Sara Beth Russert traded the stage for something sweet: a career in donuts. The former punk rocker pulls the occasional overnight shift crafting cake-y treats. She coordinates Mighty O's appearances on the road. She does its Facebook and Twitter. She even leads tours for school kids who visit the cozy space in Tangletown. Like many cooks, she was inspired by what went on in her kitchen while she was growing up.
Photo by Leslie Kelly Sara Beth Russert is a jack of all trades at Mighty O.
SW: How did you get your start?
Russert: My mom was a great cook. Not a fancy cook, but she had meal plans and she always made us a square meal every day, just like her mother and grandmother had taught her. Didn't really get interested in cooking until I became a vegan about 13 years ago. Back then, it really was really hard to find stuff on the shelves, so I ended up making everything. It was a lot of guesswork. That's changed a lot. There are great cookbooks out now and good products, but I still make most stuff on my own.
SW: What was your first cooking job?
Russert: At a vegetarian restaurant in St. Clemente, California, called Avanti. The people who started the café, one had been a regional bakery manager for Whole Foods and the other was a Japanese-Italian fusion chef. Both were amazing and they gave us a lot of freedom to come up with our own stuff, then they would coach us into actually making it. That was a really good introduction to the kitchen. We didn't do line cooking or a lot of prep, but we made small tarts or unusual salads.
SW: Sounds like a dream job. Why would you ever leave there?
Russert: My living situation was a little bit unstable and I was in a band in Seattle, so I was flying back and forth for rehearsal. I was going to have to move to a more expensive place, so traveling back and forth would have been out of the question, so I moved home.
SW: What was the name of the band?
Russert: It's called This Time Tomorrow. I was the singer. I had been in punk and hardcore bands from the time I was 18 until I was 24. I play the viola and violin, too, but not in the bands. I still enjoy playing instruments at home, but I really wanted to focus on having a job I could advance in and learn more in and commit to, and I couldn't do that when I was touring.
Photo by Leslie Kelly Russert loves to bake and it shows.
SW: How long have you been at Mighty O? And what do you do there?
Russert: I've been there just over four years. I'm kind of a jack of all trades. I bake, I fill in shifts, I administer the events, like when we're out at Folklife, I'm there. I do all the social media, Facebook and Twitter. I love having a varied experience at work. I also get to lead tours, talk to kids about what we do. I get to participate in the R and D. We're constantly evolving. I came in and changed the yeast doughnut recipe and the new bakery manager tweaked it a little more.
SW: What's your favorite doughnut?
Russert: My very favorite is the lemon poppyseed, but I'm also a big fan of the blueberry and the apple spice doughnuts, which are both seasonal. We drive over and pick up our blueberries from a farm in Bellevue.
SW: What makes Mighty O doughnuts different?
Russert: It's very important to the owner, and to the staff too, that we're doing food the way it's intended to be eaten, so being organic is very important. The recipes come from things that you would have in your pantry. We don't use any weird ingredients that you wouldn't be able to pronounce. Sugar, flour, vanilla, oil, salt. Basic ingredients. It also happens to be vegan. A lot of people think, oh, it's a vegan doughnut, but it's not like we had to work to make it vegan. It's so easy, why not?
Check back for part two when Sara Beth Russert talks about her mad love for her Vit-A-Mix.