tannenbaum is an entertainment editor, critic, and screenwriter living in L.A. Follow her on Twitter. 

This story originally appeared on: Glamour - Author:Condé Nast

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