Meet the PRE Chef, Sarah Russo!

 

I’m Chef Sarah Russo, the Culinary Manager at PRE Brands. You’ll be seeing a lot of me, so let’s get to know each other!

Who I am and how I got here.

I’m an active, food loving gal from the greatest city in the Midwest –Chicago! I grew up with seven siblings, four cats, and a love for dance. I danced my way to Hope College, where I received a BA in Social Work. In my health classes, I quickly learned about the food disparity problems in many areas of our country. I was inspired to learn more and find ways I could use this passion to create change in the food space, specifically urban areas.

It was a combination of this newfound passion for food and a sudden realization that I had to cook for myself (do you remember that moment in college when microwave dinners no longer cut it?) that made me explore the kitchen more. I loved cooking with new ingredients. I went from eating frozen prepared meals to making Panang Curry from scratch.

I was hooked.

And then the question lingered –could this cooking thing help me change our conventional food system?

The answer was YES.

 

What I did next…

Since this epiphany, I’ve graduated from Bauman College of Holistic Nutrition and Culinary Arts. I’ve started a few businesses and have worked with clients that have food restrictions. My favorite accomplishment has been to give those with food issues a new sense of belonging. Having a food allergy, disorder, or diet-specific goal can be isolating. It’s been an incredible experience to help empower these clients to learn more, cook more, and share their experiences.

 

What I’m Doing Now

I recently joined the PRE team as the Culinary Manager. My job is to educate and inspire our community (you!) to create healthy, delicious dishes at home. I do that in many ways, but here’s the top three:

I’ll be teaching you how to cook with fresh ingredients.
My hope is that you’ll fall in love with eating freshly prepared meals and that you’ll consistently opt for healthy, sustainable, and nutrient dense foods.

I’ll teach you about your food, where it comes from, and how to prepare it.
The more you know about how to safely prepare food at home, the more you’ll be able to create in the kitchen. I’ll also be teaching you where food comes from and how it gets to your plate. With this empowerment, I believe you’ll use your dollars to “vote” for companies like PRE that promise complete transparency.

I’ll teach you about the correct tools.
This is where the sharp knives come in! Using the correct tools will help maximize your skills, no matter what cooking level you’re at.

All the advice I give will be grounded in my nutrition mantra: Eat Whole, Eat Clean, Eat Together. This mantra guides all the recipes I’ll be creating for you.

Chef Sarah teaching attendees at PaleoF(x) about grass fed beef.

What Inspires Me

Food inspiration is everywhere!

I base my dishes off what is seasonally available (a tricky feat for the Midwest), places I’ve traveled, favorite restaurants, and special diets.

Diets? Yes! I like to work with people that have food restrictions or goals. It ignites my creativity. Need an empanada with no flour, dairy, and no yeast? No problem!

Traveling to new countries helps open my mind to new flavors combination and exotic inspired dishes. Local Chicago restaurants also inspire me. My favorites are Lula Café, XOCO, Parachute, and La Sirena.

Eat well!

  • DawnSmith

    Can you give us some pointers for cooking in cast iron skillets? I have been incorporating using them to cook eggs, saute greens and small dishes like that but would like to try more things.

    • PRE Brands

      Hi Dawn!

      I’m glad to hear you have been using a cast iron skillet for cooking. It’s one of my favorite kitchen tools. While there are many uses for a cast iron skillet, what I do most often is pan sear meat. Since the cast iron has a heavy duty smooth base, it creates a perfect sear for all my steaks, chops, and chicken. A perfect sear is important for flavor and consistency. Here are a few tips for cooking with a cast iron skillet:

      1) Dry and season your meat with salt (no pepper, it will burn)
      2) Do not move the meat around the pan until it moves freely and flip only once.
      3) Beyond searing meat, I use my cast iron for making items that start on the stovetop and finish in the oven like egg frittata, braised beef, chicken pot pie, cinnamon rolls, and green chili enchiladas. Possibilities are endless!

      Hope that helps! Thanks for reading.

      Eat Well,

      Chef Sarah

      • DawnSmith

        Wow thanks for all the great tips. I def. will be trying chicken in cast iron tonight and finishing it off in the oven. Have a great day.