Porsena, New York, NY
Nīna June, Rockport, ME
The daughter of a foreign correspondent and a food writer, Sara Jenkins was born in Maine but grew up all over the Mediterranean, eating her way through its cultures and learning to appreciate everything from Lebanese tabbouleh to Catalan paella to North African tagines to Italian pasta dishes. She began her kitchen career in Boston with Todd English at Figs, then went on to work as a chef in Florence and the Tuscan wine country, before returning to the United States to bring back all she had learned and put it to work in the kitchen.
In New York City, Sara was chef at I Coppi, earning two stars from the New York Times within her first three months. After similar turns at the helm of Il Buco, Patio Dining, and 50 Carmine, she took time out to have a child and wrote a cookbook, Olives and Oranges: Recipes and Flavor Secrets from Italy, Spain, Cyprus, and Beyond (Houghton Mifflin, 2008).
Later that same year, Sara opened Porchetta in New York’s East Village, a storefront specializing in the succulent pork roast typically sold in street markets in Rome and Tuscany. Wildly successful, with a four-star review from New York Magazine, Porchettacreated a nation-wide trend for the savory specialty. In 2010, Sara followed that success with Porsena, a sit-down restaurant also in the East Village, where she drew on her Tuscan and Roman childhood with a pasta-centric menu, featuring authentic Italian recipes made with fresh, seasonal ingredients. As Mario Batali put it, “She’s one of the few chefs in America who understands Italy and how Italians eat.”
Meanwhile, she authored a second cookbook, written with her mother, Nancy Harmon Jenkins, The Four Seasons of Pasta (Penguin/Avery, 2015), which sets pasta in a thorough-going seasonal context. And most recently, in 2016, she has opened Nīna June in the seaside village of Rockport, Maine, where she brings her Mediterranean sensibility to play on the magnificent array of Maine-grown, harvested and foraged foods.