Meet Sarah Raimondi head chef at the Abundant Harvest Kitchen. Sarah brings to the table ten years of professional experience, a passion for fresh food and an authentic approach to seasonal cooking. We sat down over a slice of her fabulous gluten free flour-less chocolate cake and talked about what inspires her cooking.
Here’s the scoop.
AHO: Sarah, tell us, what inspires you to head into in the kitchen?
SR: I’m kind of obsessed with gardening, and I get a lot of inspiration there. This year my mom and I have over eighty heirloom tomato plants growing in our family garden. Walking outside and seeing what you’ve grown makes you want to make up new recipes. Also, my family and culture inspire me. I love taking an old family recipe and trying to make it better. My parents had an Italian restaurant when I was little, and they have always cooked at home. My dad is from a little coastal town in Argentina that has Italian restaurants on every corner. I spent a few months there and learned a lot of recipes. Seeing the different approach to cooking and serving that they had there really opened my eyes to food in a new way.
AHO: Do you have a specific philosophy on eating and cooking?
SR: Eat well, eat healthy. I believe in taking the time cook and in eating together as a family. It really makes a difference. That’s essentially what we’re trying to do here: provide people who don’t have time with something that’s healthy, that’s from the farm, that they can heat up at home.
AHO: What’s your hope for the Abundant Harvest Kitchen?
SR: I was the head chef at an Italian restaurant for 8 years. Several times, I had customers pull a sneak. They would bring me their casserole dish during the day, pick it up later, and take it to a party pretending they cooked it. I want our food to be that good, where people would pull something like that. I want them to be able to take it home and say, “I would have had to work hours to do this and it tastes just like I made it from scratch.” I like my food to look and taste really fresh, that’s what my focus is. The produce here is basically the best in the world. It’s a luxury for any chef to have same day access to such fresh, organic ingredients like we do with the Abundant Harvest farmers.
AHO: How do you come up with your recipes?
SR: I’ll have the idea in my head of what I want to cook and then I’ll do some research to see what variations exist. I write the recipe out, then make the dish. Some things work out perfectly the first time, some need a bit of trial and error. For the first recipes for the Abundant Harvest Kitchen, I’ve tried to go back to my old faithfuls, then find those I can make gluten-free and with seasonal produce, and go from there.
AHO: Who are the chefs you admire most?
SR: I love the way Jamie Oliver cooks. He does a lot outside. Everything is fresh, and he grows a garden so his recipes are seasonal. Also, Frances Mallmann; he’s an Argentinian chef who just kind of takes the food and doesn’t mess with it a lot. He just barbecues it, and serves it on wooden planks at these big outdoor parties he has. It’s really cool. He started out with fancy French food but then decided to go back to his roots. I think that’s important when you’re cooking.
You need to be authentic, instead of trying to be something that you’re not.
AHO: What advice would you give our AHO home chefs?
SR: Don’t be afraid to try something different, and be confident in your fresh produce. When you’re using fresh, in season ingredients, that’s the best you can get and it is really hard to mess it up, it really is. Even if you’re just sautéing it, it’s probably going to come out pretty good.