Ever had the spicy sausage queso at Cadillac Pizza Pub or the turkey meatloaf at The Yard? Meet the woman behind the popular menu items at these McKinney restaurants: Sarah Smith. With her husband of 12 years, Tony, and his business partner, Preston Lancaster, Smith has helped turn Frisco-based 33 Restaurant Group into an incubator for some of the hottest restaurants in McKinney and around North Texas.
While her official title is “catering and event coordinator,” she does so much more. From putting the finishing touches on the design of new restaurants to developing menu items and overseeing special events, Smith is truly the creative force that gives the group’s growing roster its color.
It all started 10 years ago at Palio’s Pizza Café in Little Elm. It was the first restaurant the couple ran together, and though it’s no longer in their portfolio, it created the foundation for what would become a profitable partnership. In the decade since, the couple has built 10 restaurants in McKinney and beyond, including: Taverna Rossa, Heritage Pizza and Taproom, and Union Bear Brewing Co.
It’s no small feat. Still, their professional endeavors pale in comparison to the adventure they embarked on three years ago: parenthood. Following a tumultuous time struggling to get pregnant, Smith gave birth to twins, Asher and Everly. She’ll be the first to tell you it’s been a wild ride since.
Lives in: Frisco
Hails from: Aransas Pass, Texas
Significant other: Tony Smith, CEO and co-founder of Restaurant365 (formerly VP of operations and operating partner at 33 Restaurant Group)
Children: Asher and Everly, 3
Personal motto: “You alone get to choose what matters and what does not. The meaning of everything in your life has precisely the meaning you give it.”
Favorite spots around Collin County: Frisco Mercantile, antique malls and downtown McKinney
Currently reading: How to Win Friends and Influence People by Dale Carnegie, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People by Stephen Covey and Why You Are Who You Are: Investigations Into Human Personality by Mark R. Leary
One-on-One with Sarah Smith
DFWChild: What’s your day-to-day like?
Sarah Smith: Our life is full and stressful, but we’re happy. From day-to-day it’s different. Saturday I catered a wedding, and Monday I was at our storage unit with the kids. My days are always exciting but never the same.
C: What’s it like having twins?
SS: The terrible twos were like an April Fools’ joke gone wrong. But I love every stressful and exhausting second of it. Having the option to stay home with them is a blessing. Being their teacher and guiding them is my full-time job. It’s amazing how much they teach us.
C: Any advice for new moms of multiples?
SS: Be yourself, trust your instincts and make choices that benefit your child. Mold them to be themselves; don’t shove them into a mold of someone else.
C: Tell me about finding out you were expecting twins.
SS: I had a lot of medical issues, so we had to do in vitro fertilization for three years. On paper, I should have had no problems, but I was born with a physical ailment. It was devastating. We started our trek down the IVF route and after the first two attempts didn’t work, we got airplane tickets to Cabo and just cried for a week. When we came back, I literally changed my life. I decided to focus on things that would culture my mind and my heart; I needed to calm down.
C: And then you tried again?
SS: We tried again, and I just felt differently. I kept really calm. I read books. I learned to love myself. When I took a pregnancy test and it was positive, it just made everything right. All of the money, time and tears … none of that mattered anymore.
C: What advice would you offer women struggling with pregnancy?
SS: Stay off the Internet blogs. Your story is not mine, and mine is not yours. We’re all one-of-kind puzzles. I was fortunate to find my missing piece. Keep your partner close and your feelings closer. Seek help to understand your hormones and make sure your “plumbing” is in working order. Start listening to your body, and you’ll begin to hear it yelling back at you. It’s the most important conversation you may ever have. It was a long, exhausting process, but it didn’t define who I am. My resilient attitude is what got me through it.
C: How have you changed since becoming a mom?
SS: I didn’t have positive examples of strong adults growing up, and I want to improve my attitude. I want to make sure I’m smiling all day. I’m in this self-help mode because it seems like our kids are absorbing everything we’re doing, and I want to be a good example to them. It’s making me a better person.
“Make choices that benefit your child. Mold them to be themselves; don’t shove them into a mold of someone else.”
C: Do you ever feel like you’re putting too much pressure on yourself?
SS: I don’t think you can ever put too much pressure of positivity on yourself. As long as everybody else is happy around me, I feel happy.
C: How do you care for yourself?
SS: I take Epsom salt baths every day. I love cycling and Pilates. Being creative makes me feel like I just went and got a massage. I’m a very simple person. I don’t get my nails done, and I don’t wear makeup everyday. I’m thrifty. I sew. I cook. I love art. Creating something out of nothing is what makes me feel good.
C: Have you always been creative?
SS: Yes. We were very poor growing up. My mom was a single, working mom, so we didn’t have a lot. I always had a knack for creating something out of nothing. I was always trying to make our sad situation feel better.
C: What does your role with 33 Restaurant Group entail?
SS: I’ve been there since the beginning. The aesthetic side has always been my duty. I do the flowers and decorations, and organizing for off-site events. I come in during the eleventh hour and turn the restaurant from a house into a home. I soften the spaces with one-of-a-kind pieces of furniture and artwork. My touches are everywhere.
C: How do you describe your design aesthetic?
SS: Of course, everybody loves Joanna Gaines. But I feel like I had her style before she had it. My style is just comfortable and cohesive. I work on something until I feel like it feels smooth to me in my mind.
C: What’s it like to work with your spouse?
SS: My business tasks are in a completely different lane than his; I decorate the ship and he steers the wheel. The values we set from day one have only grown stronger through the years, and I’m so proud to support his career today. I’m not on the frontline like before, but my impact is still strong. It’s come with its challenges but ultimately made our marriage stronger.
C: Where do you see yourself in five years?
SS: I’ve thought about that a lot. It could be a business, it could be a vacation house or we might adopt a baby. I definitely see myself involved in charity work, dedicating time to improving the lives of people. One charity in particular our company has supported for years, CASA of Collin County, is one I admire deeply. There’s nothing more important than supporting children in need.
Sarah Smith’s Menu Favorites
Turkey meatloaf at McKinney restaurant The Yard
Made with: smashed potatoes, garlic green beans, black pepper ketchup. “My secret is crushed butter crackers instead of bread crumbs—and don’t add ketchup to the mix. Squirt it on top the last 15 minutes of baking.”
Spicy sausage queso at Cadillac Pizza Pub in McKinney
Made with: local Texas sausage, jalapeños, pico de gallo. “My secret is good old canned turkey chili. It adds a velvety texture.”
Sarah’s School of Design
Use What You Already Have
“Paint is my go-to for furniture. An old high-five record piece given to us 12 years ago has been recycled four times over, and now serves as a toy trunk. Also, introduce Mod Podge into your life. It literally changes an ordinary textile into an extraordinary work of art. Ten years ago, I acquired an old armoire door and held onto it with the dream of it being in my nursery one day. When my day came, I painted the door white, used fabric panel cutouts and added a light fixture and coat hooks.”
Give Your Space a Persona
“Whatever feel you’re hoping to evoke, bring it to life with plants, mirrors, nostalgia and furniture. If you have the space, play with it. My intent with the twins’ rooms is to excite them the second they wake up and calm them into dreamland at night. I consistently purge what they outgrow and procure gems that tickle their curiosities.”
“I always empty a room when I’m ‘over it.’ Purge the extras, so the pieces you absolutely love shine. Shop around the house and pull together items that create a new flavor.”
This article was originally published in January 2019.
Photography by Carter Rose