Sarah Todd the woman behind Antares, and the hostess of Yuvraj Singh’s wedding party, talks to Preeja Aravind about living in India, and filming another TV series
How has been the experience of filming ‘Grilled’ different to your other series?
This series changed me as a person. Over the past two years, I have been so caught up in growing my restaurant that I have not really taken a moment to step back and appreciate what I have achieved. To now share my knowledge and mentor the contestants has made me truly appreciate my own journey — from being in the contestants’ position to becoming an industry expert — is extremely enlightening.
The show is being aired every week. How does it feel to maintain TV schedule again?
It is now a ritual: Every Monday at 9 pm I grab some friends, and tune in to FOX Life. It’s amazing to watch it on screen, and replay all that happened throughout the series while shooting.
How is ‘Grilled’ different from, or similar to, ‘Serve It Like Sarah’?
‘Serve it like Sarah’ was all about me learning from the locals and discovering cooking techniques, whereas ‘Grilled’ is very much from the point of view of a fast-paced restaurant.
Does being a judge on a show bring back memories from your time in the MasterChef kitchen?
It brought back so many memories of being in the exact position myself. The experience for me was so profound that I will never forget what I learnt. I feel lucky to have had the opportunity. I know what the contestants will gain from this process, and it is huge.
How was it for you to jump from one high-pressure career (modelling) into another of competition cooking?
I have never been happier, and the pressure is very different to that in modelling. The restaurant business is challenging on so many different levels. Every day is about learning although, at times, it can be extremely disheartening, especially when reading negative reviews. At the end of the day, I am doing what I love and giving back the gift of food. I aim to create an experience at Antares, and to give customers not only great food, but also a great experience and that is extremely rewarding.
Would you like to summarize your experience over each of your shows since MasterChef?
‘MasterChef Australia’ was a platform that was a rocket trip into the food industry. Then came the challenge of setting up my own restaurant; my journey was documented through ‘My Restaurant in India’, followed by an exploration of Goa and its cuisine through ‘Serve it Like Sarah’. I feel ‘Grilled’ is now the perfect culmination that summarizes all that I have learnt and serves it to the contestants, to learn what I have learnt.
How was it to study at Le Cordon Bleu, and alongside stalwarts such as Michelin star chefs Neil Borthwick and Angela Hartnett at Merchant’s Tavern in London?
This was invaluable knowledge for me. Le Cordon Bleu taught me all the fundamentals that I use in every single dish that I cook, from cleanliness to technique to discipline. Working at Merchant’s Tavern gave me the passion, seeing such a strong woman like Angela Hartnett dominating in a man’s industry.
What according to you is ethical food? What do you think should be done in India, by Indians, to promote this?
Ethical food to me is understanding and appreciating where our food comes from. Educating ourselves to know that we are buying local, fresh, organic food where possible. Knowing who our farmers are, and that our animals are raised without harm.
You chose scenic Goa to be the home for your restaurant. Why India and why not your hometown in Australia, or even Sydney, which you call home?
I fell in love with India and have been welcomed with open arms. Goa is such a beautiful destination.
Apart from hosting Yuvraj Singh’s wedding party, which other Indian celebrities have you worked with?
Vikas Khanna, Shah Rukh Khan, Suzanne Khan, Zayed Khan and many more have been to Antares.
You have a son. How old is he and does he travel with you?
Phoenix is six, and he loves India. He spends six weeks at Christmas every year with me in Goa.
How do you manage to juggle being a mother while handling the stress of being part of a television series?
I’m lucky Phoenix has an amazing dad who takes care of him when I’m away. My mum is also incredible and spends a lot of time with Phoenix. Family is the key!
How does it feel being known as a celebrity chef, in the same lines as that of Rachel Ray, Gordon Ramsey, Emeril Lagasse, Anthony Bourdain?
Gosh! I still can’t imagine being named in the same sentence as the legends! Everyday for me is about learning and growing. There is so much to learn in food from all around the world, and I will never stop growing.
Which Indian dish do you think you are yet to master?
Gulab Jamun. It’s my favourite dessert, and I haven’t been able to nail it just yet!
An Indian dish you think you make the best?
Kheema. It’s my all-time favourite, and the first I ever learnt.
Where all have you travelled to in India, and which is your favourite place?
Goa, Delhi, Chennai, Assam, Bombay—I love each place for its uniqueness and diversity in cuisine. If I had to name a favourite, it would have to be Goa. It is beautiful, tropical and relaxing.
Which is your least favourite place in India and why?
I haven’t been to enough places just yet!
What is your favourite month to be in India?
What is your least favourite month to be in India?
I actually love the monsoons, too. I think it’s a stunning time to be in Goa. Haven’t really got a least favourite.
An Indian dress you think you would rock in?
I think a sari is such a beautiful attire and I love wearing one.
A quote that is special to you nowadays?
It is by Dr. Seuss:
“So be sure when you step
Step with care and great tact
And remember that Life’s
A great balancing Act.”