Twain’s Savannah Sasser dropped vegetarianism and became a butcher

Plus 12 other things we learned from the chef
Photo by Matt Wong

13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Savannah Sasser is the chef at Twain’s Brewpub and Billiards.

Why did you stop being a vegetarian?
I became a vegetarian when I moved back to Georgia from Pittsburgh. It was a combination of realizing I didn’t understand the slaughter process, and I was living in Douglasville, so I would drive for hours and see some poor dead animal on the side of the road. I just needed a break from meat. I lasted for two years, but then I went to White Oak Pastures and [watched how they did] slaughtering. It was an incredible experience. They do it right.

You recently got into butchering. What’s been the biggest surprise?
How cathartic it is if you’ve had a rough day. I’m also learning a lot about the slaughtering process. You can see how the animal lived just by breaking into it. You can see all these busted capillaries if the animal is under severe distress.

What’s one thing you wish you knew how to cook?
More pastries, like a cronut. I find that pastry is about exact science; whereas with cooking you can fix things and you can play around with more.

What’s your guilty pleasure snack food?
I enjoy taking Krispy Kreme doughnuts with chocolate frosting, adding some ice cream from Jeni’s, and topping it with peanuts. I only do it once every couple of months.

What’s the last TV show you bingewatched?
Marcella. It’s a really good British crime series.

What do you do when you aren’t cooking?
I enjoy reading. I do yoga. I hang out with my dogs: Maddie, a Boston terrier, and Monroe, a mutt. Monroe came up to Twain’s patio—that’s how I found him four years ago.

What was the first thing you ever learned to cook?
I made some chicken casserole for my mom by myself when I was 12. It went terribly wrong because I mixed up a teaspoon versus a tablespoon of black pepper. But I’ve always wanted to cook. Cooking was where my mom and I were best. It was where I got to spend one-on-one time with her. Cooking is what I could do to help people or to show love; I found that very gratifying.

What did you want to be when you grew up?
Always a chef. When I was a kid, I accidentally spelled it “chief” instead of chef.

Why did you attend culinary school, and was it worth it?
I was 18 and didn’t want to live in Georgia anymore. I went to college and got put on academic probation after one semester, so I thought, “Okay, college is not for me.” I always wanted to cook, so culinary school made sense. No, it’s not worth it. There are enough programs where you get paid to cook and take class once or twice a week. It’s the same degree as I did with hands-on experience at a great place and a lot less money. A lot of culinary schools are going under and considered predatory lenders because there’s no possible way to pay that back.

Twain’s is known for bar games. What’s your favorite?
I am not good at any of them. I thought I was better at bowling, but I was playing with our general manager and he told me “You’re either really good or terrible. There’s no consistency.” I just get in my head.

If we were to open your fridge, what would be in it right now?
Vindaloo from an Indian restaurant, some eggs, half and half for coffee, vegetables, and OJ.

What’s your favorite thing on tap at Twain’s?
Our River Sunset Amber goes really well with a lot of different things. I love braising with beer. I like the maltiness you get from using a beer, that earthy flavor.

What’s the best-kept secret in Decatur?
If I don’t want to cook, I will pick up Pine Street Market’s ready-made stuff. Their sides are awesome.