Day In The Life Of: Sarah, Development Chef
Silvia, our HR and Culture Manager sat down with Sarah in January and chatted about her role at Social Pantry. Since joining Social Pantry in 2018, Sarah has been a rock within the kitchen and wider company team. She has opened sites with Social Pantry, headed up a number of kitchens including Soane’s Kitchen and Crane’s Kitchen and catered far too many events to remember. When not totally focused on cooking Sarah is writing menus, supporting photoshoots, charming suppliers and looking after our ex-offenders.
Tell us about your passion for the food, how it all started and why you chose to become a Chef?
Sounds cliché, but I grew up eating great food. My Granny was a Chef and my mum is a fantastic good home cook so every day we would eat a lot of healthy and tasty dishes! My passion for food goes beyond everything. Since I was a kid, I was so fascinated by gazing at my mum while she was cooking and from time to time, I was also allowed to hold a knife and help in the kitchen standing on a stool. For many years I have also tried to take over my dad favourite party `s spot: the BBQ, it was not easy, but I have manged to get it at the end! We always had the culture of eating around the table as a family. It is incredible how food brings people together, reason why I love being a Chef and able to offer this special moment to our clients.
What qualities does a Development Chef need to have?
One of the key attitudes for a Development Chef is to be creative, which comes only after being curious and open minded. I am always open to explore and try new things at Social Pantry; working alongside with an incredible team is a great opportunity to share knowledge, take advices and comments, to learn and improve yourself. No one always gets it right.
What does the post covid hospitality industry look like to you?
It will come back, It must! It is amazing how the industry has adapted so quickly to this situation.
For example, at Social Pantry we have adapted our kitchen and turned into a Delivery service. We have sent food boxes and hampers across the country as well as supporting the NHS with meals. It was incredible! But I believe there is something special about going out for dinner with friends, I have a long list of places I can’t wait to go to once re-opened.
What recipe is a favourite of yours and Social Pantry clients?
A starter on our 2020 spring summer menu, which everyone enjoyed at one of the small weddings. I love coming up with a combination of ideas and discuss them with our Executive Chef Rich. Our collaboration and experience working within the industry turns our ideas into a dish we think our clients would love, luckily, they always do!
Scallops, Fennel, Compressed Apple, Yuzu and Chive Dressing and Cured Egg Yolk.
“A pleasure for the palate!” just one of our client’s comments.
And which one is the one you enjoyed the most to create?
Looking back at some photos, I still smiling thinking of one of them with a giant meringue dessert we have made, 8ft in length and twice as much in height. Each letter had a different flavoured Chantilly and were covered in macaroons, edible flowers and fruit curd. It took me weeks to get all the ingredients together and hours to build the dessert, but it was worth every bit of stress!
We know you did a stage at Silo restaurant back in 2019, a restaurant famed for it’s zero waste processes. What did you learn and bring back to Social Pantry?
It was a totally inspirational experience! It opened my eyes to so many more opportunities to reduce our waste and impact on the environment. As part of my job is to write menus, after my experience at Silo, every time I cook a dish, I try to imagine what waste we may have and either re-think of a different recipe or incorporate the waste back in.
I bought a fermentation book recommended to me by one of the chefs and have experimented with ingredients. If I could suggest an easy way of reducing food waste, try fermentation.
Ludwig Feubarch said, “you are what you eat” Do you agree?
It is so important to eat well, food massively affects my mood and energy. I eat a lot of fruit and vegetables and have decreased the amount of meat I take within a week. I changed meat supper with at least 3 or 4 weekly vegetarian meals. Do not take me wrong, I love meat, but I prefer to buy much less so that I can afford a better quality and support my local butchers. I would love to learn more about well-balanced nutrition, it is on my to-do list for 2021!
What would you suggest to a student who would like to become a chef but does not have the confidence to do so?
The environment in kitchens has changed so much especially in the last few years, it’s not always like the horror stories you hear, so don’t be put off. Find a kitchen with chefs you respect, and who respect you, work hard and learn as much as you can. Knowledge is the best way of growing and succeed! Different environments suit different personalities, chefs work long hours so you have to be happy and enjoy yourself!
Where do you get the inspiration for your food styling?
You have to be creative enough to make a plate of food which looks good but not too ‘done up’. So much is learnt as you go, ask the photographer to take lots of photos as you add and remove elements. It is much easier to look at a finished photo and know which one looks best. We do a lot of research and plan out what will be the final look. I am also very lucky to have worked with Alex on many shoots, she has a vision which you can only earn with experience!
Where do you eat in your free time?
I am lucky enough to have eaten out a lot, it is high up in my priority list, and friends who enjoy good food too. I love Duck Soup, Westerns Laundry, Oklava, St Leonards, just to name a few!
Interview by Silvia, HR and Culture Manager
If you want to read more of our Day In The Life Series, click here.