40 Under 40 Inspiring Innovators Cover Winner
Sabrina Coombs was on the fast track to being a professional dancer when fate interrupted her plans. After an injury in high school sidelined her dancing career, she found the inspiration to change course during a tour of Le Cordon Bleu cooking school. After catching a glimpse of a chocolate ballerina sculpture, Coombs knew she had found the creative outlet she had been craving. Now, at just 26-years-old, the Reynoldstown resident is making waves as one of the youngest executive chefs at the burgeoning Epicurean Hotel in Midtown.
What’s the best advice you’ve received during your journey as a chef?
Sabrina Coombs: “Fall seven times and get up eight,” meaning I’ve received so many no’s but continue to pursue my passion. My dad taught me to have tough skin like a duck. Ducks let water and debris run over them with no bother. It’s essential in my position to accept criticism and not take it personally. I always work to stay positive for myself and my team, peers, family and friends.
What innovative ideas have you brought to the culinary field?
Sabrina Coombs: What I love most about culinary arts is the constant innovation that drives creativity. I spend so much time trying new techniques and flavors. It’s truly trial and error, with some of the best outcomes coming from mistakes.
I think knowledge of upper-level culinary techniques and recipes is often gatekept. I have made a huge effort to open this knowledge up to everyone. I’m lucky enough to have a chef demonstration kitchen at the Epicurean and have used and plan to continue activating it so that people can come and learn. From techniques like bread-making to courses like the science of chocolate and even kids’ sessions, I believe the unique mark I have to leave on this industry is one of inspiration and education for all.
What did you learn from your experience on the Food Network’s cooking competition “Holiday Baking Championship”?
Sabrina Coombs: As challenging as it was, it was equally rewarding. I gained wisdom in knowing I could think on my feet and adapt to situations. I can now find quicker solutions to problems and push myself to think outside the box more often.
Looking back, what are you most proud of?
Sabrina Coombs: I’m most proud of truly knowing myself. Being an executive chef at my age is an amazing accomplishment, but the confidence I built to get here is something I’m undoubtedly proud of.