13 Questions is a weekly series where we ask chefs 13 questions to get to know them outside of the kitchen. Sarah O’Brien is the head baker and owner of Little Tart Bakeshop, which has locations in Grant Park and Krog Street Market and sells at farmers markets.
What was your first job in Atlanta before doing Little Tart full-time?
I worked at the CDC as an international meeting coordinator for eight months while setting up Little Tart.
I saw that Jon Hamm stopped by the bakery in June. How’d that go?
One of my bakers and her boyfriend love him, and she was just freaking out. So I told her go give him a cookie, and she asked for photo. He had an espresso, a cigarette, and three cookies—just a normal dude. It was a Friday, and we were so busy; the kitchen was trashed. He just strode in, introduced himself, complimented the food, and took a picture with us and was so nice. That photo got the most likes ever on Instagram.
What’s the one thing you wish you knew how to bake?
A perfect baguette. I’ve baked bread at home but not for the bakery.
What’s your spirit animal?
Alice Waters [of Chez Panisse fame]. We always joke at the bakery, “What would Alice do?” She’s actually been here before, too, and that was my geek moment.
What’s the weirdest thing a customer has done in your cafe?
This happened at the Peachtree Road Farmers Market pretty recently. A 65-year-old gentleman purchased three to four pastries. He said, “That looks good,” stuck his finger in one of our salted caramel nut tarts, licked his finger, laughed, and walked away. No one has ever licked a pastry and walked away. We obviously couldn’t sell it.
Do you have a snack food guilty pleasure?
Red Hot Blues. They’re like a less-bad-for-you Doritos.
You work right next to Octane in the Jane. How much coffee do you drink a day?
Well, I’m pregnant, so it’s changed recently. I used to drink two to three cortados a day. Now, I’m down to one sad half-calf.
You’re well-traveled, learning how to bake in France, but what’s one country you’ve always wanted to visit?
Turkey is really high on my list. I want to wander around Istanbul for a week.
You have an MFA in poetry from the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, so what’s the last great book you read?
“Dept. of Speculation” by Jenny Offill. I read it in like two hours; it’s highly devourable, and I wanted to read it again immediately after.
You’re surrounded by butter all day. How do you stay in shape?
I am on my feet all day, which helps. I really subscribe to the French idea of indulgence, which is like a small perfect thing that you’re really going to enjoy. I eat our apple cheddar turnover every day.
The last TV show you binge watched.
The first season of “True Detective.”
The one baking rule you ignore.
Sifting. I never sift anything. I am a whisker.
You used to play derby as Tart Breaker. What was your worst roller derby injury?
I had a bruised rib, a very painful injury you can’t do anything about. And I had a couple doozie black eyes, which always got me funny looks at the farmers market.