Sam Pogue, the associate marketing director at Union Square Events, is a woman of many talents, so many, in fact, that every time I asked her a question, her answer inspired me to ask four hundred more. She writes, she photographs, she cooks, and she knows her music (Miles Davis and East Coast 90s hip hop, anyone?), and somehow she managed to maintain all of these interests while holding jobs at this is MKG, Doghouse Records, 456 Entertainment and Hit the Ground Running. That she’s now in a food-related career makes sense—her father and stepmother own a restaurant upstate, but she’s well versed in all aspects of culture: she’s an erudite English major who studied photography in high school, a veteran of the music business who teaches yoga and knows how to surf. If you’re not already impressed—and even if you are—read on!
You are a photographer and writer—do you also cook?
Do you have a specialty?
It’s more of a cuisine. My stepmother is French-Canadian, so I know how to create French flavors.
What are those flavors?
It’s actually hard to get away from them sometimes. If I have chicken, I think oh, white wine, capers, lemon, basil, garlic, done.
But they’re good flavors.
They’re so good, but sometimes you need to mix it up. So now I’m into playing with curry, which is fun but really scary.
Why is it really scary?
It’s more that the spices are really unknown for me in cooking, things like cumin and tamarind.
You’re going wild with yellow spices.
I’m going crazy with curries. It’s so fun that you put all these flavors together, the sweet, the savory, and the spicy, and it ends up with this unique taste that I just love. I don’t really cook a lot of Chinese and Vietnamese, even though I love those flavors. I do cook a lot of Mexican dishes. Fish tacos are probably my favorite thing to make.
Do you cook for yourself, like every day cooking?
I do Sunday suppers. Sunday is my day to cook. I make soup a lot. I have this massive orange Le Creuset pot that my grandmother gave me. Soups, stews—anything that uses one pot so that it reduces what I have to clean in my tiny kitchen. Fewer pots is my ultimate goal.
So how did you end up where you are now?
Like many people, I read Setting the Table.
But how did you come across the book? Is it just because you’re a food person who grew up around restaurants?
A little. What’s interesting is that my mother is an executive trainer who did work for USHG before the learning business, Hospitality Quotient, was established. At the time, there were only two, maybe three restaurants. A few years ago I was helping my father and stepmother with marketing and guest service for their bistro in upstate NY, and found it really challenging to address some of the guest feedback. My mother is the most well-read person I know, so obviously she had read Danny’s book. She recommended it to me, and I loved reading about these people who were nice to each other and knew how to handle guests. I thought, “Yes, I want to learn from them.”
[USHG] really is about the people.
Yes. I’ve studied yoga, and USHG’s philosophy of enlightened hospitality made sense to me. I loved how it echoes the yogic principles of putting out what you want to get back, and just being nicer to each other. So I started applying for any job that came up in relation to this company. They brought me in for an interview, which led me to doing the marketing for Union Square Events.
What do you do to take care of yourself?
That’s such a good question, and I don’t know the answer (laughs). Some days it’s fast and furious and there’s very little time for me—it’s all about serving our clients and guests and my colleagues and then getting home and just crashing. Other days I do a much better job of drawing the boundary and doing something that takes me out of my head so I can approach what’s going on in my life. The minute you get too caught up in your day to day, it affects the job that you’re doing. If you don’t lift your head up to see what’s going on, you don’t get any other ideas.
Ultimately I take care of myself by doing things where I don’t care what I look like when I’m doing them. For me, that’s the purest indication that I’m connecting to something bigger than me. They are:
- Teaching yoga or doing my own practice;
- Surfing, or more essentially, falling off the surfboard or paddleboard. I love the ocean—just looking at it calms me down. I’m horrible at [surfing]—horrible. I sometimes just float on the board, and people say, “You’re not in the actual line-up,” and I’m like, “it’s cool. I’m fine.” Now that I paddleboard, which is mostly in the marshes around Cape Cod, I can do yoga on my paddleboard. It’s actually not that hard. There are no waves when I’m doing it.
- Reading, writing—some kind of creative output.
- Walking around the city with headphones, so I have a soundtrack.
- Getting out of New York. I do that once a month. You can tell if I haven’t done it for a while.
- Cooking. You’re focused on something, but it has nothing to do with what’s in your head—your mind just kind of wanders.
- Dancing, preferably to 90s East Coast hip hop.
Do you listen to 90s hip-hop while you’re cooking?
No. My go-to album is Miles Davis, Kind of Blue.