Chef Profile: Lewiston chef Sara Wilson gets creative with local ingredients

For the past three years, Lewiston’s Mystic Cafe has steadily gathered an appreciative fan base with its cozy atmosphere and upscale cafe offerings.

click to enlarge Mystic Cafe chef Sara Wilson - TRIBUNE/BARRY KOUGH
Tribune/Barry Kough
Mystic Cafe chef Sara Wilson

From uniquely-crafted soups and sandwiches to gourmet dinner entrees, chef and general manager Sara Wilson is a big part of the magic that happens at the Mystic. Wilson’s culinary creativity will be showcased at the upcoming Backyard Harvest fundraising dinner, where she will be preparing a meal using ingredients donated by local producers. Wine will be provided by Clearwater Canyon Cellars and Wilson will share about each dish and wine pairing at the event.

We caught up with Wilson via email to find out more about her culinary influences, interests and what she’s up to in the kitchen these days:

Name: Sara Wilson

Hometown: Lewiston

Age: 30

Culinary background/training: Boise State University Culinary Arts, Sommelier Training at the Professional Culinary Institute, real world experience

Length of time at the Mystic: Since its creation three years ago in October

Past restaurants: Flatbread Community Oven (Boise), Bonefish Grill (Boise), Arid Club (Boise), Tomato Bros. (Clarkston, bar manager)

Other culinary projects: Backyard Harvest, private caterings

Primary cuisine/ingredients/flavors you specialize in: Wine pairing and local/seasonal ingredients. The moment I fell in love with food is when a chef talked about smelling the rain from the night before in a basil leaf just picked.

Most popular dish at the Mystic: For breakfast, Eggs Benedict or Huevos Benedict Street Tacos; for lunch, Halibut Street Tacos or the Cuban Sandwich; and Parmesan Crusted Halibut for dinner.

Personal favorite dish at the Mystic: I love pushing my kitchen staff to think outside of the box. I tell them to make it "mystical." It may sound corny, but I am proud of everything they do.

Favorite meal to prepare at home: Pan-seared ribeyes, basted in butter and herbs.

Most difficult dish you’ve ever attempted: Beef Wellington or a 3-tiered cake with fondant layers. Props to bakers -- that is the most time-consuming and emotionally draining project I have ever done.

Advice for home chefs: Get a good knife set and teach yourself knife skills. Watch YouTube videos or take some classes. And throw away those marble/stone cutting boards.

Trick of the trade you use the most: Every meal I eat, whether it is my own or at another restaurant, I am always breaking it down in my head and planning on how I can make it better.

Current favorite ingredient: Vinegar. Dishes are often lacking acid and lemon juice doesn't cut it sometimes.

If you could only use four tools from your kitchen, they would be: My knife roll, stainless steel pot, hand towel and a glass of wine (if at home, of course).

Favorite specialized kitchen tool: Good knives are really just the best tool you could invest in.

New ingredients you’re using or playing with right now: We recently got a smoker. We are continually trying out new smoked items on all of our menus.

IF YOU GO:

WHAT: Backyard Harvest fundraising dinner

WHEN: 5:30 to 9 p.m. Monday

WHERE: Mystic Cafe, 1303 Main St., Lewiston

COST: Tickets are $100 and must be purchased in advance at Cafe Artista in Moscow or online at www.backyardharvest.org/harvestdinners.

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