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Thursday, February 28, 2013

MOVERS and SHAKERS: Kelly Sasuga, Sales & Marketing and Research & Development Chef of Fresh Origins Our Coverage Sponsored by Marcony Restaurant

Kelly Sasuga

Marcony is one of the premier Italian venues to dine at in Manhattan located at 184 Lexington Avenue between 31st and 32nd streets in the Murray Hill neighborhood. It is multi-level, offering two private dining areas, outdoor seating, and an intimate low-ceiling bar. Their stellar fresh seafood in particular is ideal for dining and everything we have ever eaten at Marcony impresses us immensely. Equally breathtaking is the decor: painted white and blue with dark wood and chrome accents, the space suggests a small yacht cruising around the Isle of Capri, where owner Marco Pipolo hails from. Marco has been featured as a Mover and Shaker:
Marcony has been highly recommended by Whom You Know: 
it has gained acclaim for its outdoor area, one of the best in Manhattan: 
And, it was not lost on Peachy that it has one of the most amazing chandeliers in the city: 
Like them on Facebook as well: 
You will feel like you went to Capri when you dine at Marcony on the island of Manhattan! We believe you will love it too.

From early childhood, Kelly Sasuga has expressed her artistic abilities in a variety of ways. An inclination to create has driven her to explore many forms of art expression including dance, painting, photography, cooking, fashion, and design. Now, she expresses her artistic talents in creating beautiful, delicious food, carefully plating with precision and finesse and capturing it through the lens of her camera. 

Kelly graduated from the University of San Francisco with a Degree in Fine Arts. Her degree focused on painting, sculpting and graphic design. Along the way, she cultivated an interest in photography, which started as a hobby but quickly developed into professional study. She then had the opportunity to apply her artistic sensibilities in photographing the beautiful food created by fine dining chefs. Her photos have been used in a variety of advertising media including StarChefs, Catersource, Flavor and the Menu, Epicure Magazine, San Diego and Dining out Magazines.

Kelly first started working at her family farm, Fresh Origins during her college summer break. Her first job was planting seed by hand. After graduation, she returned and was the company’s first customer service representative, dealing with produce buyers and chefs on a daily basis. She’s also done production planning, and crop scheduling, quality control, and food safety. More recently, Kelly has worked to ramp up the sales and marketing efforts with social media, advertising, photography, product development and promotion. She plays a key role in representing the company at events and exhibitions throughout the country where she enjoys the opportunity to meet and interact with great chefs.

Selling Fresh Origins’ Microgreens and Edible Flowers to Chefs nationwide has been a unique opportunity to learn about the creativity of fine cuisine. Her growing appreciation for the Culinary Arts inspired her to become a chef herself, so in 2011, she attended the San Diego Culinary Institute, graduating this year in their Commis de Cuisine program. Completing the grueling program at the top of her class, which included a stage at San Diego’s unique restaurant; Red Light District, she learned first-hand the blood, sweat, tears and passion of what it takes to be a professional chef. The school’s focus on teaching technique rather than recipes greatly helped her to become a Research & Development Chef. She now has a much better understanding of food science, flavor theory, and how to properly and attractively plate her creations. 

Integrating fine culinary skills with her artistic talents has greatly enhanced her career at Fresh Origins. She creates specialty dishes to further educate chefs on how to incorporate Microgreens and Edible Flowers into their cuisine. She encourages them to consider the flavor profile of a dish in utilizing the microgreens as a key ingredient, instead of just a garnish. They should be integrated as relevant visual and flavor component to enhance and complete the dish. She imparts the concept that there are so many different flavors, colors and textures of Microgreens and Edible Flowers with a multitude of ways to pair with seafood, poultry, red meat, vegetables or any combination of foods. She develops recipes for Fresh Origins’ website and blog. Kelly also has a background in bartending and uses this knowledge to create cocktails that integrate Fresh Origins’ specialty herbs and edible flowers to add exciting colors and flavors.

Kelly’s responsibilities include showcasing Fresh Origins products at trade shows and culinary events where she has prepared and provided food for International Chef’s Congress in New York, Culinary Institute of America’s Worlds of Flavor event in Napa, Produce Marketing Association’s Foodservice Conference in Monterey, San Diego Restaurant Week’s Tasting Event, CaterSource Conference, Las Vegas, and The Western Foodservice Show. 

Kelly has recently been accepted as a member of the San Diego Culinary Institute’s Competition Team. The team practices twice a week and is preparing for a mystery basket competition in South Carolina at the Southeast Hotel & Motel Supply Show. Kelly states, “Practicing for a mystery basket is a very challenging experience. Instead of practicing the same menu for months, we are creating a different dish with each practice, which has to be done on the spot with no advance planning. It’s a great learning experience that teaches creativity and resourcefulness under pressure.” We could not be more thrilled to present Kelly Sasuga as our latest Mover and Shaker! Peachy Deegan interviewed Kelly for Whom You Know.

