- Executive Chef/Owner at DECO
She is currently seeking a new opportunity.
In the past, she has been:
- Executive Chef/Owner at Azalea's Cafe
- Executive Sous/Chef Garde Manger at The Island House
www.hospemag.com caught up with her for a chat about food, cooking and India.
Editor | Many congratulations on winning the 2009 American Culinary Federation’s Achievement of Excellence Award.
Tell us a little more about the award and what goes into winning it.
The ACF Achievement of Excellence Award is one of the highest honors an American chef can receive; it is the equivalent of an actor receiving the Academy Award for Best Actor. You must understand, St. Augustine is a very small city, not at all like New York or Los Angeles, and certainly not a “culinary Mecca” like Napa Valley. Apparently an ACF member dined at my restaurant and nominated me for the award. When I received the letter telling me I was nominated I was shocked and honored, but I never dreamed it would go any further than that. A few months later when I received an invitation to the awards ceremony telling me I had won the award I was speechless. As anyone in the culinary industry knows being a chef is very hard work, long hours, and very little in the way of public recognition. Among the other eight recipients that same year were Charlie Trotter’s in Chicago and The French Laundry in Napa Valley. I have long admired both these restaurants and chefs. To be recognized by the ACF as being worthy to stand on a stage among these chefs that I admire so much as one of their peers made me very proud.
Editor | Why culinary arts?
As long as I’ve known anything about myself I knew that I wanted to be a chef. When it was time for me to decide on a career there was no other choice for me. My family is Sicilian, and although I’ve worked with many world class chefs throughout my career, my single greatest culinary influence remains to this day my Nana; that’s Italian for Grandmother.
Editor | What is your favorite dish?
I can’t pick one favorite thing. I love seafood, I love lamb, I love working with fresh vegetables and cheese, sauces add such a great dimension to dishes, and I had a really great bowl of ice cream last night. All that being said, I love to cook (and eat) risotto; it is so simple, but so seldom perfectly executed. Editor | what according to you are some of the trends we should look out for?
The hospitality industry is always changing and growing in fascinating ways.
One of the important trends I see is the expanding of tapas or “small dishes” into cuisines other than Spanish. In this style smaller, thus less expensive portions are served allowing the diners to sample more dishes at a single meal. It tends to create a more communal, less formal atmosphere. This does not necessarily work in every venue, which brings me to another trend,
Casual Fine Dining.
I think Casual Fine Dining is gaining popularity because people do not always want to get dressed in their finest clothes to enjoy a quality dining experience. Also, in many cases people feel intimidated about going into a very high-end establishment. Again, this does not work for every venue, but it is a growing trend.
Another important trend is the farm to table movement which encourages chefs to use locally produced products where ever possible. This is a win, win situation. It helps the local economy, increase freshness of product and cuts down on the expense of transporting product.
Editor | You have been an owner and an executive chef, which hat do you prefer?
As a chef and business owner I’ve had to wear many hats. Administrative duties, cost control and ensuring that HACCP standards are met are all very important, but more than anything I love working with food and with other chefs. Developing menus and recipes is exciting. I see my most important function as that of teacher and mentor and I enjoy creating an atmosphere of learning and creativity in the kitchen.
Editor | Ever been to India?
No; I have traveled extensively in Africa, Asia, Europe, the South Pacific and South America but I have not yet been to India. I just got my Indian tourist visa and I hope to visit very soon.
Editor | Would be willing to work in India? If yes, what would the ideal role and organization be?
I think it is an exciting time in India for the hospitality industry. Not only is India growing in popularity as an international travel destination, but with the Indian economy growing, more people in India are finding themselves with discretionary income and are able to spend money on things other than just necessities. Many people want new and different experiences and dining out is a way for people to have a new experience and maybe discover something about another culture. There is no better way to experience a culture than through it’s cuisine.
I would love to find an opportunity in India as an Executive Sous Chef or a Chef de Cuisine of an outlet in a large property, or a role as an Executive Chef in a boutique property.
Visit Sandy's linkedin profile http://www.linkedin.com/in/chefsandykrebs