It may be difficult to catch a glimpse of Brittany Sanger’s small stature amongst the multitude of gleaming pots and pans and the swarm of bodies in white aprons through the large, waist to ceiling windows at The Jones Assembly. She works quietly and moves quickly, helping everyone wherever she can to ensure each dish is perfect. At any given time, she might be plating, cutting, frying or even butchering to prepare a dish from her curated fall menu. And this happens all before noon.
Sanger is the executive chef of the at The Jones Assembly in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma, where she brought her culinary expertise all the way back to her hometown from Paris, France.
After facing many obstacles at home and abroad, including isolation, harsh teachers, a language barrier that left her confused about her place, and even those who doubted her ambition and ability, Sanger uses her experience to create a dining experience unlike any other in the metro. In March, 2015, with plans to open a music venue, bar and restaurant in Oklahoma City’s Film Row, Brian Bogert and Graham Colton asked Sanger to partner with them and operate the kitchen.
Bogert continually followed Sanger, a long time family friend, on social media as she worked in California, France and Boston. He was impressed by her ambition and knew she would be perfect for the concept.
Sanger’s culinary experience began at a well-known seafood restaurant in Los Angeles, California, during the summer before her senior year of college at The University of Oklahoma. She decided to change her major from pre-med to communications and planned to go to culinary school after graduation. Although she applied to many schools in America, her first choice was Le Cordon Bleu in Paris.
According to the Le Cordon Bleu website, the school is, “considered to be the guardian of French culinary technique.” Sanger has maintained high standards for herself when it comes to her career. She found herself moving to Paris, a city she had never visited, to go to an esteemed culinary school while not knowing a lick of French.
“It was a big risk for sure, but I think at the time I was so excited about the whole thing that I wasn’t nervous at all,” Sanger said.
To graduate from Le Cordon Bleu, Sanger had to pass three different levels of lectures and practicals. The three-hour-long final exams for each level consisted of an empty recipe sheet of a difficult dish, which she had to know from memory and execute in a miniscule time frame. Sanger faced 10 culinary chefs from around Paris for each final and had to pass each time in order to graduate on time.
After her military-like schooling at Le Cordon Bleu, where Sanger estimates she spent 10 hours a week ironing her white uniform to meet her teachers’ extremely high expectations, she decided to apply to be a cooking assistant at the school for the summer to gain even more experience in the kitchen. She then took that experience to a kitchen at Paris’ notable Le Meurice Hotel.
For three months, she worked unpaid with only four other women and about 250 men (who liked to yell in French when frustrated.)
“It was definitely the hardest part of my entire experience in Paris,” said Sanger. “It tested my patience, but also my ability to stay strong and not let others and how they treat me defeat my dream.”
When her visa ran out, a friend she met in Paris asked Sanger to work for him at a new restaurant called Liquid Art House, an artsy venue with global cuisine. The executive chef for the restaurant was a well established woman in Boston who Sanger was eager to work for. She saw this time as an important opportunity to push herself to become even better at her craft, and Boston seemed like a great city to work her way up as a chef.
“The one thing I did know was that I was not going to be working in Oklahoma City,” she said.
At that time, Sanger believed that no restaurants in her hometown of Oklahoma City were up to her standards that she had built in Paris. However, in Boston, she learned a lot about restaurant management and what strong leadership should look like in smaller kitchens.
Although she made many close friends and loved living in Boston, she knew she couldn’t pass up the opportunity to work with Bogert and Colton to open a restaurant where she could have creative control in the opening. It took her two months to make the decision, however.
“I definitely thought long and hard about this opportunity. I knew if I did it, it would pretty much be my baby and I wouldn’t have a life for a while,” Sanger said. She said she wanted, “to help create a higher standard of what’s to come here (in Oklahoma City).”
Through all she learned in Paris and Boston, she believed she had the technical skill and discipline needed to run a kitchen herself. When Sanger told the chefs at Liquid Art House about her move, they said she was too young and inexperienced to open her own restaurant, but those who doubted her did not stop her from following her dream of working in a kitchen she could be proud of calling her own.
Madison Moore, a hostess at The Jones Assembly, said it is easy to talk highly of both Sanger’s cuisine and character.
“Not only does she care about her food and her image, but she cares about the people around her,” Moore said.
Moore sees locals come to the restaurant to food they cannot find anywhere else in Oklahoma City. She said often customers will come for dinner and come back for brunch or lunch the next day just to try more of Sanger’s unique creations.
Bogert believes customers appreciate Sanger’s worldly perspective with her use of ingredients, plating and different flavor profiles. Sanger specializes in seafood from her experiences on the East and West Coasts, but landlocked Oklahoma does not stop her from accessing fresh seafood. Four to five times a week they receive shipments of fresh salmon and scallops.
Bogert said even with their considerable staff, Sanger often uses her skills to butcher and prepare the seafood herself.
“She’s definitely a silent leader, but she’s always there. She works long and hard hours and kind of leads by example,” said Bogert.
Moore also described Sanger as collectively helpful in the kitchen, and how, even in stressful situations, she always stays calm so no one is afraid to ask for help.
“Never for a second have I regretted moving back (to Oklahoma City). It’s been an incredible experience and it’s taught me a lot more than I ever would have thought,” Sanger said.