Chef Sara Boan
Growing up on a dairy farm in rural Ohio, the younger me would never have dreamed that someday I’d be working as a vegan chef at an animal sanctuary in New York. Oh, how mysterious the workings of the world can be! Over the past three decades I’ve gone from farm girl to classically-trained musician to vegan chef on a long and circuitous journey, but take it from me, I wouldn’t have had it any other way. The road has been long and winding, but the destination was worth it!
I’ve had a fascination with food for as long as I can remember, and sometimes wonder why I didn’t launch myself into a culinary career right out of high school. Looking back, I guess I was just too enamored with all things music-related to give the culinary world my undivided attention. I immersed myself in my love of classical music and earned a degree in Flute Performance in 2006, then swiftly discovered that, no matter how optimistic my worldview might be, there just weren’t all that many jobs out there for an orchestral flutist. Greatly humbled, I taught private flute lessons for several years, also dedicating my time to volunteer opportunities and whatever odd jobs I could find. Through it all, a voice in the back of my mind kept encouraging me to follow my wildest, most exciting dreams – and to this sheltered Midwestern girl, that meant throwing caution to the wind and going to culinary school in New York City. With the unconditional support of my wonderful family, my partner and I moved to New York to start a new chapter in our lives. I graduated from the Natural Gourmet Institute for Health and Culinary Arts in early 2008 and started working in the culinary industry immediately after graduation.
Flash-forward to almost a decade later, when a chance viewing of the documentary Blackfish opened my eyes to the suffering of orcas and other cetaceans in marine parks. Almost immediately, I began to question the ethics behind my omnivorous ways and started looking in earnest at the treatment of animals used for food. I was absolutely horrified, and dived deeper into the world of animal rights, quickly branching out to explore the myriad ways animals are commodified in our culture. One day after Blackfish, I was vegetarian, just as I'd been for a few years in college. A week (and lots of tears) later, I was vegan.
At the time, I had an excellent job as a pastry chef and was working with lots of eggs and dairy. I sought out jobs that lined up with my new values, but, sadly, to no avail. I kept that job to pay the bills but dedicated every free moment at home to learning all about vegan cooking and baking, honing my skills with each new dish and technique. Before I even realized what was happening, I was writing my own recipes and daydreaming about my dream job: teaching cooking classes to people eager to learn what I knew. It wasn’t until over two years after going vegan that I stumbled on a job listing at Catskill Animal Sanctuary that not only caught my eye but seemed like it was written just for me. Heart in my throat, I applied for the job — and several interviews and one cooking class later, I was hired! It was one of the happiest days of my life.
These days you’ll find me teaching cooking classes at The Homestead, the beautiful bed and breakfast here at the Sanctuary. When I’m not teaching classes, I’m writing and testing recipes for class and our blog, coordinating food tastings for our weekend visitors during our open tour season, and working with Chef Linda on catering special events and staff meetings. I feel so incredibly blessed to be able to share my skills and knowledge with the world and find such joy in this incredible, soul-fulfilling work. I’m so proud to be part of the Catskill Animal Sanctuary family, and hope to see you in class or at an event very soon!