Lynne Sawicki is in a lane all by herself. As owner and executive chef of the Decatur eatery Sawicki’s Meat, Seafood and More, the variety and deliciousness of her sandwiches has everyone from critics to the average foodie Yelping about one of Atlanta’s best-kept secrets.
Sawicki prefers to stay behind the scenes and scoffs at the notion that she could even be considered a popular chef. But when customers credit her for revolutionizing their sense of taste or for experiencing the art of sandwich making differently, she’s left with little choice but to accept the crown she’s been given.
With Sawicki’s busy, hands-on approach to business and cooking, catching up with her can be challenging, but Sawicki managed to chat with Georgia Voice in between crushing her nearest competition and running the restaurant that has become a high point for the lesbian chef in a career that spans 30 years.
Georgia Voice: Tell us a little bit about Sawicki’s Meat, Seafood and More.
Our store is a specialty food store that is predominantly farm to table. All of my perishables that I sell, the beef, the pork, the chicken, and the fish are all local. I use a lot of local farmers for proteins as well as vegetables. We have a large sandwich menu as well as pastries.
And you cater also, right?
When I opened that was my predominant focus. I do a lot of catering on the side. There’s a lot of hats I wear right now.
How do you deal with the pressure that comes along with running such a successful business?
I feel like I put the pressure on myself. I don’t feel the pressure from competition. I’m my own competition. I think the standards I hold for myself are so much higher. I’ll never disappoint myself. My expectations and my quality control in what I do is at the highest level you can get and I’ll never change that. I’d rather tell you ‘Sorry, I can’t get it.’ I have my own principles and values and they’re pretty high.
Tell us about your experience in the kitchen as an openly lesbian chef.
I’m like a little 10-year-old boy (laughs). I get along with guys better than I do girls in the kitchen. I have a predominately male kitchen. I have one girl. I would say that I acclimated a long time ago because I don’t have a culinary degree. I learned from the people that I worked with. And if you want to learn from the people you work with, you have to get along with them. I understand that there are gender differences and I’ve seen that in other kitchens, but I don’t carry those qualities. No one cares that you’re gay as long as you get the job done. If you’re gonna whine and cry like a stereotypical girl …people in kitchens don’t want that.
Do you think gay chefs have to work harder?
It’s hard work, period. They’re mentally tougher. If you’re going to be in the kitchen you’re going to work hard.
I find it interesting that you’ve said you rarely get invited to dine out.
I don’t get invited places because I’m a chef and people don’t want to cook for me. I’d eat a damn hot dog. I don’t even care. When I usually get invited it’s to another chef ’s house. People get really intimidated. It’s pretty rare for me. It’s like a burden. You cook well and then you always have to cook.
You’re doing some amazing cooking for cancer patients.
Yes. The program is called Harvest for Health and it’s prepared food for people going through treatment or wanting to eat a clean diet. It started as program for chemo patients at Emory. I’ve been doing it for about ten months.
I have it on my website and you can order the dishes around your chemo. I have a refrigerated unit down at Winship (Cancer Institute) with a vending machine. I drop it there and when you’re done with your chemo you’ve got dinners for your whole family and you don’t have to cook. I’ve done a lot of my own reading on what works for your body, what takes away inflammation and what fuels your body to get through chemo.
Any plans for Christmas?
I’m probably going to do what I did for Thanksgiving, which was stay in my pajamas, have a mimosa while I watch the parade, casually cook something and just hang at the house with my partner and the dog.
4 butternut squashes roasted and mashed
4 small bunches of greens—kale, collards, spinach or arugula sautéed in extra-virgin olive oil and salted
16 ounces chicken stock
16 ounces heavy cream
1 tablespoon honey
1 tablespoon Balsamic vinegar
1 tablespoon Dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tablespoons chives, chopped
2 baguettes, cubed
1 cup cheddar, shredded
Combine stock, heavy cream, eggs, honey, balsamic vinegar, Dijon mustard, garlic, chives and bread and let soak for 10 minutes.
Layer in sprayed pan:
Bread on bottom, then butternut squash, then greens, then cheddar. Repeat.
Bake in a water bath at 325 degrees F until custard is set.