Sarah Booth is the new Pantry Instructional Assistant for LBCC’s Culinary Arts program. She teaches first year students to produce food for The Commons Cafeteria upstairs in the Calapooia Center. Booth is a chef experienced in all aspects of the farm-to-table movement who went through the LBCC culinary program herself. She catered an event for the Obamas in Martha’s Vineyard and can be found cooking for her business, The Naked Crepe, at farmers markets during the summers.
The Commuter: When did your interest in food begin?
Sarah Booth: I grew up in Utah. As a kid, I said ‘I want to be a farmer when I grow up,’ which is far from how I was raised. My dad was a doctor and my mom was a stay-at-home Mormon mom. I wasn’t raised in a rural area; I didn’t really know what it meant to be a farmer.
TC: What past experiences led you to getting this job?
SB: I graduated from Utah State in 2002 with a B.S. in horticulture. I spent my final year at Oregon State University because I wanted to get more exposure to organic growing, which wasn’t really popular in Utah at the time. When I first went into horticulture, I thought I was going to go into landscaping, but I quickly started gravitating toward food production. The farmers that produced food interested me so much more, so after graduating I went to work at Springhill Farm in Albany. I then went on to the First Alternative Coop. Early in my coop career, I took a break and went to work at Frega Farms, which is a goat farm in Sweet Home. I milked the goats and produced cheese for the farmers market.
I worked at the First Alternative Coop in produce for 10 years, which gave me a lot of opportunity to work with local farms and organic produce and really get in touch with how to connect with the farms directly; which is a trend in the restaurant industry, rather than just ordering from big wholesale distributors. That’s something that I’d like to bring to the program: making more connections with our local farmers and ordering directly from them. My interest stems from bringing fresh food from its source to the kitchen, and then to the customer.
In 2009, I started my own business, The Naked Crepe, at farmers markets. I had done that for a couple of years and started wondering where I was going to go with that, which led me to LBCC’s culinary program, so I could learn more about the industry and get some of the tricks of the trade under my belt. I went through the program and then did an internship at Martha’s vineyard. I was the pantry chef for a high-end catering company that specialized in farm-to-table salads, and we even got to cater a party for the Obamas when they visited the island around 2013. I then moved back to Oregon and continued my crepe booth at the Newport and Lincoln City farmers markets. After also working at the Pacific Sourdough Bakery in Waldport for a few years, I learned of the job opening at LBCC.
TC: Is there anything else that you’d like to bring to the culinary program?
SB: My experience as small business owner. I hope to teach my students that food carts are popular these days and it is a really good way to get your foot in the door and test the waters of restaurant ownership without the huge investment of owning a restaurant. I hope to be able to reach out to students interested in that kind of experience and share my experience with them and help guide them.
TC: How does the culinary program’s first year work?
SB: The first-years are split into three groups. Ten of those students are in quantity section which produces the hot food for the cafeteria; ten are in the bakery, and the other group of 11 are split between me in the pantry kitchen and working as waiters and waitresses in the Santiam Restaurant. They get half a term waiting tables in the restaurant…and then they switch places and come to pantry for the second half.
TC: Where does the culinary program get its recipes?
SB: It’s a combination of things. I bring in recipes and ideas from my past experience, we look things up, and the students bring in recipes as we get further into the year and they are more experienced. I start relying more on them and helping them develop their abilities to know what a good recipe is.
TC: Does the culinary program collaborate with LBCC’s horticulture program?
SB: We do collaborate with the horticulture program and the greenhouse. We get herbs from them pretty regularly. We have been talking about getting winter squash from them. Whatever they have that’s abundant enough, they’ll contact us and we happily buy from them.
TC: What advice do you have for your students?
SB: So many of the students come in with so little experience and they’re so nervous; I want to encourage them to be O.K. with challenging themselves and making mistakes. I look back at my time and I remember being very nervous. It can be a very intimidating environment because it is so new. You are afraid of failing but if you are willing to challenge yourself and strive to learn and try new things, you may trip along the way, but ultimately you’ll really learn a lot. This culinary program can be really valuable; a place where you can learn a lot, but your success is dependent upon how much you are willing to put into it.
TC: Why crepes?
SB: I’ve always been in love with crepes as a food. I always thought crepes were really wonderful and I saw that they were a great way to take advantage of what was available seasonally because you can do some many things with them. You can change the menu and you can change the fillings.
TC: Will you still do your crepe buisness now that you are at LBCC?
SB: I really hope to. This job at LBCC is the perfect opportunity to have my summers available to run my crepe business. I’m not sure which market I’ll be at, but between Albany and Corvallis, I’ll do a couple of markets a week in the summer.
TC: What is your favorite dish to cook?
SB: I’m not one to have a favorite food or dish. My favorite way to cook and what I really excel at is throwing together fresh produce to make raw salads, sauces; more impromptu style than to use recipes or anything that I could reproduce again and again.
Story by Danielle Jarkowsky
At a Glance:
The Commons Cafeteria and Courtyard Cafe
Calapooia Center, second floor
Monday – Friday
10 a.m. Pastry and coffee
10:30 a.m. Brick oven pizza station and salad bar
11:15 -1:15 Hot food, pizza and salad bar
Price: $5-$8 for lunch. Most prices under $6
All food cooked from scratch.
Menu changes daily. Check The Commuter or Facebook