Q&A: Tyler and Faye, Head Chefs, Sakara Life
I liked the branding and message that the Sakara Life team was putting out on the ‘gram, but really fell in love when I tried THE FOOD. It’s not an easy task to make healthy food taste delicious, let alone for the masses (!), but these women make it look flawless.
(If you want to try Sakara - use code 'REF_AVOKWEEN15' for 15% off your first order!)
Tell us a little bit about yourselves!
Tyler: I took a relatively unconventional path to end up in the world of food. I did my undergraduate work in English Literature, but I did know very early on that food would play a prominent role in my life. My senior year of college I took a Shakespeare course at the Folger library in Washington DC and found myself there on the weekends checking 15th century cookbooks out of the collection to flip through. In hindsight, that's really when I realized that I needed to make food the central focus of my career. I worked in restaurants in Washington DC for 4 years, worked as the chef of a fly fishing ranch in Colorado, and launched a food business at Dartmouth College before I joined the team at Sakara. After working in kitchens in DC, I started to feel a pull towards nutritionally driven food and wanted to find a way to merge my culinary passion with my interest in and commitment to wellness. I'm able to do that in spades at Sakara!
Faye: I grew up in Chicago and then went to The Hotel School at Cornell. After that, I attended the Culinary Institute of America and then went to work for Hillstone. While with Hillstone, I moved to Santa Monica, San Francisco, and Boston before settling down in NYC. I’ve been here for 8 years now and just made the big move from Manhattan to Brooklyn (so far I’m loving it!). I was recruited by our current Head of Operations, Kim (a former Hillstone colleague) and I was pretty skeptical at first of all these veggies and ingredients I hadn't heard of before. I’ve been with Sakara for the past three years and I totally drink the kool-aid now – I’m always going to love cured meats and cheese, but now I balance that with a healthy dose of veggies and superfoods.
What do you love most about your job?
Tyler: I love how dynamic it is and that I'm always on my toes. We are a lean team, which means that we all have to be able to fill a variety of roles - sometimes without much notice. I am someone who gets very dissatisfied when I'm not being challenged, so this environment suits me well. I also love that my job is as much about people as it is about food. Not only the amazing (and quickly growing) number of people we feed, but also the amazing team that works SO hard to produce it all!
Faye: Every day is different and challenging, but I love having the autonomy to make decisions that push real-time change for our business. I’m lucky to work with amazingly smart and talented people that give me guidance and support to help me figure out the best decision, even when I’m not sure what to do! Danielle and Whitney have built a great team with people that are genuinely good at their jobs and really stand behind our mission.
Also, I love learning about new and cool ingredients and superfoods! (I didn't know what hemp seeds were until I joined, and now I put a sprinkle on everything I cook at home).
What do you love most about yourselves?
Tyler: I love my "ambivert" tendencies. For much of my life I struggled to reconcile the fact that I have strong introvert tendencies, but am also a very social creature. In the past I used to get frustrated with myself for not having enough social energy, but now I embrace the fact that I can be both introspective and energized by others. I think it equips me to understand and appreciate both mentalities and helps me as a people manager.
Faye: I’m an only child, so I take great pride in my friendships. I LOVE to host people and parties – if you come to my place, you will be greeted with a beverage (current ‘house cocktail’ is mezcal, beet juice and hibiscus tea) and a snack.
I’m also good at staying calm in the face of a major storm (literal and figurative), which there are plenty of when you're running the major operation of Sakara. I roll up my sleeves and keep going until the problem is solved.
Last, but certainly not least, I have great eyes ;)
Take us through a day in the life of Faye + Tyler. We want all the deets!
Tyler: If it's a work day, it begins on the early side (around 5-5:30am). I start my day off with hot lemon water and will sometimes make a smoothie before heading into the kitchen to make sure things get off without a hitch. Mornings are go time in the kitchen, so I generally don't stop to eat lunch (Sakara meal!) until mid afternoon, though I'm incessantly tasting everything in the kitchen to make sure it's perfect. Once we wind down in the kitchen, I might head to a yoga class or whip up something simple at home to eat while I finish up work. I've been really trying to set a hard unplug time of 8pm (not always successfully), at which point I'll read or watch a show and head to bed! My days (both work days and days off) are very food motivated - probably no surprise there. I definitely plan my time in terms of what my next meals will be and love trying new restaurants.
