From her first kitchen job as a dish washer at Bhima Warung, Sarah Sharkey has wielded knives and spatulas in a dozen professional kitchens: local landmarks, Niagara wineries, and restaurants from British Columbia to New Zealand.
Today, she is the sous chef at The Black Hole Bistro at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics (PI). Most days the bistro is closed to the general public, and primarily serves PI researchers and students. As many of PI staff eat in the bistro daily, Sarah needs to ensure she develops creative and varying menus, offering vegetarian and multicultural cuisine.
The Stratford Chefs School graduate sees food as an elemental part of our lives and is appreciative that others have allowed her to fill their bellies and tempt their palettes with her love of flavours, technique and great food.
Here is how she answered the 23 questions we asked her.
Best thing you’ve ever eaten?
Sarah Sharkey: Lobster triangolini pasta at Oliveto Restaurant in Oakland, California.
Other career you could have pursued?
SS: Jewellery design/gemologist, although actress would’ve been awesome too.
SS: Californian zinfandel.
Beverage that once just about killed you?
SS: Gin and root beer. It tasted awful going down and worse coming up, but 16 year-olds don’t always make the best decisions.
Chef you’d most like to meet?
SS: Alice Waters from Chez Panisse in Berkley, California.
Best footwear (for the kitchen or otherwise)?
SS: Birki clogs.
Favourite ethnic food in Waterloo Region?
SS: Bhima’s Warung.
What scares you in a kitchen?
SS: Kids using the meat slicer.
Greatest failed recipe?
SS: My first attempt at goat cheese and roasted red pepper ravioli for a dinner party. The ravioli completely fell apart when cooking. I was devastated.
Something that gives you great pleasure?
SS: Spending time with my daughter, Delilah.
A favourite teacher you’ve had?
SS: Carol Boehmer, my nursery school teacher. She gave me my first cookbook which I still have.
Favourite thing to make at home?
Where were you born?
SS: Too many to count, but let’s try The Black Keys, The Beatles, Sharon Jones and Whitehorse.
Who would you like to cook for?
SS: No one person in particular. I enjoy coking for those who love my food. Celebrities are too high maintenance.
The thing you wish for Waterloo Region?
SS: More independently owned restaurants. A great authentic Italian restaurant would be amazing.
Go-to late-night snack?
SS: Air popped popcorn with lots of butter and sea salt.
Best thing about being a chef?
SS: Being able to provide a memorable experience for other people.
Mostest dumbest purchase you’ve ever made?
SS: I’m pretty good with purchases, however it was likely some terribly trendy outfit in the 90s.
A moment in your life you’d like to have back?
SS: Any time working with egomaniac chefs. What we do is awesome but we’re not saving lives here people — lose the attitude.
SS: It’s a tossup: San Francisco and Paris. Both are food, wine and style meccas.
TV chefs who annoy you?
SS: Bobby Flay and Guy Fieri; just so cocky.
Would you describe yourself as sweet or savoury?
SS: Definitely savoury. Perhaps even a little spicy.
*This post originally appeared on Rare Republic, October 31, 2013.