High-heeled pumps, check. Pearls, check. Red lipstick, check. Half apron, double check.
Sandy Pollock’s full-on June Clever never fails to delight. Neither do her casseroles that are making this chef and her business partner household names in and around Austin, Texas.
As one-half of the blossoming Casserole Queens, Sandy has found her niche: one-dish meals that give a feeling of yesterday to families of today. In fact, it was her own that was the catalyst for her ah-ha moment nearly a decade ago. That’s when Sandy returned to her southern Texas stomping ground to spend a holiday with her mother and the rest of the family. The dinner was comprised entirely of casseroles, as has long been their tradition.
“I looked around the room and realized everyone was enjoying the meal immensely. I thought, ‘Why did we ever stop eating this way?’”
Sandy returned home to Austin and ran her idea by some friends, including Crystal, the other member of Casserole Queens. The two began creating casseroles and delivering them to homes and businesses. The ‘50s housewife shtick was a stroke of genius for a town that in Sandy’s words, “loves quirky and weird.”
With that, Casserole Queens was on its way. So much so, the Food Network and Chef Bobby Flay rolled out the red carpet and put Sandy and Crystal on “Throwdown!” Then came two cookbook deals, including a New York Times best-seller, and a YouTube channel called “Hungry.”
People need good-quality food that they can put together quickly for their families.
CHEF SANDY POLLOCK
And to think, culinary school was a postscript to education that led Sandy to a career in advertising. She was restless, however, feeling that she wanted to do something more creative. She also knew she wanted it to be about food.
So, Sandy enrolled in the French Culinary Institute and upon graduation in 2004, returned to Texas and began life as a restaurant-based chef. Today, she is living the life she dreamed of, delivering food – and something more – to her patrons.
“With Casserole Queens, I wanted to take all of the good parts of the ‘50s – clothes, fashion, family – and infuse them with today’s sensibility. People need good-quality food that they can put together quickly for their families.”
On the occasions when casserole disciples find themselves with time to spare, Sandy’s second book offers instructions on how to make ingredients from scratch instead of using ready-made options. The volume also contains diabetic- and gluten-friendly recipes.
I looked around the room and realized everyone was enjoying the meal immensely. I thought, ‘Why did we ever stop eating this way?
CHEF SANDY POLLOCK
“Casseroles can be fattening but they don’t have to be,” she says. “I try to lighten them without losing the flavor.” It’s also possible to size the recipes down and even to make individual servings, controlling portions in the process.
But yes, she admits, if you’re trying to lose weight, a steady diet of her comfort food might not be the way to go. Sandy has her own short list of guilt pleasures.
“I love the Casserole Queens’ chicken pot pie that we took to “Throwdown!” Also, our Lunch Lady Dora Spicy Mac and Cheese. That’s good eating.”
You might even say meals fit for a queen.
Learn more about Chef Sandy & Stephanie in the second chapter of Cooking & Culture.