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Peter Ash Lee
Peter Ash Lee
Senior Fashion Writer
Like many of the recipes that now appear on their site, Danielle and Laura Kosann’s idea for launching their food-centric online destination The New Potato was completely organic. Two years ago, while driving back to Manhattan after spending the day at their parents’ house in Connecticut, the sisters were casually discussing some of their favorite websites. “At some point I remember Danielle saying, ‘You know, there’s nowhere to read about what Jessica Alba is having for breakfast,’ ” says Laura, 25, the younger of the siblings and the site’s editor in chief. “It’s true,” adds creative director Danielle, 27. “We’ve always liked sites like Into the Gloss and The Coveteur and the way they approached fashion and beauty. We wanted to create a platform like that—but for food,” she says.
The two immediately started planning, placing heavy focus on coming up with the right name. “We were into the idea of ‘the new something,’ as in ‘the new black.’ We tossed around a lot of words,” says Danielle. “We had The New Palate, but that sounded too foodie,” says Laura. “All of a sudden we were like, ‘New potatoes! Yes!’ We liked how it was a double meaning, both an ingredient and the food version of ‘the new black,’ plus it’s fun—and people remember it.”
The site’s bread and butter is candid interviews with chefs, actors, editors and a bevy of other tastemakers, along with their recipes. They landed their first subject with a bit of luck. On a plane ride to Miami in 2012, Laura struck up a conversation with her seatmate. “Turns out he was [renowned French chef] Alain Ducasse’s business partner,” she says. The New Potato debuted in the spring of 2012 featuring a conversation with the famous chef. “Launching with a big name helped open us up to so many other major figures,” says Laura. Soon the profiles expanded to include not only gustatory stars but also editors like Vanity Fair’s Graydon Carter and models like Hilary Rhoda. “We started with mainly restaurateurs, but now it’s become more about having an eclectic mix of actors, designers—all sorts of people who do cool things,” says Danielle.
The Kosanns continued to develop their roster of all-star subjects, profiling everyone from Kiernan Shipka (a proponent of avocado toast) to model Elettra Wiedemann (a self-proclaimed pasta monster). Yet the duo’s formula has always remained the same. They collaborate on every feature, with Danielle acting as photographer and Laura as writer and editor. And almost every interview kicks off with the same question: “From start to finish, what would be your ideal food day?”
“Food makes everybody comfortable,” says Laura. “It opens up the dialogue.” Adds Danielle, “The talk ends up being about so much more than a person’s diet or favorite lunch. It becomes a conversation about their work, style, health and family.”
In terms of the site’s aesthetic, the initial design began as simple and blog-like—but the sisters had bigger plans. “Our goal was always to emulate the style, travel and culinary magazines we grew up loving,” says Danielle, a former digital designer for brands including Scoop NYC, who hand-sketched early plans for a redesign. “We were raised around fashion,” adds Laura, referring to their jewelry designer mother, Monica Rich Kosann. “Being in that world definitely factored into our vision for The New Potato,” she says.
Around the site’s first birthday, they debuted a sleek new look. But the makeover was not without its trials. “It was a lot of going back and forth with our programmers and reformatting a ton of content. We holed up for three days before the relaunch,” recalls Danielle.
“We were glued to our computers, surrounded by gummy bears and Chinese food cartons. It was not glamorous,” says Laura. “When we finally went live, I remember turning to Laura and asking, ‘Um, when was the last time we showered?’ ” adds Danielle, laughing.
As for what’s next, the women have a few things cooking—including developing an app, possibly writing a book and nailing down interviews with their dream subjects. “Jenna Lyons and Lena Dunham are at the top of our list,” says Danielle. “We’ve had people tell us, ‘Oh, you’ll never get so-and-so,’ ” she says. “But there’s always an angle. As we say, everyone’s gotta eat.”