by Meghan Farrell, Writer, Bon Appétit Group
Whenever people tell me they love to bake (or cook for that matter), I’ll confess, I’m baffled. You couldn’t pay me enough to spend the day in a kitchen. Luckily, there are people like Sarah Kelso, Bon Appétit Restaurant’s in-house pastry chef, who can’t think of a better way than to spend the day than creating delicious desserts for others to enjoy.
I recently joined Sarah and her new apprentice, Debbie Rice, in Bon Appétit’s pastry kitchen to learn a bit more about this baking phenomenon; what motivates her and – let’s be real – taste her newest creations.
Meghan: Let’s start with how you got into cooking and baking. Was it something you always knew you wanted to do?
Sarah: I started cooking with my grandmother. It was just something I grew up with and always loved. After high school, I enrolled in a four-year culinary program. It focused on culinary and hospitality skills but only spent a short semester teaching us pastry skills.
Meghan: Did you leave school and become a pastry chef? What did your career path look like?
Sarah: Oh, I’ve always done desserts. But for most of my career, I was an executive chef or sous chef who also created the dessert menu. Over time, through trial and error and experimentation, I built my pastry skills to where they are today.
Meghan: Very cool; so what is it you like most about being Bon Appetit’s pastry chef?
Sarah: Well, I was drawn to Bon Appétit because it’s well established, has a great reputation and the food is quality. I really enjoy the people I work with and I just enjoy the creative process of coming up with new desserts.
Meghan: Speaking of your desserts, where do you find your inspiration?
Sarah: From the customers and the seasons. I try to think of what our customers will enjoy most. I’ll test something for a few weeks and ask the servers for feedback. And the seasons help too. Like right now, we’re heading into summer, so I try to focus on things that are light, refreshing and use ingredients that are easy to get during the summer months. I also always try to create visually appealing desserts. I love using layers with bright colors to create eye-catching, intriguing desserts.
Meghan: I love how you keep things flexible based on what your customers want. So, you gotta tell me: what inspired you to create the new homemade pies?
Sarah: It was actually Mr. K’s (co-founder, Peter Kreuziger’s) idea and so far, people seem to be really excited about them. Right now, we are offering Sweet Potato Pie Strussel. It’s made from scratch, daily, right here in our kitchen. You can really taste the freshness.
Meghan: That sounds so good. Tell me more!
Sarah: Oh, it’s delicious. Each bite offers the perfect mix of creaminess and crunch with hints of citrus and spice. The top is a tasty crumble made up of pecans, brown sugar, cinnamon and sea salt. Guests can’t stop raving about it!
Meghan: And everything is homemade? Even the crust?
Sarah: Yup, even the crust!
Meghan: Any other tasty treats you’d like to tell us about?
Sarah: Actually, yes! We’re also featuring European Style Cheesecake with a strawberry sauce made from my family’s secret recipe featuring a graham cracker vanilla cinnamon crust. If you’re a cheesecake fan, it’s a must-have. Our newest addition is an apple cranberry Tart Tartin, served warm with a scoop of vanilla bean ice cream.
Once we got to the taste testing portion of the conversation, I became a little distracted and naturally, forgot to jot down the end of our interview. But rest assured, we had a good wrap up. Hanging out with Sarah in her element, you can tell she really loves what she does. Her undoubted passion and positive energy contribute to the end products she creates. They are nothing short of perfection and I highly recommend coming in to try a slice of pie. Heck, you only live once, so why not order one of each? You can always bring what you don’t eat home.
About Sarah Kelso:
Sarah brings years of culinary experience with her to Bon Appétit Restaurant from well-established brand restaurants in the Tampa Bay area, such as Capital Grille, and nationally, like P.F. Chang’s. Here at Bon Appétit, she is solely responsible for creating delicious desserts. In fact, she spearheaded the launch of our petite desserts, which continue to be popular among our guests.