Meet the Ladies of the Sakara Life Kitchen!
We are so excited to introduce you to Sakara Life's boss lady kitchen leads, Faye Bradshaw and Tyler Harvey. You know those beautiful, delicious, body-loving masterpieces that show up on your doorstep like straight out of a dream? These are the ladies that make it all happen. Without these two, you may have never experienced a pineberry, or ingested aquaponically-grown micro greens, or finally had the guts to put on that slinky black dress that's been hanging in your closet for so long...So let's get to know them.
Name: Faye Bradshaw
Where'd you grow up: Chicago
Favorite food: I love all of the food, but mostly cheese, cured meats and bread (hey Sakara is all about balance!).
Favorite Sakara meal: Sakara Earth Bowl, Cooling Bliss Bowl and Chicory Yogurt
Typical Saturday night meal: Cheese and charcuterie plate and a bottle of wine with friends
3 things that are always in your fridge: Lemons, ezekiel bread, cheese (do we sense a theme here...?)
Favorite place to shop: Kalustyans
Favorite restaurant: Too many to choose from in NYC!! I do love to frequent Bowery Meat Company and Estela though
Spirit Animal: Honeybadger
Name: Tyler Harvey
Where'd you grow up: Palo Alto. CA / Hanover, NH
Favorite food: All the herbs / Lemon
Favorite Sakara meal: Japanese Kinpira
Typical Saturday night meal: No such thing! Always excited to change it up and try new places as a newly transplanted New Yorker!
3 things that are always in your fridge: Almond milk, lemons, Cholula suace
Favorite place to shop: Killdeer Farmstand (Norwich, VT)
Favorite restaurant: Always changing, but one of my faves is Vinegar Hill...so consistently good!
How did you guys get into the food industry?
Faye: I got in on a total accident. I always baked with my mom when I was little, and then one year for her 40th birthday, we went to Le Francais, which is a four star French restaurant right outside of Chicago. They came out with this souffle and made a comment about how it wasn't rising, and my mom’s like, ‘It’s okay my daughter wants to be a pastry chef…’ I was fifteen, and I was like, ‘Mom be quiet you’re embarrassing me.’ They were like, ‘Do you want to see the kitchen?’ So they gave me a tour of the kitchen and I wrote them a thank you note. A few days later, they were like, ‘Do you want to come work for us for a few days?’ I was like, ‘Yeah, of course, sure!’ So I worked for them for three days and then they hired me for the job for the whole summer. I worked there for two summers in high school and just kept on going.
I worked for Kendall College in Chicago during the days I was going to Cornell because my dad was like, ‘You can’t go to culinary school, you need to go to a real college!’ So I wound up finding the Hotel School of Cornell and falling in love. Then I worked at Hillstone for awhile, and then got recruited to work for Sakara. It was a kind of freak accident that I got into all of this professionally, but here I am now!
When I went to work for Hillstone, I was only planning to work for one or two years to get a really good foundation. They're a really great company to work for in terms of learning how to run a business. I ended up staying with them for over five years because I was afforded a lot of opportunities. I was able to grow with them, but by the end, I felt super burnt out. I learned a lot there and I definitely learn a lot here, but I love that every day at Sakara is so different. Everything from our meal delivery, to our vegetables, is so different than anywhere else.
Tyler: I grew up in a super food-obsessed family. My dad use to put three grated hard cheeses on the table and make my sisters and I taste them and guess them correctly before we’d have dinner. We would always have food games. Food was always a huge part of my life — I did a liberal arts degree and worked at food places all through college and during my summers.
Then, I got into a Master’s program and was set to do that, and three weeks before, I had this freak out and was like, ‘No, I think I just want to do food.’ I spent the summer reading all these food books, like Anthony Bourdain’s book, and my husband was like, ‘What’s going on?! I don’t know if this is a good idea…’ I think that he thought I was having a quarter-life crises and wasn’t sure if this was the right move to make. But I just knew that I wanted to do food.
So, I forewent my security deposit and moved back to D.C., where we went to school, and I walked into as many restaurants as I could, looking for programs and menus that I respected, and just tried to find a job. I found a restaurant, called Birch and Barley, that was really new with a young chef that had just moved to D.C. from New York. He took a chance on me and brought me in. I started picking parsley and then worked my way up the line, and by the time I left I was breaking down whole animal and helping with our charcuterie program and food ordering. I was there for almost three years.
I was definitely feeling a little burnt out from working sixteen hour days for below minimum wage. At the start, I viewed it as an apprenticeship, and then just got sucked in. But when I pulled up and was like, ‘What is going on?’ I knew I needed to re-center and get back to a more balanced life. Through a family friend, I was offered a position as the chef of a fly fishing ranch in Colorado. So I moved there for the summer, and that was my first time having full autonomy. I created the menu and was, in a way, the personal chef for the owner of the ranch. I was also creating a rotating menu for the guests. That was really cool and made me realize how important it is for me to have a creative impact on the food that I’m working with.
