{You Pick Six} An Interview with Co-Founder of Ompractice: Sam Tackeff

Besides blogging, tweeting is my next favorite way to use social media. To me, Twitter feels like the pulse of the world.

It’s also a great way to interact with smart and interesting people – especially about food and politics. Recently I was tweeting with Sam Tackeff about baking cookies.

Then I took a closer look at her Twitter profile and noticed that yoga and food are two of her big interests. Just like mine! Check out her Instagram for some delicious looking meals!

Not only does Sam have a food blog called The Second Lunch, but she’s a co-founder of Ompractice, a platform for live interactive yoga and meditation where the teacher can see you.

Her company seems to solve a problem with online yoga classes. One of the major benefits of attending a class in person is that the instructor can give you feedback. From what I know, most online classes don’t have interaction between the teacher and student. So Ompractice is very different.

I haven’t tried the class yet, but Sam is offering us a free class to try. Just email her directly (sam@ompractice.com) and she’ll help you choose your first one! I definitely plan to try it. Hopefully very soon!

Until then, let’s learn a bit more about Sam and resume this ongoing interview series with the 22nd interview of You Pick Six.

* * *

How did food become an important part of your life?
It all starts with food, doesn’t it?

I consider myself so lucky to have been raised in a family deeply and passionately in love with food, hailing from many corners of the world. As a child, I grew up in New Hampshire, but spent many summers traveling to my mom’s side of the family in Istanbul, Turkey – one of the best food cities in the world.

My parents definitely prioritized food – we traveled and ate in so many amazing places, and it wasn’t unusual for us to hop in the car and drive four hours into New York for a Zabar’s run, or up to Montreal for a platter of smoked meat at Schwartz’s. So many of my childhood memories are sitting around a table with family, eating something delicious.

I’m also lucky to have parents who are great cooks, who always let us into the kitchen, and gave us jobs to do. There was always a real variety of cuisines even on weeknights. My mom cooks traditional Turkish dishes, lots of seafood. My dad cooks Ashkenazi Jewish food that he grew up with, traditional Chinese cuisine, weekend brunch, and is an improvisational wizard. He can taste a sauce once… and re-create it. (I aspire to this kind of palate!)

What is a favorite cookbook?
This is like having me choose a favorite child, so I’m going to just dive in here and share more than one with you.

In a former life, I used to be the manager of an incredible cookbook store, Omnivore Books on Food, in San Francisco. I started the beginning of a collection that swelled to over a thousand cookbooks, at one point crossed the country in 44 boxes of media mail, and since then has been culled, slightly.

I have so many deep loves – but some of the authors I go back to read over and over again are Nigel Slater, Jamie Oliver, Patience Gray (Honey from a Weed), Andrea Nguyen, Paula Wolfert, Marcella Hazan, Madhur Jaffrey, and Dorie Greenspan to name a few.

At the moment, I’m loving three new-ish books: Samin Nosrat’s ‘Salt, Fat, Acid, Heat’ – and her accompanying Netflix series! Anita Lo’s ‘Solo’ – I’m making the red cooked duck for dinner tonight, and have been making her kale and date salad on overdrive. The third book is Alison Roman’s Dining In – I’ve cooked more than half a dozen recipes from this book in the past month with incredible success – some of the best things I’ve eaten in the past year, for sure. (And I don’t often actually cook from my cookbooks – I just couldn’t resist these recipes!)

Okay, and a quick shout-out – I’m forever proud of the dishes I washed and recipes I tested in my friend Karen Solomon’s book, Can It, Bottle It, Smoke It! Nothing like seeing your name in print in a cookbook! One day maybe I’ll actually sit down to write one of my own.

Tell me about what you’re working on now.
Yes! I’m excited to talk about this because in addition to food, we share a love of yoga!

A few years ago, I started working on a passion project with friends, and most luckily, it’s turned into a real thriving start-up: the company is called Ompractice –  we have live online yoga and meditation classes where a teacher actually sees you.

We started Ompractice because we wanted to create a welcoming and inclusive platform to give everyone the opportunity to get the benefits of yoga and mindfulness – not just those who look a certain way or have extra time and money to spend.

We have more than 25 incredible teachers now – who get to do more of what they love.

So much of my work is done behind the scenes, building technology, thinking up strategy – but one of the greatest parts of building this company is dropping in on classes myself each week – our teachers are awesome, and it’s such a pleasure getting to meet the students who come from all over the country – we even have people taking classes across the world!

At the end of the day, it’s spreading the word one person at a time!

What brings you peace every day?
I’m always working on this! Before starting Ompractice, I spent much of the past ten years studying all different types of wellness, fitness, nutrition, and self care practices. While spending my days working at startups, I spent nights studying to become a health coach, certified personal trainer, group trainer, and RRCA certified running coach –– all, I think, in a quest to bring myself peace as I started helping others do the same.

During my time working at Runkeeper, the running app, I really started working with women in particular on self care, eventually building an online program and course on the topic that I’ve run many times, each time, helping myself find and develop my own self care habits.

These are the few things in particular that help bring me peace on a daily basis:

Running. I have a daily running streak that I’ve kept up for over a year now. I run at least a mile – not for fitness particularly, but for the benefits it brings to my brain. Peace and ease.

Cooking. Chopping. Peeling. Deep breaths of the spice mixes hitting the hot pan. I’m happiest and calmest when I’m cooking something.

Meditation. Another daily practice that I’d be lost without. I started on Headspace doing a daily practice four years ago, have kept it up, and since built Ompractice to offer guided meditation as I’ve deepened my practice over the years. (Right now we’re working on building programming to get into the habit of meditation, and I’m really excited for us to roll it out!)

Spending time with my Frenchie, Bertram. This pup brings me so much joy!

Gratitude work. Another daily practice that I’d be lost without. Focusing on the positive aspects of my day – big and small – helps me to appreciate what I have, and is a great way to encourage myself to do more of the good things! I’ve been re-capping my weeks in 2019 on my blog as well.

Reading. Brings me peace when done daily, in quantity. I read so many different kinds of books! Business, wellness, biographies, and YA fantasy are on my regular rotation. It’s also important to me to prioritize reading POC and women’s voices as much as I can.

What is a favorite dessert?
Turks are known for their amazing desserts. While baklava might be the usual choice, my favorite desserts are actually the amazing variety of Turkish puddings. My favorites are Kazandibi, a thick set milk pudding with a beautifully browned top, a Turkish rice pudding called Sütlaç, and fresh Halva made from tahini. I was lucky enough to spend time in Istanbul in April, and ate my way through 10 days of dessert. I walked absolutely everywhere, so everything felt balanced out in the end.

My nighttime quick pick is cannoli without the shell: I put some whole milk ricotta (I use Calabro) in a bowl, add mini chocolate chips, a teaspoonful of sugar, a capful of Disaronno Amaretto, and top with some orange zest. It’s perfect.

What is a favorite snack?
I’m always on the quest for an exciting snack. It really depends on whether I’m in a sweet or savory mood. I lean towards salt and umami.

For savory: a staple around here is a can of sardines with avocado, tomato, and some fig balsamic vinaigrette. (I crack open a tin of sardines a few times a week, and the dog gets the sardine oil on his kibble and is equally excited as I am.)

For sweet? Probably a spoonful of Soom’s chocolate tahini. It’s divine.

* * *

Thank you so much for participating Sam! And thank you for the opportunity for me and my readers to have a free first class with Ompractice!

+ + +
Photos: Provided by Sam Tackeff.