Twelve Days of Chef-mas: Karen Lenahan and Sarah Fitzmaurice
While we love showing you delicious food 24/7, we also think it's important that you know who is behind the food you're eating. So, our "Twelve Days of Chef-mas" series will introduce you to a dozen noteworthy chefs from across the state. You can see our full lineup of Chefs here. That being said:
🎶 On the twelfth day of "Chef-mas," CT Eats Out brings to you... Owner/Chef Karen Lenahan and Chef Sarah Fitzmaurice of Small Kitchen Big Taste. 🎶
How You Got Started In The Kitchen:
Karen: It's a long story. I've always been passionate about food and cooking because I came from a big "foodie" family (when we aren't eating, we're talking about it!). My journey to the kitchen started pretty organically. I started a food blog, then began cooking for a few clients at a time, and then my business grew by word of mouth so I began searching for a commercial kitchen of my own. I love food, love cooking, and gathering family and friends around a table. Food and cooking are such an amazing tool for communication, community, and well, love. That's why I'm so passionate about bringing good, wholesome food to people.
Sarah: My grandmother and dad are amazing cooks! I was a very curious child in the kitchen with them and was constantly watching cooking channels to recreate the recipes. Since the time people started asking me what I wanted to be when I grew up, my answer was always a chef. At 16 I got a job at Caseus in New Haven and it was my first real taste of what this industry is all about! I studied at Le Cordon Bleu where I received degrees in both Culinary Arts and Restaurant Management. I have worked in restaurants, in the kitchen at Alphabet Academy for their amazing food program, and now at SKBT where we focus on prepared foods and boutique catering! I love the diversity that this industry has to offer.
Favorite Ingredient To Work With:
Karen: At SKBT we work hard to source ingredients that we think are worthy of our customers. We've been using ground beef and stew meat for our bolognese and beef stew from Blue Slope Farm, in North Franklin, CT and it's pretty amazing. We also use their beef bones for stock... there's nothing that beats it really. Makes for some pretty incredible sauce and stews! Definitely a favorite on the menu for customers.
Sarah: It may sound pretty lame, but I LOVE kale! I used to hate it... but it slowly grew on me and now I can't stop eating it. I grew it in my garden this summer and loved testing out new recipes with it. You can make kale chips, eat it raw in salads with yummy toppings like avocado, grapefruit, pomegranate seeds, or cook with it! I love sautéing it and adding it to stuffed peppers or using it in a simple lemon garlic shrimp dish to add color and texture.
Favorite Menu Item:
Karen: We just debuted our winter menu (our menu at the store changes with the seasons). Right now my favorite menu item is our chickpea burger. It's vegan and gluten free, and gets topped with a smoked paprika yogurt sauce. With our parsnip fries, it's a totally delicious twist on a burger and fries. Unexpected deliciousness.
Sarah: Right now my favorite items on our winter menu are the Escarole and Bean soup and our Beef Stew! All of our stocks are made from scratch using local bones and veggies, and the ingredients that go into the soup are the best we can find! There's something about the time and love that goes into our soups that really makes the finished product shine. The Escarole and Bean is also an old family recipe, so it brings back many memories in the kitchen with my grandparents every time I make it!
Funniest Kitchen Story:
Karen: When I first moved into our current location for SKBT, I was pregnant (it was quite a few months of hilariousness... think very pregnant woman in the kitchen!). I totally had pregnant brain... and it was a running joke that pretty much everything I put in the oven was forgotten about. Thank god for Sarah, or we would have had a lot of burned and overcooked food!
Sarah: It's funny, Karen and I had the same answer (love you!). But everyday in the kitchen with Karen is hilarious, we have so much fun!
Favorite Holiday Dish To Eat or Cook:
Karen: Hands down that would have to be Lasagna... traditional all the way. There's something so wonderful about the process, and that it takes a little time to assemble (with family). I have so many memories of cooking with family on holidays, and making a lasagna brings me right back there.
Sarah: I always look forward to my aunts spinach and artichoke dip during the holiday's. Also, my sister made amazing cinnamon rolls for Christmas morning one year that I still think about to this day, maybe I can convince her to make them this year!
Restaurant in CT You're Dying To Try:
Karen: Community Table
Sarah: Community Table like Karen, but also Millwrights!