#OriginStories Featuring Head Chef Sarah
"For me, there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing how much our clients appreciate the service and how it has positively affected their health!"
This week we are interviewing the hands that feed us, our Head Chef Sarah. Like many of those that work at Origin, Sarah started out as a fan who believed in the mission of Origin Meals. Today she creates the menus and leads our kitchen team in delivering the thing that we all love: FOOD!
Tell us a little about yourself, Sarah.
"I grew up in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – yes, I am a Yooper! As the youngest of three children by about 8 years, I mostly grew up feeling like an “only” child. My brother is 11 years older than me, and my sister 8 years older. After high school, I attended the University of Michigan for two years, with no conceivable clue about what I really wanted to do with my life—my first intention was to pursue a career as a Pharmacist (they make mad bank), then thought I might be a midwife, then finally settled on majoring in Biology with the intention of ironing out the details later. Somewhere near the end of my sophomore year I decided I wanted to work with food forever (since I was skipping and/or failing classes to stay home and cook…). Having already invested two years of time, energy, and MONEY, I decided to salvage my education thus far, and transferred to Michigan State University, where two-and-a-half years later, I graduated with my Bachelors of Science in Dietetics. A few months later I moved to Minneapolis to attend Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts in Mendota Heights (back when it was still a thing…). I got my first restaurant job while I was in school, and it kicked my ass! I worked at a few more restaurants after that and then bounced around the industry doing various non-restaurant-related jobs. Most recently, I worked at Open Arms of MN, which is a non-profit organization in Minneapolis, and then worked in Research & Development for Waymouth Farms, a local snack food company. I have one glorious pup named Trixie, who is clearly the sole focus of my Instagram account. She’s a three-year-old bulldog and Rottweiler mix, who is simultaneously the most infuriating and loveable creature I have ever seen. Her favorite chew toys include remote controls, leather shoes & boots, and vacuum cleaner attachments. "
What’s the best meal you’ve ever had?
"The most memorable meal I’ve ever had happened on a study abroad trip to Europe. Our troupe had half a day to spend in Florence, Italy (literally, half a day), and it included a big group “lunch” at the well-known restaurant, Il Latini. What it was, was a multi-course hog fest, where platters and platters of food were continuously brought to the table. And, being a bunch of typical American students, we all gorged ourselves so hard that our walk back to the bus (uphill, in the sweltering midday sun, of course), was one loud rolling groan, rumbling through the streets of Florence. All these years later there are really only two things that I remember about that meal, other than there was a TON of food. First, was the Pappa al Pomodoro, which is a Tuscan tomato and bread soup. Never would have I imagined that tomato soup with soggy bread would be on my top meals of all time, but this was really a game-changer for me. Second, were the simple roasted potatoes that accompanied a spread of roasted meats, the decadence of which was almost perverted. They were potatoes. Roasted. With meat juice. And a rosemary. That’s it. Roasted potatoes that changed my life – and even after all these years I have never been able to recreate those perfectly salty, savory, greasy, pillowy little packets of starch. I distinctly recall the following reaction from my roommate as we sat, shoveling as many potatoes down our gullets as we could get our hands on, “These potatoes are so good they make my toes curl.” Indeed. "
What's an interesting fact many people don't know about you?
"I’ve always been inexplicably drawn to anything from the early 1900s/Victorian/Romantic eras, especially medicine at this time. There were some crazy ideas floating around and I’ve always found it fascinating. During a particularly fruitful thrifting venture, I happened upon a couple of family portraits from this era—one of a young couple on their wedding day (neither one looks very thrilled), and the other of their two sons at what I assume is their first communion (nobody looks thrilled there either). Most people think they are a creepshow, but I love them, and they now greet anyone who comes through my front door."
What do you love about working for Origin Meals?
"I’ve always been passionate about health, wellness, & nutrition, and learning as much as I can about the science and applications there. What gets me excited now is knowing that the work I do (which, unfortunately, means a lot less hands on cooking) is having a big impact for people in my community, and beyond. I love that we are a resource for people in the community who are struggling with adapting to certain prescribed diet protocols (such as celiac, AIP, ketogenic, serious food allergies, etc.). In my medical nutrition therapy course in college, we were given an assignment to follow a typical strict diet protocol from a list for a week, and then write a report on the experience. For an extra challenge, I chose to follow a gluten-free diet. This was before the plethora of GF-friendly snacks and pre-packaged foods that are now available (wow, I feel old). It was tough. It was really tough. GF-Certified was not invented yet, and “gluten-free” was not yet a popular marketing tool for packaging. I spent most of my time trying to decipher ingredient labels, and going hungry. There were no gluten-free options at any of the restaurants I went to (local coffee shops, Chinese buffets, and pizza delivery. I was a college student after all…). I failed the diet well before the week was over, for a variety of reasons. Mostly I just didn’t have time during the final push at the end of the semester to do all the pre-planning, meal prep, cooking, etc. to make it work. At the end of the day, even though I failed, the experiment did what it was intended to do. It showed me how difficult it could be to follow these strict protocols in real life, and allowed me to gain a sense of empathy for anyone who I might have to prescribe them to in the future.
Fast forward a certain number of years (I’ve dated myself enough already), and it seems the whole world is catching onto the gluten-free trend, including me. Products are now widely available, and many restaurants now have GF menus available. And there are services like we provide at OM. Our clients range from your typical CrossFitter, to people who just want help eating clean, to Whole30 participants, to folks who are prescribed an autoimmune protocol (AIP) diet, to moms of kids who have serious food allergies and don’t even know where to begin. The fact that our services can help these people get a leg up on their health and wellness and do so without sacrificing culinary integrity is incredible. I feel honored to be of service to our clients, especially the ones who really rely on us to provide them nourishment without the fear of cross-contamination with allergens.
When I was about 17 years old, I once told my sister that my dream job was to work in the test kitchens for Cooking Light magazine (I later found out their test kitchens are located in Alabama, which pretty much nixed that whole plan). The reason was that I wanted to make delicious, healthful eating available to as many people as possible, and a magazine focused on healthy lifestyle and food seemed like the perfect fit. What I do at Origin is fulfilling that same fantasy career that I had when I was 18. Our work touches a lot of lives in the community, and in the past year we even expanded to Wisconsin. Plus, even better than being an anonymous test kitchen cook for a corporate-owned publication, I weaseled my way into the company when it was still a young pup, and I’ve been able to make a difference and watch it grow and expand.
For me, there’s no greater satisfaction than seeing how much our clients appreciate the service and how it has positively affected their health!"
What's Sarah making for us this week?
Published on: Friday, May 05