Taste for Adventure with Sarah Glover
Sarah Glover is a rebel in the culinary world, foregoing haute cuisine for campfires and pantries for fresh produce. Her journey as a chef can be traced back to an idyllic childhood growing up as one of eight (!) kids in Tasmania. An innate sense of curiosity and creativity led Sarah to study commercial cooking at the tender age of 16, paving the way for a career as adventurous as her cooking style.
Last year, Sarah released her debut cookbook after a highly successful Kickstarter campaign. Shot at over 17 locations up and down Australia’s east coast, WILD: Adventure Cookbook invites us to go off the beaten track and view nature in all its rugged glory as our very own kitchen. Both the imagery and the recipes, featuring foraged ingredients cooked over open fires, inspire serious wanderlust. We sat down with Sarah to talk about the highs and lows of self-publishing, what’s on the mood board for her home renovation project and how she spends her downtime (hint: it also involves the great outdoors.)
You’re the founder of a cookie company, a caterer for events around the world and the author of a popular cookbook! How do you describe your job to other people?
Some would say I just have a lot of fingers in different pies but the truth is I can’t sit still. I get bored easily – I have ADD – so I need to keep myself interested in lots of projects.
Did food play a big part of your childhood?
Yes, it sure did. I am one of eight kids, so having food on one’s plate is a big deal. I grew up in Tasmania, so we always had access to amazing produce. I didn’t really appreciate this until later in life – just how amazing and accessible the produce is. My earliest memory was when I was three years old. I would hang out in the apricot tree all day long eating the fruit and telling people not to eat my apricots!
Are you self-taught or did you attend cooking school?
I am a qualified Chef and Pastry Chef, and have been cooking professionally since I was 16 years old.
Tell us how Bondi Bikkies came about. You must have a sweet tooth!
Well, I had a crush on this boy and his favourite treat was cookies. So I started a business and dumped the boy!
How did you evolve from a pastry chef to cooking in the wild with foraged ingredients? What is it about cooking outdoors that fascinates you?
I grew up in the outdoors and so I always felt free and at home outside. That said, it took me 15 years to work out that I should combine my two passions to cook and create in the outdoors. And so, here I am.
What are some of the most exotic ingredients you’ve experimented with? Is there anything unusual you’d encourage us to try?
That’s a hard one because I wouldn’t say they are exotic…it’s more a case of not knowing what’s on your doorstep or how to use it. I encourage people to start to learn [about] ingredients that are native to their land and area and then use what is growing around them. It’s very satisfying and also more sustainable.
Similar to how our customers want to understand how their rugs are made, it seems like people are increasingly interested in knowing where their food comes. Why do you think that is?
I think people want to know because there has been more education around food and land, so it’s important that we know farmers and make a connection. Plus, if you grow something yourself or make something yourself, it always tastes better. Not because you got an award-winning presentation, but because you have connection. That’s the key, a connection and appreciation for the course and for the craft.
Some chefs are fussy about presentation. How important are aesthetics in your style of cooking?
Well, you do eat with your eyes first, but I don’t get too caught up in being fussy with how it looks. If it tastes good, that’s really the most important thing. That said, I love creating scenes. It’s about the space, the story and the atmosphere.
How did the cookbook come about?
It was a very organic process – so much so that self-publishing was really our only option, No one would have trusted me to pull together a book from going bush! Now, it’s a little different though (we’ve just signed with Prestel Publishing in the US – we’re very excited!)
I’d love to know – is there such a thing as “writer’s block” when you’re writing a cookbook?
Yes, there sure is! Normally, though, it’s just hunger from writing about food. And so, I eat. Or I procrastinate in other ways – like going for a surf. Thanks to my ADD, I get distracted easily so there’s a lot of both going on…
We really love the design of the cookbook. Did you have a vision of what you wanted the layout to look like?
That part was interesting. I really wanted to do something that was different. It took a while to find the right designer but we got there. Paul McNeil – the artist who helped me with the hand-drawn words – was really encouraging with this part. He told me – constantly – to stay true to what I wanted and not give a crap about anything other than that. [Photographer] Luisa Brimble was amazing, too. She thrives on all things new and has the most amazing eye. Having these people believing in me helped so, so much.
You ended up self-publishing via Kickstarter. What prompted that decision and what was that like?
We were first-timers, a risk. No one was that keen on publishing the book so we thought, screw it, let’s just do it ourselves.
You’ve lived in Hobart, Sydney and New York. What are your favourite meals in each city?
In Hobart, a steak at Lebrina Restaurant (my very first job as a chef was here), in Sydney, Ester Restaurant’s liquorice meringue, and in NYC The Spotted Pig’s blue cheese burger – it’s the best EVER.
Tell us about that house you’re renovating in Tasmania. What are your plans for the space?
It’s going to be a creative beach shack, where I write my recipes and test out stuff. The idea is going to be old meets new, a mix of retro and modern. I have no idea on all the details yet (it’s still very early days), but there are a few must-haves. It has an epic view of the sea, so an indoor fire that looks out on that is one of them, plus a massive deck so I can entertain, have BBQs and the like.
What are the most rewarding part of your job?
Being able to use my hands to create whatever I want. I love seeing the joy that comes as other people try cooking this way for themselves.
How do you manage being creative, running a business and enjoying some downtime?
There’s not a lot of downtime, but I do get this when I surf. No phone – it’s just me and the sea. So that’s one strategy. My boyfriend, Nick, helps me slow down too. He’s the opposite of me – and together we go diving for fish, go out in the boat or go for a hike.
Finally, what have you got planned for the rest of the year?
A new book, a US book tour and renovating a house. It’s going to be busy to say the least!