From Antares in Goa to the Wine Rack in Mumbai, Chef Sarah Todd’s world revolves around her ventures and food. This girl from Queensland in Australia started her career early on as a model and has worked with major international brands across the globe. Her travels led her to explore new cultures and cuisines and that is how Sarah Todd discovered her love for food.
But that’s not all. Sarah’s entry to MasterChef Australia Season 6 made her a popular household name and since then, there has been no looking back.
After the TV series, Sarah launched restaurants in India, authored a cookbook and several television series like My Restaurant in India that captures her journey, Serve it like Sarah which is a travel and food series around Goa, and a one-hour documentary titled Awesome Assam with Sarah Todd. She was also a judge on a new restaurant startup series called Grilled.
From a model to chef to entrepreneur, Sarah dons multiple hats including that of a mother. Her son, Phoenix is seven.
YourStory caught up with Sarah on her recent trip to Bengaluru for The World on a Plate event to talk to her about her food philosophy, her restaurant in Goa and how she lives each moment in her life.
On her first trip to India after the MasterChef Australia show, Sarah planned cooking demonstrations in New Delhi, Mumbai and Goa. “It was my first trip to India and I had never seen anything like it before. The town where I am from has 1000 people so it’s very small. When I got to India I was so overwhelmed with the people and everything here that I felt like this was a sanctuary for me. Also Queensland with its Great Barrier Reef, its tropical climate, sea and food is similar to Goa and when I visited it felt like home - like a mini slice of Australia.”
Sarah decided to set up her dream venture in Goa on the shores of Vagator Beach. Antares Restaurant and Beach Club is a 400-seater, drawing inspiration from Australian cuisine with a hint of Asian influence using “sustainable and ethical growers to source ingredients.”
Next up on her list is the “The Wine Rack” coming up in Mumbai. “This time we have taken several influences from Mumbai cuisine. We spent a lot of time going around Mumbai stalls and taking inspiration from the flavours and I think it is really important to acknowledge that in my menu,” she says.
Sarah’s food philosophy is about finding local fresh produce and “cooking it simply to let the ingredients shine.”
“It is mostly about the produce but adding little punches of flavour - so while the ingredients speak for themselves, they still have that extra boost of flavour,” she explains.
Sarah believes starting a business anywhere is difficult but more than the paperwork, legalities, and logistics, and things like licencing which she says is tough and takes time, what was more challenging for her were “being away from my family, not understanding the language, learning the culture and all of it happening at the same time”. She adds, “These were some of the challenges I had to deal with.”
She says that her story is not different from the stories of others who are in the industry and starting up like her. “I had a television series built around my life and challenges in setting up Antares. It showed the pressures I faced. However, mine isn’t a unique story. It’s everyone’s story. Everyone has had these struggles; it is just that mine were documented. I am lucky that happened.”
During the peak season, which is from October to March, Sarah spends most of her time in Goa and over the rest of the year, she flies back and forth.
Sarah has made India her home, put down her roots here and is always exploring different cultures and cuisines of India. Some of her favourite Indian foods include bajre ki roti, and laal maas. She loves Kashmir and loves the beauty and culture of the place. “The people are beautiful and welcoming,” she says.
Sarah believes in keeping life simple, just like her food. “It is great to have goals and be inspired to do more, but the most important thing to remember is to be happy with what you are doing and stay in the moment. It is about enjoying the present. When I am here at this festival, I am here. When I am with my son, then I am with my son,” she says.