Amanda Hesser is co-founder and CEO of Food52, and author of a number of cookbooks including The Essential New York Times Cookbook, The Cook and the Gardener, and, most recently, A New Way to Dinner. She currently lives in Brooklyn (not the cool part) with her husband and nine-year-old twins.
What is your morning routine?
Because I sleep through any alarm, my husband, Tad, kindly wakes me up. That’s usually around 6:45am. I’m glacially slow to wake so I can’t just hop out of bed.
After I finally open my eyes, which takes 5-10 minutes (my eyelids feel so heavy!), I like to read the news on my phone to get my brain engaged. I’ve become addicted to “Mike’s Top 10”, one of Axios’ newsletters. Once I manage to slide myself out of bed (which is usually when I hear Tad’s footfalls coming toward our room to check on me), I drink a large glass of water. This wakes up my senses. I’ve also convinced myself that it washes away any impurities from sleep.
Tad makes our ten-year-old twins breakfast and reads aloud to them while they eat; I’m usually ambling into the kitchen at about this time. I make our kids’ lunches and listen to whatever story is in progress; right now it’s Lord of the Rings.
Once their lunches are packed, I spend 5-10 minutes doing yoga and then take a very hot shower. The last fifteen minutes of getting ready usually involve me running late and scrambling out the door with kids in tow and bags and sunglasses not quite on.
How long have you stuck with this routine so far?
Around five years (getting up at the same time and keeping this general order), though it was around three years ago that I started going to bed earlier.
What time do you go to sleep?
I used to be such a night owl and wouldn’t become productive until about 11:00pm, after which I would happily work until 2:00am. That made for some very rough mornings and mid-afternoon productivity dips.
About three years ago this changed suddenly and drastically. I found myself much less resilient without a good night’s sleep and I simply got tired earlier. At first I thought I was dying, of course, but over time I’ve come to appreciate my new internal clock. It’s actually forced me into a much healthier sleep pattern. Now I’m in bed by 10-10:30pm and asleep by 11:00.
Do you do anything before going to bed to make your morning easier?
Tad makes fun of me for this, but old habits die hard - when I was young I started picking out my outfits the night before school, and I still do this! I lay out everything from my underwear to my jewelry. I also pack my backpack and purse. This ritual gives me a sense of tranquility before bedtime.
I also make sure the kitchen is tidy and ready for the next day. To me, nothing is more depressing than coming into a messy kitchen in the morning.
Do you use an alarm to wake you up in the morning, and if so do you ever hit the snooze button?
If left to my own devices, I will either never hear the alarm or will hit the snooze button for at least an hour. When I was single and lived alone this was a problem.
How soon after waking up do you have breakfast, and what do you typically have?
This changes depending on what my schedule looks like. If I’m going directly to the office, I pick up a croissant and decaf coffee with soy milk at Seven Grams. Let’s not discuss the decaf or the soy milk; both depress me but are necessary.
I much prefer breakfast meetings to lunch meetings, so when I meet someone for breakfast I order - rather boringly - two poached eggs, toast with butter, orange juice, and coffee. I like blunt, wholesome foods in the morning. Lunch and dinner are for whimsy.
Do you have a morning workout routine?
Before showering, I spend 5-10 minutes doing a yoga stretch routine that Tad made up based on a bunch of yoga videos we use. When I first started doing this, I could barely touch my toes; now I can sit on the ground and put my head to my knee (which, if you can’t already tell, I’m unreasonably proud of because I’ve never been very limber). This little stretch routine has become an invaluable part of preparing myself for the day.
Do you have a morning meditation routine, and if so what kind of meditation do you practice?
When I have time, I meditate using Headspace. I know it’s sort of cheating, but I do it while lying in bed, which I find both meditative and relaxing. I always sleep well when I carve out the time to do this.
When I have less time or feel anxious, I use the app Unblock Me, which is a block puzzle game. I like that it involves visual problem solving. I do puzzles until I’ve completed one in a seamless fashion. Once that happens, I take a quit-while-you’re-ahead approach and turn it off so I can go to sleep feeling good about something I’ve done.
Do you answer email first thing in the morning or leave it until later in the day?
I don’t answer email first thing, but I usually check it while I’m making the kids’ lunch - I want to see if there are any fires to put out or cancellations that may affect my schedule. Then I save the rest for the subway.
Do you use any apps or products to enhance your sleep or morning routine?
When I get ready for bed, I dab Naturopathica’s Chill Aromatic Alchemy essential oils on my neck. I’m the last person to buy into aromatherapy and yet, the older I get, the more I value a great scented candle (which I sometimes light after work), perfume (I’m a Jo Malone junkie), and, yes, even essential oils.
Lying in bed nestled among a blanket of natural scents helps me feel relaxed.
How soon do you check your phone in the morning?
Right after I wake up, but I’m pretty good about only reading the news first.
Do you also follow this routine on weekends, or do you change some steps?
Since our kids were about six, they’ve very nicely let us sleep in on weekends. We don’t get up super late, but it’s great to be able to sleep until 9:30am. Every Saturday, Tad makes scrambled eggs and toast for breakfast. On Sundays, we might get bagels or pastries.
On days you’re not settled in your home, are you able to adapt your routine to fit in with a different environment?
Yes, I do my stretches and drink my water wherever I go. I like that my routine is simple enough that I don’t have to pack anything extra or need anything but a little floor space.
What do you do if you fail to follow your morning routine, and how does this influence the rest of your day?
I’m like a cranky toddler without it.
Photo of Amanda by James Ransom/Food52.
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