My husband got into business school, so we moved back to New Hampshire, which is where I’m from. I met up with some of his business school students who were thinking about launching a food truck as a project for school, and we just decided that we could do it. So we launched this food truck and I did all the creative development and ended up running it with them. We staffed the truck and kitchen with Dartmouth undergrads, which was really cool because the students were so passionate about food and learning about this business. That whole venture made me realize that I’m most passionate about the intersection between business and food, especially in the fast-casual health food sector.
Then, my stepsister sent me the application for Sakara. I looked it up and was like, ‘This is where I need to be! This is the place.’ So I staged a full assault on Sakara, contacting everybody I knew. I ended up coming onboard, and it’s been nine months now.
What's it like to now be working in a female-led kitchen?
Faye: All the kitchens I've worked at have been male-dominated. It's a male-dominated industry. Men always try to say that women are so emotional and blah blah blah, but men in their kitchens are SO emotional and machismo. But they play it off by saying that they’re passionate.
Tyler: I’ve had frying pans thrown at me! I think we're kind of lucky now, in that we all aligned from day one in terms of our approach. I feel that we're all direct in wanting to get the job done, and are committed to doing it. We have a lot of positivity. I've worked in really negative kitchen environments, and I don't know if it's necessarily gender related, but I think there's a lot of machismo and bullying there. Honestly, our kitchen is entirely devoid of that, which is really cool.
Faye: In traditional kitchens, you’ll get people shoving hot pans at you — it’s so ridiculous. I think that because we're a female-led kitchen, it's not emotional because we're all clear-headed. We're like, ‘Okay let's just figure this out!’ Everyday is a new challenge, or a different challenge, and we can either figure it out and make sure it never happens again, or we can stomp around and throw frying pans at each other.
We have to be strong. I remember the long, early first days at our Brooklyn kitchen. We were there for 15 or 16 hours finishing pack out, and we only had six people. We were like, ‘Okay this was a rough, long day, but look how far we’ve come!’ We’re fortunate that we started and built this kitchen, so we're able to steer the culture the way we want it to be. Anyone that is toxic, is gone — that’s been front and center for us since day one. Something we talk about it a lot is, ‘What do we want in general, and what do we look for in personality traits of people we’re hiring?’ It’s something we’ve been actively trying to engender. We’re kind to each other and we’re respectful of each other.
How do you guys stay up to date on fresh ingredients? What's that process like?
Faye: It's about building relationships with your vendor. I've learned a lot from Tyler, and Danielle and Whitney, but a lot of the weird stuff, like superfoods, are still so new to me. I think the biggest part is to just build a relationship with your vendor, or farm, or whomever. Having that open line of communication is key. Our main produce vendor sends out daily emails, so we can go online and find out what they have. That’s how Tyler found the pineberries.
Tyler: And I think it’s about staying curious and never being afraid of trying anything new, and always pushing the boundary to find something cool and new to try.
Faye: That definitely differentiates us.
Tyler: It's one of the most fun parts of the job.
Are there any other star ingredients that you guys get super excited about?
Tyler: I get really excited about greens. I love working with and visiting our farms, and seeing what these aquaponic growers are doing with their greens. I think it’s important to bring artistry into what you’re ingesting all day. There’s this guy who’s making a greens blend that he’s been calibrating for the past 15 years, using 70 different greens. Things like that always really excite me.
What exactly is aquaponic farming?
Faye: Basically, it’s sustainable farming. They have these beds of greens, and fish tanks with tilapia. The fish poop in the water and they filter the poop out and turn it into compost. Then, the water gets filtered again and cycled back to rain on the plants, and the compost goes into the bottom to feed the soil. It’s a whole cycle.
Tyler: It's a little ecosystem and it can be done entirely indoors. Edenworks, who we've been working with in Brooklyn, has a facility three times the size of a small New York bedroom. It's pretty small, but with incredible engineering.
Faye: They're now looking to take over a bigger space though. They were telling us about how people want to invest more in the technology to make it even more sustainable, but it’s hard to find people to invest in the actual building. Tilapia gets a bad rap, but they were looking pretty good in those tanks. There was even a tilapia who had his own tank.
Tyler: They had prawns too. They’re used to eat the algae off of the the filters — the water filters keep them from gumming up.
Faye: Little shrimpies.
Can you tell us about the process of creating a Sakara meal?
Faye: It's definitely been a big learning curve, mostly because I came from a very meat and cheese background. I think part of it, since you can't throw a bunch of butter on stuff to make it taste good, is that you have to find really good quality ingredients — things are special and are exciting and different. We've learned how we like our meals to look, which is super high end.
Tyler: For me, it’s about keeping my finger on the pulse of what Whitney and Danielle feel that our food needs to do — it’s about staying really in tune with that and making sure we’re honoring their vision and core values of the food that’s been created in the past. I think it’s really about pounding the pavement in terms of sourcing to find unique, cool things. We’re always making sure that there’s really high quality ingredients, and letting those inspire us.
Faye: And making sure it tastes good.
What's the best part of the job, and what's the hardest part of the job?
Tyler: I feel like those are synonymous. The things I love most are also the hardest things. I think that managing people and managing a big team can be the most rewarding thing, but it’s also a lot. We have a big staff and a lot of moving parts.
