New chef Daniel Esses transforms Hillel’s kitchen with Rimon

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Arianna Blatt | Contributing Photographer

Chef Daniel Esses opened Rimon at The Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life this month. The menu includes healthy, affordable, locally produced, Kosher food.

Rimon means “pomegranate” in Hebrew. In the Jewish tradition, a pomegranate symbolizes wisdom and knowledge. In keeping with Rabbi Hillel’s values of knowledge and wisdom, Chef Daniel Esses introduced a new restaurant, Rimon, to The Goldie and Morris Mintz Center for Jewish Life, more commonly referred to as Hillel.

Rimon, which opened this month, “serves delicious, seasonal, farm-to-table, healthy and Kosher food inspired by vegetarian, vegan, French, Korean, Jewish and Israeli cuisine,” according to its website.

With more than 20 years of experience in the food industry, Chef Esses started out at Natural Gourmet Cookery School in New York. He gained experience working as a chef in restaurants in Arizona, Seattle, Napa Valley, France and several restaurants in New Orleans, including Peristyle, Restaurant August, Café Degas, The Bank Café and Marigny Brasserie. In Paris, Esses worked at the Three Michelin-rated Le Grand Vefour.

Shortly after moving to New Orleans, Esses started a company to make and cater fresh pasta. With his business partners, he then opened Three Muses. Additionally, he served as CEO of the Dryades Public Market the year prior to creating Rimon.

Esses said he hopes to continually change and improve upon the restaurant at Hillel.

“I want to continue the quality that [Hillel] did [before Rimon] and build on it,” Esses said.  

Esses said he wants to implement faster service and a wide variety of grab-and-go items to pick up in between classes, such as sandwiches, salads and drinks, including homemade lemonades and teas.

“I interviewed a group of students before coming here, and that was the main thing–speed–and so understanding how the student’s day goes and understanding is what is really important,” Esses said.

After hearing opinions from students, Esses said he plans on giving students more for what they pay. 

“My goal, I’m hoping, is to maintain the prices where they are and do more volume to make up for the couple dollars less,” Esses said. “I just wanted to give a good value of food, not just a cheaper price.”

Sophomore Sarah Schlossberg said she loves that Hillel offers a variety of fresh local and healthy food that is more difficult to find on campus.

“I really like the atmosphere, so I’m excited for the opportunity to go there more often and try some new things,” Schlossberg said.

Rimon will start adding specials next week and fresh pasta soon. Esses’ favorite menu items are the Korean fried chicken wings, the lamb Shawarma sandwich and the Bubbie’s braised brisket. The new menu also includes more local food, including gulf fish and local greens.

Esses said he hopes to transform both the food and atmosphere at Hillel, making it a place students want to frequent.

“Good vibes and happiness,” Esses said. “That’s what Hillel’s mantra is, and we would like to continue that.”