Chef/kitchen manager at: The Green Owl Cafe, 1970 Atwood Ave.
How long have you been at the restaurant? Since July 2011.
How long have you been cooking? Most of my life. I always helped out my mother in the kitchen as a child; I even had my own garden.
Did you go to culinary school? Yes. Illinois Institute of Art-Chicago.
Where have you worked in the past? Various stages in Chicago. I have had the privilege of working for Chef Tony Mantuano (Spiaggia), and also Chef Mark Weber (Mason Street Grill at the Pfister Hotel in Milwaukee), both of whom I hold great respect for.
Favorite foods: I could live on Bordeaux reds, butter and bread.
Favorite ingredients: One that I haven't used yet is always a favorite. Also, squash blossoms, pea tendrils and guava fruit.
Favorite restaurants: Green Zebra and Ba Le Bakery, both in Chicago; the burrito lady food cart in downtown Denver; in Madison, Batch Bakehouse, and Maduro for my favorite bar.
Best tip for home cooks: Buy one really good quality chef's knife; it's all you really need. Then, maintain it well. Also, please don't saute with extra virgin olive oil — it ruins the (oil's) flavor and all of its health benefits. Use it raw all the time.
Favorite cookbook: "Tavern on the Green: 125 Recipes for Good Times," by Kay LeRoy and Jennifer Oz LeRoy. I love reading the stories, the classic American-style cooking and the grace and style of the once-great destination (in New York).
Favorite recipe: I don't have a favorite per se. It mostly depends on my mood, and what's in season. Here is my home-cook version of a vegan bahn mi, which is my go-to sandwich.
— Samara Kalk Derby
Makes 1 sandwich
- 1 French baguette
- 1 small jalapeno, julienned
- 12 cilantro leaves
- ½ large carrot, julienned
- ½ daikon radish, julienned and pickled (recipe follows)
- ¼ English cucumber, cut in super-thin rounds and pickled (recipe follows)
- 2 large Boston butter (bibb) lettuce leaves
- 2 tablespoons Vegenaise (vegan mayo)
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
- 1 large portobello mushroom, grilled and sliced thinly
- 4 oz extra-firm tofu, grilled and cut into strips
- 8 oz Vietnamese BBQ Sauce (recipe follows)
- ½ cup water
- ½ cup white distilled vinegar
- ¼ cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon Sriracha sauce
- 1 tablespoon kosher salt
- 2 tablespoons whole black pepper
- ½ tablespoon dried red chili flakes
Combine pickling ingredients and add cucumbers and daikon and let sit for at least 30 minutes. Withdraw cucumbers and daikon right before putting on sandwich.
Vegan Vietnamese BBQ sauce
- ¼ cup soy sauce
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 tablespoons Sriracha sauce
- 1 teaspoon rice vinegar
- 1 large clove garlic, minced
- 2 tablespoons finely chopped scallions
- 12 large leaves of minced cilantro
- 2 teaspoons vegetarian fish sauce
- ¼ cup ketchup
- 1 tablespoon liquid smoke
Combine all ingredients into a sauce pot and cook over medium-high heat for 12 minutes stirring frequently.
To assemble sandwich
1. Toast French baguette first, if desired. Cut almost all the way in half, leaving a hinge to hold sides together.
2. Smear vegan mayo inside both sides of the bread.
3. Add bibb lettuce on bottom half.
4. Layer julienned carrots and pickled radishes on top of lettuce.
5. Toss grilled portobello slices and tofu strips in warmed BBQ sauce. Place on top of carrots and radishes.
6. Layer desired amount of "pickles" (cucumber slices) on top of tofu and mushrooms.
7. Layer desired amount of julienned jalapenos on top of pickles (for most heat add entire pepper).
8. Sprinkle desired amount of Sriracha sauce on top, add cilantro leaves and serve.