INTERVIEW WITH CHEF SARAH & EVAN RICH OF RICH TABLE SAN FRANCISCO

What was your first memory of cooking and what did you cook?

SARAH: It wasn’t technically cooking but I remember really wanting to make something for my mom. But I was little enough that I didn’t know what that meant – I didn’t know how to read a cookbook and I couldn’t just go in the fridge and make something. So I made her dirt soup. I got a mason jar and picked out some rocks, soil, sticks – I was very specific about what I was putting in it, which I think was very indicative of me wanting to create something for someone else to eat.

EVAN: I didn’t cook anything, but on Christmas Eve, my family always got together at my aunt and uncle’s house in Connecticut. Everyone dressed up, and we had passed hors d’oeuvres with caviar, melon and prosciutto, crostini, and then a multi-course dinner with lobster bisque, duck l’orange, pies with Sauternes, roasted chestnuts. These Christmas dinners were probably one of the reasons I started cooking, they were just so amazing. I didn’t know anything about it, but it was a huge food experience. This was the holiday for my family, and it was all about food, sitting at the table and eating all night talk and drinking, and having a good time.

When did you know you wanted to become a chef?

SARAH: I didn’t know it was a viable option until after college. But when I was little, I always loved it. I watched Julia Child with my dad on Sundays, and I would always make myself milkshakes. Whenever I made a milkshake, I would pretend I was on the show, narrating to the kitchen how to make the milkshake. I always wanted my parents to give up their careers and open up a restaurant.

EVAN: I knew I wanted to cook when my mom forced me to go to the college fair and told me “It’s four years of school, you have to go, and we’re paying.” At the time, I was washing dishes at a gourmet deli, but my goal in life was to move out to Colorado and be a ski bum. Then one day we walked by the CIA and my mom was like “Cooking – you like cooking, why not go to culinary school?” And in my head I said, “Oh, that’ll be easy, that sounds good.” So I went to culinary school and then really found the passion for it.

What is a knife you cannot live without?

SARAH: A good paring knife – medium sized, not too big and not too small. You can use it for so many things.

EVAN: A five inch petty knife.

What is one ingredient you cannot cook without?

SARAH: Salt.

EVAN: Butter.

What was one of the biggest mistakes you made your first year in the culinary industry?

SARAH: I talked back to my chef de partie.

EVAN: I have not done anything wrong in my whole life.

Sarah and Evan what was it like working at the famed Bouley together?

SARAH: We weren’t allowed to talk to each other. But we learned how to struggle together, which has been an important lesson for our entire lives. We didn’t work the same schedule and didn’t have days off together. Evan would come over to my apartment when he got off work at 2am and I would wake up and we would hang out and then I would go to work at 7am.

EVAN: You’re in the trenches. It’s the definition of hard work and sacrifice. It’s one of those experiences where you work all the time and get paid so little, but there are so many colorful personalities working together that you have fun. I created so many long lasting bonds from that place. That’s where my “When I was your age…” stories will come from.

You both transitioned from Bouley in New York to some incredible roles in San Francisco. Sarah, what did you learn during your role with Chef Michael Mina at Michael Mina Restaurant?

How to work my ass off. I learned a lot about cooking, but I also learned about honoring commitments. It was intensely stressful, but I knew there was a lot to be learned from the people who worked there, and I learned how to push myself through that. Sometimes that’s how you learn the most, by pushing yourself the most.

Evan, what did you learn during your role at Quince with legendary Chef Michael Tuske?

He taught me about really true seasonal, market-driven cooking. I learned seasonal cooking in New York but this was on a different level and was truly seasonal.

Who has been the most influential mentor/chef in your career?

SARAH: Chris L’Hommedieu.

EVAN: Every single person I’ve worked with.

What is your favorite after work drink?

SARAH: Whatever is in my hand.

EVAN: I don’t drink. I’ll usually have some green tea.

What is your favorite local spot?

SARAH: My bed.

EVAN: We go to Outerlands the most. We go there for lunch. It’s quiet, we have a grilled cheese and a coke. It’s great.

Tell us something that would surprise people about you?

SARAH: I jog five miles every other day.

EVAN: That we’re boring. I’m a simple man with simple pleasures.

Photo credit to Daniel Brooks

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