Culinary Feature of the Month – Meet El Gaucho Bellevue Sous Chef Sarah Brinlee
We are excited to feature the talented people behind the scenes – those who create and prepare the tasty treats that we all get to enjoy in our restaurants. Each month we will be introducing you to the gifted and passionate individuals who make up our culinary team. Bon Appétit!
Sarah Brinlee, Sous Chef at El Gaucho Bellevue
“When I was 17 and in college for hospitality management, I got a job as a pantry cook. I had found my calling,” Sarah explains. “Within 7 months, I was promoted to a line cook and became addicted to the high-stress/intense environment of the kitchen.”
Sarah Brinlee, or “Sarita” as her coworkers call her, grew up in Winter Park, FL. As a teenager in the summer, she would work at her mother’s architectural office as a receptionist/secretary, but realized she would never be satisfied working behind a desk. She had always been interested in cooking – she and her mom would frequent local farmer’s markets on Saturdays. She recalls going to the grocery store and just walking the aisles, “awing” at the new ingredients that arrived.
Her mom encouraged her to experiment and cook new things. Her dad was always a happy guinea pig, gobbling up everything she would create (even if it wasn’t the best, she adds). “Both my parents were always pushing me forward, and willing to go with whatever crazy food idea I had,” she says. Because of that influence, Sarah admits she has always “lived to eat,” and you’ll always find her where the best food is. It’s no surprise, then, that she describes her cooking style as a modern take on southern comfort cuisine with a hint of French and Italian influence.
Once she started in the kitchen, she never looked back. Some of her proudest accomplishments include becoming the lead line cook at a 500 cover/night restaurant when she was just 20 years old. She then joined the El Gaucho team in 2008 when Bellevue opened, and worked her way through every station. She started creating the weekly specials, even before she was promoted to Sous Chef. She’s also proud to be El Gaucho’s first female broiler cook, even though she admits that sauté is her favorite, because it’s the most “intricate” station. What does she like best about working at El Gaucho? “I get to work with the highest quality ingredients available,” she says.
Sarah and her husband share their home with two cats: a rescue named Squeaker and a stray they named Alaska. She loves playing video games, camping, gardening, and baking. She still loves to cook at home, and her husband’s favorite dish is prosciutto-wrapped chicken Saltimbocca with oven roasted haricot vert.
To relax, Sarah loves visiting Redwood National Park and kicking back with a peaty Rob Roy with an extra cherry. She also loves music, and played bass trombone at University of Central Florida and Rollins College, admitting she almost majored in music performance. I think our taste buds would all agree, we’re sure glad she didn’t!
Want to taste Sarah’s latest creation? Then head down to El Gaucho Bellevue for lunch and check out the fresh sheet; open for lunch Monday-Friday 11 am – 3 pm.