Sarah Owens

Cookbook Author & Baker

Cookbook author, baker, gardener, sourdough master. Sarah Owens is a true bread winner. Her first book, Sourdough, received a James Beard award; her following releases, Toast & Jam and Heirloom, have been met with equal acclaim. But reading recipes is not the only way to experience the Owens oeuvre. Sarah owns wholesale and workspace, Ritual Fine Foods, teaches workshops and curates events around the world. Through all her efforts, she’s bringing wholesome and heritage ingredients and techniques to bread lovers everywhere.

Originally a professional ceramic artist, Sarah spent years as a horticulturist at the Brooklyn Botanic Garden. Her work in organic care and heirloom cultivars blossomed into a love of food and fermentation. She founded Ritual Fine Foods for a new and needed perspective on fresh and healthy food products. “Through the conviction of a number of folks dedicated to building the food community there,” she says, “I was able to find a way to not only bake sourdough but become a small part of a growing movement to bring better, fresher food to the Rockaway peninsula.” Recently relocated in winter of 2020, Sarah will continue her mission in Sebastopol, CA, with a new workspace and venue to teach the benefits of nourishing food traditions.

Why We Love Sarah Owens

Sarah’s love of bread rivals Oprah’s. She’s on a mission to help anyone who’s looking to provide fresh food and healthy grains to their friends and family.

“I’m a very creative person who likes to deal with natural elements as much as possible.”

“You need to be able to master your craft before you can turn it into an art.”

6 Questions with Sarah Owens

  1. How did your work as a horticulturist inform your research and methodologies in baking and fermenting?

    My work has formed a lot of different areas of my life—particularly the way I’ve decided to cook, bake and ferment. I think when you consider your food from a place of its origin—especially with flour—there’s not a lot of transparency around how grain is grown. And grain makes flour, which makes our bread. So, I think about ingredients from their origin: how they’re being grown, what is their relationship with the soil, and their environmental conditions. But I also think about the seed, its function in nature and what does that mean for our bellies?

  2. How do you think looking at and researching our food ingredients can help people’s health?

    I think by looking into ingredients and trying to understand their origin and processing, it can help us see how it’s impacting our health from a couple of different angles. One is simply looking at how much transparency comes with those ingredients. What are the origins? Has it been altered to include a higher gluten content? If so, what are the techniques we can employ to make it more digestible? Or, is it a type of wheat that’s lower in gluten potential, like flatbreads, that have more flavor? I’m always excited to learn about ingredients and how people have developed recipes with them over time.

  3. How would you describe an “heirloom kitchen”?

    I would describe an heirloom kitchen as something that embraces both heirloom ingredients but also techniques for preparing them. 'Heirloom' calls to mind a lot of different things, whether that be a piece of jewelry or furniture that’s been passed down through time from one generation to the next—often with a very particular value or nostalgia. I’m interested in understanding those ingredients and techniques and bringing them into a modern context without losing the original value or story. It’s about holding onto what’s most important.

  4. Why do you think sourdough baking has exploded in popularity?

    I think sourdough baking has become more popular over the last few years for several reasons. I think a lot of people, like myself, have had digestive issues that have led them to question how their bread is being made. Also, like with myself, people have become very interested in the actual process of making bread. It can not only lead to a delicious loaf, but it’s something that slows you down, brings you into the moment and calls attention to what you’re doing and engages all your senses. Those are things that we’ve sort of lost in our daily activities. It’s interactive, engaging and just fun!

  5. What’s a technique that was both challenging and rewarding to learn?

    What I’ve learned over time and through sourdough baking has just been patience. I've learned how to allow time for things to develop. Sourdough is a process that requires you to allow the steps to develop over a longer period of time than a loaf of bread made with conventional yeast. All the steps definitely require patience and time.

  6. You have a piece of toast. What are you putting on it?

    On pretty much any type of toast, I’m going to smear some cultured butter and a little sprinkle of sea salt.

Republic of Georgia with Sarah Owens

One Departure Only | September 27 - October 3, 2021

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