On the front burner with Sarah Keenan

I love Sarah’s feature in this issue of Where Women Cook…there is something so wonderful and inspiring about reading about someone who realizes their passion and changes paths to follow it.

I am Sarah Spry Keenan, and I come from a family of artists: musicians, painters, cooks…and my Mom is a writer. I am artistic in my own way, but a writer I am NOT (as you may or may not agree as you read on). Cooking is my art.  It took me a while to figure this out, hence my mid-life choice to quit my job and go to Culinary School last year.  My husband James is a graphic artist and painter himself so he recognized my passion and encouraged me to pursue my dream of becoming a professional chef.

Because I was raised in a family with hardcore health-food freaks, I was fed the purest and freshest foods as a child.

Not until I was well into my adulthood did I come to appreciate that part of my upbringing. However, if as a five-year old you were told that carob chips and raisins were just like chocolate chips in cookies you may have developed some bitterness later as I did, especially towards raisins. My grandmother had a huge garden and raised livestock that included chickens and goats. Both my mother and my grandmother at separate times owned and ran their own health food stores.

My “granola” upbringing went beyond the fresh food aisle.  Growing up all over California was amazing.  There were camping trips in the Sierras, road trips up and down the coast, and endless days on the beach. My dad used to take my brother and I cherry picking. I remember so vividly how we would sit at the top of the trees and do more eating then picking…then on our way home, we would stop at roadside fruit stands to pick up snacks. In these ways and more, throughout my young life I developed a fulfilling relationship with good, fresh food—it is practically in my blood.

hile I have always found joy in cooking, whether it was a good meal or attempting a new recipe, I think the desire to cook professionally set in when I noticed how the food I cooked for my people made them happy. The energy and love you put into good food…the planning and research, shopping for just the right ingredients, and the time and care preparing it…then comes the moment of truth when you serve it up to the ones you love.  There is such gratification knowing you’ve made something really good, really healthy, and really delicious. And then the satisfaction I would get from small victories, like finally making something my picky toddler would eat without any drama – score! That toddler is now a 22-year-old man and a brilliant musician as well as a natural and creative cook in his own right…the family love of food continues into another generation.

The blogging world is fascinating to me, I could easily lose a whole day reading food blogs. I started my own blog –Spry On Food (http://spryonfood.com/) – in March of 2010 to have a creative outlet for my cooking and to share what I had discovered; the creation of a new recipe that turned out awesome, or a cool new ingredient, or my incredible journey through Culinary School.  (For more on my school adventures, read the full article in the summer issue of Where Women Cook.) Spry on Food gives me added motivation to continue searching for new and interesting foods, as well as a great structure within which to really flesh out the recipes and processes and share the knowledge with fellow foodies.

Since graduating from culinary school I have worked as a personal chef; tried my hand at catering local events; and I recently had the pleasure of cooking for 55 amazing women at the Gilded Life’s art event in Dallas, Texas. In addition, I have been sprucing up my blog and posting several times a week. I will readily admit I have missed the wonderful experiences I enjoyed during school. Luckily, I am honored to be given the opportunity to return: I will be teaching Thai cooking classes this summer at my alma mater, Laguna Culinary Arts in Laguna Beach, California (http://www.lagunaculinaryarts.com/).  Big thanks to Where Women Cook for letting me share my story. Do what you love and you will shine!

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