CHEF OF THE MONTH: Creator of award-winning crab cake
An army brat who began her career in investment banking, Chef Sarah Schreifer is The Log’s Chef of the Month for April.
Born in Chicago and raised in Colorado and California, Schreifer learned to cook as many great chefs do — at their mother’s knee.
“I grew up in a military family and we were always entertaining — to the tune of having gatherings for 100 people,” Schreifer told The Log. “I remember my mother being at ease and enjoying the creativity of cooking. That was inspiring to me.”
When Schreifer and her sister were children, they enjoyed making tomato soup for their father.
“We dissolved Red Hots candy in hot water,” she said. “Not too tasty, but my dad was a good sport about it!”
However, cooking took a backseat for several years as Schreifer graduated from the University of Notre Dame with a business degree and began a career in investment banking in Philadelphia for five years.
“I found the world of finance interesting, but I was unfulfilled,” she said. “I wanted to be passionate about my life so I made a list of things I liked to do. It included sleeping, eating candy and cooking/entertaining. The last was my only viable option.”
With her new career path settled, Schreifer attended the nationally recognized culinary-arts program at Philadelphia’s Walnut Hill College. She then went on to work in restaurants in Portland, Ore., Del Mar, Calif., and Philadelphia, Pa., and in 1999 she visited family who had relocated to the Emerald Coast.
“I fell in love with the area. I wanted a family-oriented business because I needed all the free help I could get.”
Schreifer’s early love of entertaining she learned from her mother led to the opening of Sarah K’s Gourmet, a take-out specializing in chef-crafted, ready-to-heat cuisine.
“I always enjoyed entertaining and having friends into my home,” she said. “I want my customers to be able to enjoy their families and guests instead of spending all their time in the kitchen cooking. Time is the most precious commodity these days and if I can give my customers even five more minutes to spend with their families that is a thrill for me.”
Known for the Jumbo Lump Crab Cakes — all crab, no filler —Sarah K’s Gourmet has won the “Best of the Emerald Coast” award every year since inception. Schreifer has been featured on all national TV stations, nationally syndicated programs, national radio, newspapers and in numerous magazines.
Making those famous crab cakes was an absolute labor of love for the chef.
“I perfected the recipe in Ocean City, Maryland. It took quite a few years to get them just right, but I think eliminating the fillers is what makes them so unique and delectable.”
And where does Schreifer see herself in 10 years?
“Hopefully, I will not still be mopping the floors and taking out the trash! I would like to win the lottery.”
Q: What is the most popular item at Sarah K’s?
A: Crab Cakes are our most popular item. We have shipped them as far as Alaska via float plane. Our fresh chicken salad, chicken stuffed with crab meat, and our Death by Chocolate brownies are local favorites.
Q: How do you add new dishes to the menu?
A: We add new dishes to the menu depending on seasonal produce, fresh catches and market trends, and most importantly, our customers.
Q: How would you describe your style of cooking?
A: Adventurous, clueless and lucky.
Q: What is your favorite food to eat?
A: I really enjoy candy!
Q: Best piece of advice you would give a home cook?
A: Don’t be afraid to experiment. Some of my greatest recipes have come out of unusual flavor combinations and ingredient pairings.
Sarah K’s Gourmet Shrimp,
Artichoke and Crab Dip
14 oz. can artichoke hearts, drained and chopped
4 oz. can green chopped green chilis, drained
3/4 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup mayonnaise
Dash of garlic powder
6 oz. cooked shrimp
6 oz. cooked crab meat
Preheat the oven to 350. Combine all ingredients. Pour into an oven safe dish and bake for 20 minutes, stirring half way through.
Serve warm with crackers.
The dip also makes a hearty pizza topping or addition to cooked pasta.