SARAH MISPAGEL, Pastry Chef
Pastry Chef Sara Mispagel brings her nationally informed pastry expertise to chef Andrew Zimmerman’s Sepia, in Downtown Chicago. She supports the rustic, seasonal cuisine of Sepia with like-minded creations that spin time-honored desserts into attention-grabbing re-imaginations. “I like my sweets whimsical and a bit nostalgic,” she explains. “They pull the guest in with irresistible, often experimental, flavors, and a complementary sense of familiarity.” Mispagel achieves such delectable results by fostering a kitchen environment of continuous learning and collaborative, supportive teamwork. “I try to emulate the bosses who had a profound effect on me, who created the happiest environments,” she says. “Everyone’s here to learn—to better themselves as both a chef and a person.”
Growing up in San Diego, Mispagel’s initial culinary inspirations came from her uncle, a front-of-house fine dining professional who worked throughout Los Angeles and often hosted family gatherings that centered on his complex homemade creations. Mispagel, in awe of his culinary talents and the happiness they brought him, realized she could make a living doing the same thing. As her own kitchen talents veered towards baking, she ventured to Orange County after high school to attend the Art Institute of California’s baking and pastry degree program. She worked as a baker for Jimbo’s…Naturally!, a San Diegan natural foods market, after graduating.
Heading up the West Coast, Mispagel landed in Portland, OR, to work as a baker at Delphina’s, the city’s oldest artisan bakery. Another move brought her to Cincinnati, OH, where she split her time between Sugarplums Cupcakery and Relish Restaurant Group’s commissary kitchen.
Mispagel then made two leaps: to Chicago, and into the restaurant industry. Joining mk The Restaurant as pastry sous chef, she credits Executive Chef Erick Williams for helping her transition to a fast-paced restaurant perspective and Pastry Chef Tony Galvin for guiding her in translating flavor profiles from one dessert to an entire spread. After two years with mk, she confidently joined Sofitel Chicago Water Tower hotel’s Café des Architectes, working as pastry sous chef under Leigh Omilinsky.
Building a strong reputation in the city, Mispagel joined Nightwood as pastry chef after Food & Wine “Best New Chef” and Grand Cochon winner Executive Chef Jason Vincent offered her the position. During her tenure, she garnered two Chicago Tribune write-ups, had recipes published in Middlewest and Who’s Hungry? Magazine, became an Eater “Young Guns 2014” semifinalist, and earned a Jean Banchet “Rising Pastry Chef” nomination.
After Nightwood, Mispagel struck south for St. Louis, spending time as pastry chef at both Farmhaus and 801 Fish. She soon returned to Chicago, however, and rejoined chef Jason Vincent in October 2016, this time at Giant. Catching wind of a pastry chef opening at Sepia in 2017, Mispagel recognized an opportunity she could not pass up, and finds herself a kindred spirit among the Sepia team and that of the upcoming Proxi restaurant.
When Mispagel finds time to spare, she enjoys spending time at her Logan Square home with her boyfriend, reading books, and listening to records. An active runner, she participates in her first Chicago Marathon in 2017.