Meet Sarah Schafer, the 34 year old Executive Chef at Frisson Restaurant in San Francisco who has “Never had a dull moment in 20 years”.
Growing up in Boston was uneventful until at age 14 when her dad said she needed to pay for her college education. Her mother found a job for her working in a bakery. This was followed by a culinary job in a café. It was very exciting, and always challenging. A sous chef at the Café told her she had talent and should consider going to school to learn more about cooking, food, etc.
While her father wanted her to attend a military school, she convinced him that she was more interested in cooking. So she attended the Culinary Institute of America (CIA) , the world’s premier culinary college. During the 2 year program, Sarah was able to hone the techniques of French cuisine. Being a graduate of the CIA with its great reputation opened up many doors. Her initial job was a CIA extraship at a resort on Cape Cod where she learned a lot about seafood.
Following a stint at what is now the Napa Valley Grill, she went to work for Tom Colicchio at Gramercy Tavern in New York . From Tom, who is chef on Top Chef (BRAVO), she learned a whole array of culinary techniques and about different foods, some of which she had never seen or touched before. Having mastered being a chef, she next took a job offer from Danny Meyer, then the owner of 7 restaurants in New York . Here she learned how to run a restaurant and how to nurture employees instead of brow beating them into submission, which is the way she was educated about the business.
In her current position, Sarah is in charge of the whole restaurant operation. This involves supervising 15 employees in kitchen and 15 employees working in the front. Sarah’s work day begins at 8 or 9 in the am until 9:30 or 10 pm at night. She does just about everything: butchering proteins, prepping any part of any station (like Sauces), ordering, inventorying, talking to purveyors, customers and even answers the phone when needed.
Sarah describes Frisson as a contemporary brassiere style restaurant where menu choices are based on the number of cooks and skill level of chefs plus occasional requests of the owners. Working very closely with the chefs, they try new ideas for an appetizer or entrée as long as the new items work with the rest of the menu. While the French style is her signature style, Sarah describes her menu as imaginative, but approachable.
Her biggest work related challenge is learning to control her emotions when dealing with the employees and owners. The most rewarding (enjoyable) aspect of her career is seeing smiling people having fun and enjoying their dinners in the dining room. She believes that the keys to success in her field are a passion for food preparation and flexibility to meet the desires of everyone involved: employees, management and customers.
When not in the restaurant, Sarah relaxes by riding her bicycle or painting.
Books Sarah Recommends: