Sarah Simmons is the chef and owner of Birds & Bubbles, a restaurant on New York’s Lower East Side that spotlights Southern classics and the perfect pairing of fried chicken and sparkling wines.
She’s also the founder of the CITY GRIT brand, which has grown from a culinary salon in New York City to a trusted resource for where to eat, which chefs to watch, and the latest culinary trends.
The chef and culinary trendsetter gave us a few minutes to pick her brain on everything from who her greatest kitchen mentors are to where she found inspiration for her latest mango-chile sauce (spoiler: while out on a walk!).
What’s the biggest change you’ve seen in the food world in the past 5 years?
Home cooks caring about where their food is sourced is one of the most promising changes we’ve seen in the food world.
What do you expect will be a big change coming for the food world in the next 10 years?
We will be forced to make decisions about what we eat based on our food supply. All foods require land and water to thrive and as we begin to run short on either of those precious resources, it will have a tremendous impact on our food systems.
Who or what has been the most important influence in your culinary career?
Frank Stitt’s food transformed how I thought about Southern cuisine, and has certainly impacted my approach to cooking. I try (but often fail) to channel my inner Michael Anthony in my own kitchen because he is the most patient and kind teacher I’ve ever seen.
What’s the most important lesson you’ve learned in the kitchen?
Sometimes big mistakes can lead to even bigger discoveries.
Tell us about how you got into cooking.
I’ve been cooking since I was six. I started making myself breakfast in the morning before my family got up.
If you could travel anywhere right now, where would you go?
I am dying to go to Israel.
Where do you get inspiration and ideas for new dishes?
I think about food 90 percent of the day, so I am always finding inspiration in the craziest places. Just the other day, I passed the little lady peeling mangoes on the corner in Union Square and spotted the bottle of hot sauce on her cart and came to work and made a mango chili dipping sauce for one of our dishes.
Describe your home kitchen. How is different from what people might expect?
My fridge is full of pint containers with ingredients I’ve brought home from Birds & Bubbles. I think people would be shocked at how little I cook at home.
What kitchen tool or piece of equipment do you use most often?
I am in love with the Microplane, and I can’t live without my Vitamix.
Get to know all of the members of the Williams-Sonoma Chefs’ Collective, and see their latest travels, eats, and other inspirations on Instagram under the hashtag #wschefs.