Since opening freight house in 2015, chef Sara Bradley has been around the world and back sharing her passion for Paducah and farm-to-table Kentucky cuisine. You may know this talented creative from Bravo's Top Chef seasons 16 and 20, but there's so much more to her #PaducahCreativeCity story!
Chef Sara Bradley serves farm-to-table fare and crafted cocktails at the freight house.
Kentucky Born & Bred
Born and bred in western Kentucky, Bradley grew up learning her way around the kitchen with her family, inspired by Kentucky traditions from the Ohio River Valley to the Appalachian foothills. After studying at Johnson & Wales College of Culinary Arts in North Carolina, her professional culinary career led her to America's biggest cities. She honed her skills in prestigious kitchens of Michelin Star restaurants Dovetail (New York City) and Blackbird (Chicago).
the freight house is a perfect place to begin your exploration of Paducah. (Photo: freight house)
When chef Sara returned to her hometown of Paducah in 2015 to open her own restaurant, she set her sights on a historic freight depot that once served as an agricultural distribution hub. Now known as freight house, the dining menu is not only inspired by Kentucky agriculture but designed around it. Nearly all of the ingredients are sourced from farmers and producers within a day's drive of Paducah which yields fresh, seasonal dining experiences.
"Life in Paducah is easy. It slows down a little bit around here but still has everything a big city offers. I love using the local agriculture and regional dishes to create something unique."
Bradley's love of local extends to the freight house bar which showcases her love of Kentucky's native spirit. The freight house bar menu, which has been featured by Garden & Gun and USA Today, features more than 500 bourbons, whiskeys and ryes complemented by a rotation of inventive craft cocktails, beer and wine.
The "Year of Kentucky Food"
Kentucky Tourism proclaimed 2018 the "Year of Kentucky Food" and tapped chef Sara to be one of the state's chef ambassadors. Representation of her beloved Bluegrass continued with two high-profile culinary events in February - Sabores y Saberes in Paducah's fellow UNESCO Creative City, San Cristobal de las Casas, Mexico and the "Heart of Kentucky" at the James Beard House.
Collaboration with Mexican culinary students at Sabores y Saberes. (Photo: Landee Bryant)
As the featured international chef at the inaugural Sabores y Saberes artisanal and gastronomic festival, Bradley and a delegation of Paducah musicians and artists presented an authentic and memorable taste of Paducah. Stateside at the James Beard House in New York City, Bradley and acclaimed central Kentucky chef Ouita Michel prepared a "Heart of Kentucky" dinner that wowed.
"After moving out of state for many years, I decided to move back home. There is something special about Paducah and Kentucky that doesn't exist anywhere else."
Top Chef Kentucky
In mid-2018, Bradley embarked on her greatest journey yet -- as one of sixteen chef-testants on Bravo's Top Chef. Season 16 of the Emmy Award-winning cooking competition was filmed in Kentucky. As the "hometown" favorite, chef Sara cooked her way across her beloved Bluegrass, making it to the finale in Macau, China, another of Paducah's fellow UNESCO Creative Cities. There, she served her now famous Matzo Ball Soup with her Jewish mother and was named runner up!
"It has been an honor to represent Paducah at some of the most prestigious cooking houses and across the world. I am so proud of my hometown, and it has been amazing sharing it with everyone."
Following Top Chef, Bradley has continued to do what she does best both in Paducah and away. She has traveled to participate in events across the country including a return to the James Beard House for the launch of Taste America, the James Beard Foundation's annual culinary tour. In 2023, Sara competed in Top Chef: World All-Stars, and made it to the finale where she was named runner up.
Kentucky Silver Carp, fresh from local waterways, is a freight house specialty. (Photo: freight house)
Arts, Culture & Agriculture
Try chef Sara's signature Southern flavors with a modern twist in Paducah. Make a reservation at freight house for a proper introduction to the artistry, creative culture and agricultural traditions of our Creative City.
"You should definitely go to the quilt museum and make sure you get the guided tour. Don't miss out on downtown: the farmers market, local bars and ice cream shops, all the boutiques shops and revamped hotels."
Plan your Paducah experience to include all of chef Sara's suggestions! The National Quilt Museum and downtown attractions are easily walkable from freight house. Shop the Paducah Homegrown Farmers' Market like chef Sara, and take in local flavor across the city from western Kentucky BBQ to the nightlife scene.
Show us what you do and where you savor local flavor in Paducah by tagging #paducahcreativecity!