Faye: Also, there are time when you're like, ‘This is hard…’ and you look back and you're like, ‘God, that was just ridiculous!’ You're just like, ‘Remember when we ran out of something, or something literally caught on fire?!’ In the moment, you just deal with it, and then you look back and can laugh and be like, ‘Wasn’t that a fun day…’
Tyler: That’s something I knew I wanted in a start up — being able to look back and see these tangible hurdles that we’ve overcome. Like the soba noodle crisis.
Faye: We’ve had five soba noodle crises in a row. The first time that we ever made the soba noodles at the Brooklyn kitchen, we didn’t even have enough noodles, which we didn’t realize until half way through. So we had to pick up soba from every place we could find. It was so ridiculous. Then, Tyler throws them all in, but they still had those plastic things around them, which we didn’t see.
Tyler: You know when you open spaghetti and just pour it all in? I did that, but the soba was in these individually wrapped bundles of plastic. So Faye came over and was like, ‘Okay we’ve got this!’ And she was pulling these soba bunches out with tongs, trying to unwrap boiling noodles with her bare hands.
Faye: It took us a few rounds to get the right amount of soba noodles. The recipe yield was off and it was a constant struggle. One day, we had enough noodles so we cooked them the day before, and oiled them well. Then the next day, we came in and they were all stuck together.
Tyler: It was like one giant noodle.
Faye: Then we had to deal with the sourcing again, running around to find them everywhere.
What has been your favorite moment in the kitchen thus far?
Faye: I would go with the Michael Jackson dance video that we pulled off for the Sakara Christmas Party. That was pretty good, and when we told everybody, they were like, ‘Um, no…what?’ But we got everyone to do it! We did it a couple times to get a few shots. We did some outtakes. It was pretty awesome seeing that get pulled off.
Tyler: I would say that getting our door between the kitchen and the walk-in put in felt monumental in terms of the improved flow of the day, and everybody’s efficiency. That’s not very exciting, but everything is such a work in progress, and to me, making a kitchen is about creating a space that makes sense and works well.
Faye: Also, maybe the days when we were chasing the FedEx guy to stay for nationwide pack out days. Those were always good. We’d be like, ‘Please don’t leave! We’re almost done! Don’t leave!’
What's the craziest thing that's ever happened, besides the soba crises?
Tyler: We’ve had crazy pack stuff, like the pack slips all printing wrong.
Faye: Or when they printed double. In the early days, John — one of my employees — was like, ‘We only have ten meals left but we have all these tote bags…’ We're like, ‘What?!’ Then we figured out that they had printed double.
Tyler: We had a meal miscount once, where we didn't count the meals correctly and were super short of meals at pack out. So, we had to drop everything and make 120 Cobb salads on the fly. That was pretty brutal.
Faye: We've had so many good employee stories, too.
Tyler: Once, we had somebody making scones and instead of putting in 1.6 ounces of salt, they put in 16 ounces of salt. I tasted that batter and it was straight up salt [laughs]. It’s getting better though — when we were first opening the kitchen, we were trying to get our first produce delivery in, and it was blocking all the traffic on the street. The neighbors came out screaming at him and someone threatened to murder him.
Faye: During our first official plating and pack out, the giant batter mixer broke.
Tyler: Oh yeah. Equipment breaking is something else. Once, we had to mix 200 waffles by hand in a big bowl.
Faye: And remember when National Grid showed up, and I was like, ‘What are you doing here?’ They were like, ‘We're just turning your gas off.’ I was like, ‘No, no, no, no, no, no. You are not!’ I guess the company before us didn’t transfer the bill or something, so I basically begged them to not turn it off, and that was a whole four day saga. They ended up not turning it off, thank God.
Do you feel that you've changed the way a lot of the employees now eat?
Tyler: I think they're surprised by how tasty things really are sometimes. They're like, ‘Whoa that’s crazy, this actually tastes good!’ And we're like, ‘Yeah we know!’ It’s cool to see them get really excited about certain ingredients that we have in — we recently got these purple ninja radishes, and they were taking them around and showing people, being like, ‘Look how beautiful these are!’
Faye: They care about each other too. They look out for each other — you can feel it. Happy people make happy food.
Tyler: In the beginning, it was just about survival. It was like, ‘Can we make food and make it really good and get it out the door on time?’ It was just all in, neck-deep in making salads every day. At first, we were putting out ten emergencies per day, no exaggeration. We’d get to 10pm and be like, ‘Whoa, I can't believe we did that!’ Then slowly but surely, the emergencies and the avalanches got to be smaller. We were used to being wiped out ten times a day, and then it was five times a day, and then just twice. Now, we’re like, ‘Oh my God it’s an avalanche!’ But when we put it in perspective, we can see that everything is going to be okay.
How would you describe the experience of the Sakara kitchen?
Tyler: I would describe it as a delightful challenge, or a work in progress, just like all kitchens are.
Faye: I'm super happy. And like Tyler said, we're trying to build a happy culture, and we're proud of what we have. It's a good place. We enjoy being there. We like educating our employees and making them taste things with us. Now, we've got some of them hooked the salads and some of the granolas, which is a really nice thing to see.