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  • Sarah Burt, Owner of Saucy Burt's Meatball Foodcart in Minneapolis, MN, on starting her small business in the food industry:

    I decided one fall that I was going to master how to make chicken stock, which now in hindsight, being a chef, is a really easy thing to make. But what it entailed was one weekend I would roast a chicken, and the next weekend I would make stock out of the carcasses, and then the third weekend I would make soup. I did that all winter long, and as I got better in the kitchen, it ignited a connection to my senses that I think was missing before. There's nothing quite like chicken stock cooking in your kitchen. It's an amazing smell. Having my senses completely open and aware--that was what really got me connected to cooking.

    At the time, I was thinking about a career change. The place I was happiest was in my home kitchen, so I thought, okay well I'll become a chef. So, I went up and visited the Culinary Institute of America. In order to get in, you had to cook in a kitchen for six months. So I came back to Minneapolis, and I found a couple kitchens to stage in--stage is the French word for apprentice.

    I picked a restaurant that had a lot of buzz, called Haute Dish. They had just opened. In most established restaurants, I would just be chopping vegetables all day, but I figured in a new restaurant, they could use my help in a lot of different ways. Their chef Landon Schoenefeld sat me down, and he said, 'First of all, you have to understand that being a chef is a blue collar job. You work long hours, and you get paid very little. That's the first thing you need to understand. This is not glamorous work.' And then he said, 'I can teach you everything you need to know if you work for me for free for three months for thirty hours a week, and you won't have to go to culinary school.' And he was absolutely right.

    I learned everything I needed to know from the really excellent chefs that I've worked with. I'm still learning. That's a big part of being a chef. It takes, really, ten years, until you are a solid, fast, and really good chef. I lucked out. Haute Dish is a really solid restaurant in the Twin Cities. I also spent some time at arguably the best restaurant in the Twin Cities, La Belle Vie. The chef there has won a James Beard Award. That was a very serious kitchen to work in, and I learned a lot about how to organize myself and keep calm and carry on.

    The experience of working in those two kitchens got me ready to launch Saucy Burt's. Those first two-and-a-half years of working in those kitchens--very long, very hard, some would maybe say brutal--all those things you see on the Cooking Network about crazy chefs, yeah it's absolutely true. But even though it was hard at the time, I think it's the number one thing that prepared me to run a successful food business.
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