Peachy Deegan: What is your first culinary memory?
Kelly Sasuga: I remember when I was about 4, my dad had me try peanut butter for the 1st time. He gave me a spoonful of it and told me it tasted like chicken. I loved it! I still eat it like that. 

How do you define art and culinary art in particular? 
Art, to me is any visual expression that someone creates. Culinary Art is like any other art; if you compare it to painting….the plate is your canvas and the food, your paint. The plates that most remind me of Fine Art are ones that are very colorful and have several different, distinctive colors, shapes and textures. They also have a more unique appearance and produce a nice flow. Artistic plates are ones that don’t just look like they were thrown together; every component is carefully placed and has a purpose for being there.

What kind of camera do you think is best and why? 
I’ve always liked Canons; they are easy to use and take great quality photos. Whether you are using a point and shoot or an EOS, a Canon camera has very similar functions so there’s not a huge learning curve. I think Nikons are probably just as great but I don’t have as much experience with them.

What was it like to grow up with Fresh Origins and how has it progressed through your eyes?
I remember the first time my dad explained Microgreens to me….he described them as a garnish that a fine dining chef would use to decorate and enhance their plate. Today, Microgreens are so much more than just a garnish or decoration. They are an ingredient that adds flavor, texture, and a fresh aspect to any plate. Through Chefs and our own experiences we’ve learned how to use them so that they are an integral part of a dish. Although our primary business is Microgreens, we now also grow so many other products such as Petitegreens, Edible Flowers, Tiny Veggies™, Shoots, Herb and Flower Crystals™, & Herb Tops. We introduce new products about once a month. I have seen the demand and knowledge of these products grow a huge amount in the restaurant industry from when we first started. Therefore, our company has definitely grown….when I first started here, planting seed on my college summer break, there were only 5 of us total….we now have about 100 employees.

What would surprise most people about farming in America today?
The need for safe, affordable fruits and vegetables is greater than ever before. Fortunately, modern farming has improved by leaps and bounds over the old ways of farming through better science and technology to produce an abundance of great food with incredible quality and efficiency. This helps the environment by preserving precious land and resources compared to the old methods. Modern advances in farming must continue in order to feed more people while minimizing the use of our natural resources. A lot of people, even in our own country are hungry. 

If you were stranded on a desert island with only 5 Fresh Origins products, what would they be and why?
Micro Intensity: because of the variety of strong flavors and colors. Tiny Veggies: because they are very healthy and would be substance to keep me full. Herb Crystals Basil: because the sugar would provide carbs for energy; the sweetness to quench my sweet tooth, and the fresh basil flavor (my favorite herb).

What should the world know about Fresh Origins?
Since our product is tiny, we like to “think small”! We continually work to produce the most unique and the very tiniest herbs and greens. In our case, less is more and tiny is huge. Our small product can have a huge impact on how a dish looks and tastes.

We think your dad is brilliant and on the cutting edge of produce-what should everyone know about your dad and what is it like to work with him?
He is the mad-scientist of Fresh Origins. He is constantly researching, learning and experimenting with new products. He comes up with some very innovative ideas. It’s always interesting working with family. Sometimes it’s hard to separate personal from professional life, but all and all, it’s great, I learn a lot from him and am very lucky to have this opportunity.

What can Manhattanites and East Coasters for that matter learn from people from California, and vice versa?
How to be more laid back and easy going. How to enjoy every moment, take your time and enjoy nature…especially the beach. 
How to dress for warm weather.

We hear San Francisco has great Irish spots-which are the best and why?
I used to live across the street from an Irish pub, called the Pig n’ Whistle. They called it a “family bar” and it really did feel like everyone was family and friends there. They also had amazing burgers. All the Irish people I’ve met have been super friendly and they seem to have a very tight knit community. We used to roll out of bed and go there in our pajamas for breakfast and felt totally comfortable.

What or who has had the most influence on your pursuit of excellence?
Both my mom and dad have always been so supportive of everything I do. They encourage me and believe in me and it gives me the confidence that I can do anything I set my mind to.

What are you proudest of and why?
Graduating from Culinary School and being on their competition team. School was challenging enough on its own; going to class everyday after working a full day was crazy. And after that, working at the restaurant for my externship took up all my free time, I basically had 2 full time jobs. It was a great educational experience but very hard work. I'm proud that I got through it all and maintained good grades. I'm now training for our upcoming competition which takes up a lot of free time as well, but it'll all be worth it in the end. 

