Sara May is a relative newcomer to food. For the first 10 years of her career, she traveled the country, working as a production stage manager for several different regional theatres—ultimately developing a skill set that would help her one day tackle the precise world of pastry. Organized with a flair for micro-managing details, May just needed the training to jumpstart her culinary ambitions.
She began commuting from Philly to New York City twice a week in 2010 to attend the Natural Gourmet Institute, one of the few culinary schools in the United States devoted to vegetarian and health-supportive cuisine. And if health equals happiness, she began serving it in spades with her first job as soda jerk at Philadelphia’s Franklin Fountain.
Working under fellow Rising Star Artisan Davina Soondrum, May flourished, moving up from the soda fountain to pie visionary and pastry chef when Soondrum took over next-door Shane Confectionery. May continues to push forward Franklin’s vision of turn-of-the-century sweets made with the local, old-fashioned ingredients May is most passionate about: butter, cream, ripe summer peaches, and Pennsylvania chocolate, to name a few. She also develops recipes for her blog, The Cozy Herbivore, and has adapted Franklin Fountain recipes for publications, such as Bon Appetit, Redbook, and Imbibe, as well as the cookbook Philadelphia Chef’s Table: Extraordinary Recipes from the City of Brotherly Love.
Interview with 2013 Philadelphia Rising Star Artisan Sara May
CH: What is your favorite tool?
SM: The gorgeous copper kettles we cook all of our sauces and candies in.
CH: What tool do you wish you had?
SM: I wish our fire mixer was up and running—I’d love to work with a stove-mixer combo!
CH: What is your favorite cookbook?
SM: Too many to choose from! My old stand-bys: Martha Stewart’s Hors d’Oeuvres Handbook, Yotam Ottolenghi’s Plenty, David Lebovitz’s Perfect Scoop.
CH: What’s your favorite food resource?
SM: The internet in general, of course—not only does it provide access to recipes, but the food community is so vibrant with conversations, tips, advice and lively debates! I really love Punk Domestics for preserving/canning/foraging tips and David Lebovitz’s blog is always a starting point for me when I develop sweet recipes.
CH: What is your most important kitchen rule?
SM: Start with a clean workspace, end with a cleaner workspace. Cleaning is just as important as cooking. Also be precise, move with purpose.
CH: What is your favorite dish you have ever made?
SM: My vegan pho is off the chain. Die-hard “regular” pho fanatics go nuts for it.
CH: Where do you most want to go for culinary travel?
France of course, but also Spain, Thailand, Mexico…