Chef Sandy Gallagher
Co-Owner and Chef at The Butcher Station
Chef Sandy Gallagher is the Chef in Residence at The Audley Farm in Berryville, Virginia.
“It is with great pleasure that Audley Farm sponsors Chef Sandy as a Top Chef for the Root to Table Series” – Turner and Mary Kay Kobayashi.
A northern state transplant, Sandy Gallagher has managed to make the shift from a biomedical industry to local ingredient-based restaurant owner, all while raising three kids! A Shenandoah Valley staple, find out what makes The Butcher Station and its owner so special below.
Guilty pleasure snack: Ice cream – Häagen Dazs’ Salted Almond Caramel
Favorite meal to cook at home: Chicken and Dumplings
Most essential item in the kitchen is: Global chef knife
Favorite Ingredient to cook with: Smoked paprika
Experiencing food as a child…
Who influenced your love for food?
“My grandparents, my mom; my family. Both sides of my grandparents were big into potlucks, big into family dinners. When I was a kid – Christmas, Thanksgiving – those events were 30 people easily. We cooked. And then closer to home, in my family, we cooked. My family didn’t go out a ton. We made food and we made it from scratch… So I really was inspired at home first and foremost.”
The path to being a great chef…
How did you get your start as a chef?
“Actually my first degrees are biochemistry and biotechnology. I have a masters and I worked in the medical research industry for about 12 years.” Getting married, having kids, and her husband’s job change would bring her to Northern Virginia.
“I commuted to Johns Hopkins for about 6 months, because I loved my job, until I finally just couldn’t handle the commute anymore. I found a different job closer to home but it was hard to stand up to my last one… I took some time off and I raised my kids. As they got a little bit older, I was looking for something and I said, ‘You know I think I’m better suited to a job that’s more directly caring for people.’ I wanted to be in more direct contact with the people I was helping.”
With the thought of going back to school a bit tiring, Sandy determined that one of her favorite ways to take care of people was through hospitality, specifically cooking. She explained, “The idea started developing that I could be a personal chef. At the time I lived in Leesburg where people were commuting. I could make food for those tired commuters that didn’t have the time to do it themselves; that were tired of grabbing McDonalds on the way home.” A few forays into catering and the Berryville Farmers Market scene later, the Butcher Station was born… but not without a lot of hard work and great ideas.
A restaurant to call your own…
What made you want to open the restaurant?
“I believed in a concept that I thought was lacking in the area. I really wanted to ensure that our local farmers were around, and stick around in the future.”
“I got a call one day saying ‘Hey, there’s this space… why don’t we do it?’ At first I ignored it and laughed” Sandy jokes and refers to carrying her youngest in her arms as the conversation went down, “but in the end got pushed hard enough to try and make a go of it.” The thought of starting a small restaurant business while still trying to raise three kids was a daunting one, but Sandy has managed to make it a success.
When asked about the other half of her restaurant that focuses on freshly butchered cuts of meat: “It really wasn’t my idea, it was just one of those instances of fate that happened. The space was a butcher’s shop before we bought it, and the person who originally approached me with the idea was a butcher. It is the only restaurant in our area where the hogs come in whole, the beef comes in whole sides at a time, and is completely broken down. It gives us the opportunity to offer a really cool menu. I’m serving the short ribs to the shanks, and more; I’ve got it all here so I use it all!”
What’s been your favorite thing about running The Butcher Station?
“My absolute favorite thing is when we make people happy. When people are in and tell me things like ‘this is the best burger, what do you do?’ and I say really, it’s just the ingredients. Local ingredients make such a big difference. In the [early] lean years of running the business, the only thing I was getting was the fact that people were telling me that it was good and that they liked it. That’s what kept me going.”
Being a part of the movement…
Your opinion on the locally sourced movement happening more and more nowadays?
“I love it. I’m glad that it’s happening. If we don’t support people that are doing our local production, whether it’s vegetables or meat… if we’re not supporting them then they’re not going to be able to stay around. If we don’t, what’s going to happen is that we’re not going to be able to get it anymore. If you like your little local restaurant, but you’re not going to it? It’s not going to be there anymore.”
Sandy is such a wonderful person to have in our community and her food is a staple in many people’s lives. Make sure to check out The Butcher Station, if you haven’t already, for some of the best products you can find in Winchester.