What would you like to do professionally that you have not yet had the opportunity to do?
Teach a cooking class. I had some wonderful teachers in Culinary School that really inspired me.

What honors and awards have you received in your profession?
Promotion to R&D Chef when I graduated from Culinary School.

What one word best describes you and why?
Adventurous. I'm always up for trying anything whether it be food or an outdoor activity. I just got scuba dive certified. I've hiked Half-Dome in Yosemite. Sky-diving is next. I like to sail, bike, horse-back ride, camp, swim, snowboard, and I love to travel. 

What is your favorite place to be in Manhattan? 
Central park during Fall, when the leaves change colors. I love to take pictures there. The red, orange, pink and yellow colors are something we really don’t get to see in Southern California. It’s just gorgeous.

What is your favorite shop in Manhattan?
Eataly. I can spend hours at that, eating, checking out the farmer's market, watching them make fresh pasta, wine & cheese tasting, reading, people watching.

If you could hire anybody who would it be and why?
My Mom. She is an incredibly hard worker, super smart, can do any job and is easy to communicate with.

What is your favorite drink?
I love wine. All kinds. It pairs so well with or without food. Whether I drink white or red usually depends on the season or what I’m eating. It’s great tasting, easy to drink and has antioxidants! Wine always creates an experience, it’s great for celebrations or just a regular night with a glass and dinner.

What is the funniest thing that has ever happened to you at a cocktail party?
It was my first time at a craps table and I was very anxious to throw the dice. I’ve only seen it in movies and it always seemed like fun. It took a while for the dice to get around to me, when it finally did I was a little overzealous and I threw them way too hard….into a guy’s face! It hit him in the eye, he pretended to fall down and be all dramatic…he was ok. It was so embarrassing but I couldn’t stop laughing. 

What is your favorite restaurant in Manhattan?
I had a very special dinner at Veritas, with a good friend. They took amazing care of us. It’s a beautiful restaurant, quiet, small and romantic. I had been there a few times previously for sales calls. The chefs there love our product and are always so enthusiastic about our visits. They have an unbelievable wine cellar with an extensive list of high quality wines.

What is your favorite Manhattan book or favorite character in Manhattan literature?
I haven’t read any. Does Carrie from Sex and the City count?

Who would you like to be for a day and why?
A person that could travel the world without a care. 

If you could have anything in Manhattan named after you what would it be and why?
A Restaurant. There’s an amazing restaurant in Greenwich, called Rebecca’s. The owner named it after his wife, I thought that was so sweet.

What has been your best Manhattan athletic experience?
Ice skating in Central Park last Winter. It was something I had always wanted to do. I had a blast and it didn’t take long to warm up!

What is your favorite thing to do in Manhattan that you can do nowhere else?
I love being able to walk to everything! I can walk for miles there and be entertained…the shopping, the people, the bars, the parks. If I get lost it doesn’t matter, I can always find my way quickly because of the short city blocks, most with number or letter streets.

If you could have dinner with any person living or passed, who would it be and why?
My college boyfriend, who passed away a few years ago. He was one of the best people I’ve known. Very selfless, loving, and compassionate. He really believed in helping people and he did. He was a NICU Nurse at Rady’s Children’s Hospital and volunteered at hospitals in South Africa. I always admired and respected what he did and I miss him dearly.

What has been your best Manhattan art or music experience?
Seeing Wicked on Broadway. The performance was phenomenal. It’s now my favorite play! 

What do you personally do or what have you done to give back to the world?
I used to volunteer at Ivey Ranch for their Therapeutic Horseback Riding Program that provides horseback riding lessons to disabled children. The kids I worked with had moderate to severe mental and physical disabilities. It felt amazing to help. The kids would just light up when they were with the horses. Riding helps to improve their muscle strength, balance, self-esteem, flexibility, focus, coordination and gives them a sense of independence.

What do you think is most underrated and overrated here?
I often hear the generalization about New Yorkers not being very friendly. I have only experienced the opposite! All the people I have met have been very nice and accommodating when I needed help. It’s also been very easy for me to go out by myself and make friends. 

Other than Movers and Shakers of course, what is your favorite Whom You Know column and what do you like about it?
The Cuisine & Drink column of course! I enjoy reading the Peachy's Pantry column especially. Its fun to see the different ideas and recipes that they come up with, using unique products. I also like the wine recommendations I see in Champagne is interesting to read about, especially when you are drinking it!

Have you tried The Peachy Deegan yet and if not, why not?
I’d love to try it!

What else should Whom You Know readers know about you?
I think that’s about it!

How would you like to be contacted by Whom You Know readers?

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