Faye: When we can, we try to snag a very early morning exercise class before heading into the kitchen. Each day varies depending on the week and if we're breaking records (which we just did, again, for our top list campaign!). The record-smashing weeks involve making sure everything that needs to happen, happens. It could be anything, from tracking down extra ice packs to portioning salad dressings. Last week, I literally prepped mushrooms all day and Tyler scooped beet burgers until almost 9pm.
What's your favorite Sakara recipe creation to date, and what was the inspiration behind it?
Tyler: One of my favorite recipe creations is our Wild Mushroom Pasta. I whipped it together at one of our first off-site retreats (it's something I make for myself at home sometimes - I'm a pastaholic) and it was such a hit that we decided to Sakara-fy it - no pecorino romano - and put it on the menu! It's still one of our customer favorites.
Faye: Truffle. Mushroom. Pasta. I love how this recipe came to be. Tyler and I cook really well together, especially when we’re under pressure. Two years ago, we were responsible for the food at our company offsite. We had a bunch of food packed to bring from the Brooklyn kitchen – but only 85% percent made it there. Of course the 15% that was left behind was for lunch that day. So, we were on a time crunch, missing a substantial amount of food, and just stressing in general. Tyler took a quick inventory of the kitchen and then proceeded to create an amazing mushroom pasta dish with lemon, fresh herbs, mushrooms, and truffle oil. It was delicious – so good that the team begged us to make it an official Sakara dish!
Honestly, the chickpea pasta makes me bloated (sorry, tmi) so I can't eat it too often, but the memory of whipping up a great meal with Tyler and her quick, simple, delicious creation makes me so happy (especially because she is so tuned in to our food and is always striving for the best meals for our clients and the team's enjoyment).
My other favorite meals are the Earth Bowl, Sichuan Noodles, Avocado Mousse, Kimchi and Soba Bowl and the Superfood Caramel that goes with our Chocolate Love Muffin (the muffin is great but the caramel is next level).
What's on the horizon for you in 2018?
Tyler: It's so amazing to be at a company that won't stop growing! Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon this year. Focused on making our menu a knockout every week by continuing to introduce new enticing recipes. Also always looking for fun new ingredients and superfoods, and developing relationships with new local vendors - one of my favorite parts of the job.
Faye: I'm really excited to help the Sakara kitchens on both coasts keep growing efficiently. It’s great to see our West Coast kitchen growing the same way our East Coast operation expanded. They have the luxury of having the East Coast basically be a big brother – that kitchen already tried a bunch of different things – some were successful, some not so much.
The East Coast has also been expanding like crazy this past year and I've been spending time finding ways we can bring "Sakara to the People" without using our team to chop carrots all day. It's about finding ways to do things faster and better, but also putting our team on the most high-value tasks to keep them engaged and excited to be part of our mission.
As for me personally, I’m trying to stick to a twice daily meditation practice (Ziva meditation is amazing!) and ‘no screens before bed’ rule. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to build other women up (personally, professionally, and even women I don't know as well) so I want to make sure I find ways to do that every day.
And lastly, what makes you feel like a kween?
Tyler: We are generally in kitchen attire (which includes hairnet and hat!) and are getting our hands dirty all day. Recently I've discovered the wonder of natural beauty products, and it's become a pretty big guilty pleasure, and helps me reconnect with my feminine side when I'm feeling grungy. It's a more useful indulgence than clothes since I wear the same thing everyday (not that it stops me from buying another pair of shoes...)
Faye: Taking myself to a nice dinner. It feels good to have someone else take care of you after giving so much to everyone in your life (not that I don't love that). I love sitting at the bar of a nice restaurant and enjoying a solo dinner (French wine or Manhattan mandatory). I’m also a big proponent of self care – massages, mani/pedis, and facials. It’s hard not to feel like a kween when you’re being pampered!