JS: What was the inspiration for your salads that you made for me?
SK: The tomato salad was inspired by the classic Israeli Salad, a salad I’ve eaten my whole life, my most comfort food. I wanted to make it more interesting without overcomplicating or diverging too far from the original.
The broccoli salad was truly from the farmers market that morning. I didn’t know exactly how it would come together, but I often like to wing it. I wanted to showcase the kumquats since they were just perfect! But, since they are so powerful, I needed to add a little substance. So, the lovely broccoli added richness and the texture of the seeds balanced the two out well.
Julia: Can you tell me a little bit about your family and how your background influences your cooking style? Seems like it is all beautifully tangled together.
Sara: My mother is Peruvian-Israeli. She is an avid home cook. Needless to say, I ate well as a child and I enjoyed the strong Middle Eastern presence in my diet from an early age. I started preparing the family classics with my mother and grandmother early on. My grandmother actually had a falafel shop in Tel Aviv at one point (before my time.)
JS: How did you get into musical theatre? What was it like performing the same show over and over again, night after night?
SK: Well, my sister was (and still is) a great singer. So growing up, I wanted to sing, too. I started with classical lessons and became enveloped by the world of performance. During my junior year of high school, a friend encouraged me to audition for Mamma Mia! At the time I had no professional experience — I barely knew how to prepare for an audition! But I went, blindly. I survived the year-long ordeal and seven auditions, and at 17 I was cast in the National Tour days before graduating high school.
I toured for a year and a half, followed by a year on Broadway. It was thrilling at first, though a very unorthodox first step into adulthood. I’d be lying if I said it wasn’t jarring, but I feel very fortunate for the experience.
JS: Do you still sing and dance? Do you find outlets for that part of your creative brain?
SK: I don’t do much in the way of singing or dancing now. An occasional karaoke cameo. When I’m in the company of a new friend who doesn’t know about my past career, the look of shock makes for a pretty good time. I always think I’ll figure out how to sing again when I have some time…
JS: How did you make the transition to the culinary world?
SK: I had a year and a half long stint at NYU in the Gallatin school, where you study whatever the hell you like. I gravitated towards food studies, I had always been interested in sustainability and food politics. But the program was frighteningly wide-open, so I tried culinary school. I went to The National Gourmet Institute, which lead to an externship at Blue Hill at Stone Barns, which turned into a job.
JS: At this stage in your life, if you weren’t a chef, what would you be?
SK: I thought about going back to school. I would love to study agriculture and environmental science, but I’m not sure what I would do with that education. I would love to have an orchard, but that’s a little beside the point.
JS: Tell me about Mad Capra. Where did the name come from and how did the project come about?
SK: Madcapra is a hybridization of the words “madcap” and “capra.” The former, a familiar word for “eccentric”; the latter, the latin for “goat.” Do not take this too literally. Sarah and I toiled (for months) over what we’d name the shop, and kept running into names that were either too cute or referential in ways we didn’t want. One day we were brainstorming ideas related to our favorite inspirational goat, and the came up and has since stuck. We like the sound of it.
JS: Tell me about your partnership with Sarah Hymanson. How did you meet?
SK: I met Sarah when I was working at The Meat Hook and she at The Brooklyn Kitchen (these spaces are conjoined). We overlapped briefly. She worked at Blue Hill and came to work with me at Glasserie – so we have a similar basic culinary language and work ethic. After Glasserie, we wanted to continue to work together. I think we make each other stronger. It is great to have someone reliable by your side.
JS: Why falafel?
SK: The project came about in jest, but we started to take it seriously because great falafel places are few and far between! Plus it’s fun, and a great first venture for us here in LA to get our feet wet.
JS: Have you always wanted to own your own restaurant?
SK: I don’t know that I’ve always wanted to own my own restaurant. I thought about a bakery when I was a teenager. I love the idea of being a business owner. I love the idea of being able to employ people and of building a successful business with a healthy work environment. Though owning a restaurant is a bit of a masochistic undertaking.