Diners who have visited Sally's Seafood on the Water may wonder about who Sally is and where she learned to make such amazing dishes. Many are surprised to find that the woman behind all of the impressive cuisine at Sally's Seafood is actually Chef de Cuisine Sarah Linkenheil, and her culinary history is more interesting than one could imagine. Her uniform may say Chef de Cuisine, but ‘executive’ is the only way to describe the position this experienced artist maintains at Sally's. I had a chance to sit down with the accomplished chef to glean a little about her culinary history and where her popular approach to cooking came from.
Chef Linkenheil was born and raised in the Cologne region of Germany where, like many young children, she was introduced to baking by her mother. Many hours spent in the kitchen rubbed off on the youngster, and she was encouraged by her parents to cook for the family. Sarah wasn't drawn to cooking by anything as dramatic as a cosmic calling or divine inspiration, but found more joy in creating mouthwatering meals than any other occupation or hobby. As she grew older and her future loomed in front of her, there was one career path that clearly appealed to her.
Linkenheil began her career with a solid culinary education, which soon led to apprenticeships in some very reputable establishments throughout Germany. She found that the head chefs and staff of many of the kitchens were predominantly male, and so she worked hard and put forth extra effort to establish herself in their eyes as an equal. While many chefs, regardless of gender, would've cracked under the intense pressure and stress of working in a busy kitchen, she discovered that the fast paced nature of the work agreed with her and the Chef took a liking to it. She quickly proved to be a force to be reckoned with in the kitchen and soon left Germany to introduce Americans to her stellar cuisine.
Work visas brought Linkenheil to The Lodge at Vail in Colorado, where some of the most affluent people in the country go for ski vacations. Of course, after a long day of hitting the slopes, fine dining connoisseurs came to dine on gourmet cuisine, and Sarah didn't disappoint. It was her first foray into the world of luxurious resort dining and prepared her for the many fine establishments she would soon find herself in. Since the restaurant was open mainly in the winter, the Chef went back and forth between the US and Germany, eventually heading to Switzerland for a position at the acclaimed Hotel Steigenberger Belvedere in Davos.
Sarah returned to the US for a position at Vue at the Park Hyatt Beaver Creek Resort and Spa in Colorado, where she said she was able to become more independent. The small and elegant French-inspired restaurant was run by a seasoned French chef that not only helped teach Sarah useful tools and techniques, but also gave her the freedom to create her own menus, encouraging the Chef to cultivate her own style. She learned what ingredients she preferred, the tastes she favored, and how to modernize dishes from her mother's kitchen. However, the Chef eventually grew tired of the blustery cold and decided to head for the warmer climate of San Diego. While it may not be her final destination, lucky for us her first stop was at Sally's Seafood on the Water.
Chef Sarah Linkenheil's approach to cooking is hard to define (it's easier to taste), but can be best described as combining classic dishes and putting a unique, yet familiar spin on them. Sarah told me that she believes people don't like eating the same old thing over and over, but find comfort in the familiar and approachable. She seeks to think outside the box by creating dishes with ingredients in a way that might not be familiar, but that guests can still relate to. This leads to specialties that are both innovative and delicious, and much more provocative in the way that diners think about their favorite foods. With the resources that Sally's possesses being a part of such an illustrious resort, Sarah has access to many ingredients that most people would never think of using in such a way, like the Herb Butter-Broiled Barramundi with spinach spätzle.