Women Of The Food Industry: Sara Slimp of The Root Cafe

A Texas native, Sara Slimp fell in love with Arkansas when she first moved to Conway to attend Hendrix College. Before she claimed the Natural State as her own, however, she already had a first love – baking.

In fact, one of her first memories includes tasting her birthday cake at a very young age, so it’s safe to say that sweets are part of her roots.

“I used to bake quite a lot with my Mom and Granny when we would visit my Mom’s extended family in Tennessee,” she recalls. “My Granny would always let me lick the mixing beater when my mom wasn’t looking.”

Baking was a constant for Slimp, and she relied on funds from her craft to help pay for her Master’s of Social Work program in Fayetteville. In fact, that’s how she first got into the industry, when she opened Chunky Dunk Milk and Cookies in 2015.

“I wanted to explore some of my interest in food before I settled into a serious job,” she says, “Even with my truck opening, I never saw myself becoming a name in the Arkansas food scene since baking had always just been a hobby for me.”

Through a successful GoFundMe campaign, she was able to raise what she needed to get the truck rolling – which was a pretty powerful moment for her. “It really made me feel like this was what I was supposed to be doing and that I needed to see this project succeed,” she says.

Fayetteville – with its college students, hip vibe, and committed locals – turned out to be the perfect place to open Chunky Dunk. Slimp found a niche there and still misses the area.

“I used to trade Maxine’s Tap Room cookies for drinks after I had closed shop since they were right down the street,” she laughs, “I definitely got the better end of that deal.”

About a year ago, Slimp got to the point where she was ready to take it to the next level and go full brick-and-mortar. Unfortunately, the location she was banking on fell through, and she decided to look at other options. Luckily, an opportunity with The Root Cafe opened up, and she was also able to sell the truck so that it continues on.

“I’m a firm believer in the idea that once something feels wrong, you need to move on and … I feel that is the best way to explain how I came to find my job at The Root,” she says.

Taking on the roll of Pastry Chef, Slimp has made a name for herself since calling The Root’s kitchen home. She loves the customers and community, as well as the ability to be creative in her constantly changing role.

“I feel like the team I work with everyday has my back, and we all are working very hard to make people continue to come to and love the food at The Root,” she says. Plus, she feels she has customer support, which is important to her.

“There are a few customers that I have made connections with, and it always make my day to come out and see them at the bake case asking, “What surprises do you have for us today, Sara?””

Her main goal right now is to create a cohesive and consistent dessert menu for dinners that fit in with the owners’ vision. She’s also invested in the cafe and the surrounding neighborhood, as she says, “I’d really like to see – and help – The Root do more work with the SOMA community and bridge the gap between social justice and food allocation within the city of Little Rock.”

In terms of exploring Rock City, Slimp has loved her adventures thus far, which have lead her to places like Kbird and Ciao Baci. Along that vein, she’d love to see Little Rock continue to push the limits in the scene, especially with small-scale restaurants.

“To me, there is something very pleasing to eat somewhere that only serves for a limited time with a limited menu, and you have got to haul it over there to make sure you get in line in time. I think that sort of experience is very authentic,” she explains.

As for the food industry as a whole, Slimp is glad to see more women putting on their aprons. “Yes, we can cook, yes we can provide for our families through cooking, but we can also get paid to make incredible food and be a powerhouse in stressful, fast paced restaurant,” she says.

You’re likely to find Slimp at Big Orange Midtown for their reverse happy hour, the Fold, or Izzy’s when she happens to go out.

You can also catch her hiking with her boyfriend, and lately, she’s taken to riding her bike around the city. She also wants to get involved as she says, “I’m trying to stay involved in more local politics since I live so close to the capital, there is no excuse not to be engaged and active.”

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