By Shilpi Madan
Celeb chef Sarah Todd believes it is extremely rewarding raising a child as a single mom. She has just finished co-curating a spanking new, drool-worthy menu as consulting chef at the buzzing The Wine Rack in mid-town Mumbai, bringing in fresh local produce to give an edgy spin to classic dishes. A former model, a classically trained chef from the coveted Le Cordon Bleu, a hot favourite contestant in MasterChef Australia Season 6… Sarah Todd turned author with The Healthy Model Cookbook, and also runs the Antares Restaurant & Beach Club at Vagator beach in Goa. She is a familiar face on the screen with the series My Restaurant in India (televising Sarah’s career graph), Serve It Like Sarah (her adventure, travel and food ditties) and Awesome Assam with Sarah Todd (dipping into local Assamese recipes during her travels in the state). All while she successfully parents her son, as a single mom.
Excerpts from a conversation:
So how old is Phoenix now? Any particular reason for choosing the name Phoenix?
He’s seven. The Phoenix is a firebird reborn from the ashes. I was told that I would find it very difficult to conceive owing to the polycystic ovarian disease (PCOD) I was diagnosed with, in addition to the extremely tough time I had with my menstrual cycle. Honestly, I was also experiencing some upheavals in life at the time I discovered I was pregnant. So it truly felt like a miracle. That is the reason I decided to name my son, Phoenix.
Do you whip up any desi food treats for him? What is his palate like? Name one dish that you make and he absolutely loves.
He loves paratha and anda for breakfast. He simply loves kheema (also my favourite).
Are you the mom who loves whipping up yummy treats when his gang is over?
Absolutely, I love making feasts for all his friends. I love it when they are all sitting around the table enjoying a meal together; they love the sausage rolls I make.
How challenging is it being a single mum?
It is extremely difficult at times because being a single mum is a very ‘hidden’ job. I think the outside world does not really get to see a lot of what actually goes on behind the scenes — school pickup, lunches, homework, after-school activities, washing, cleaning — all while maintaining a hectic work schedule.
What is the best part about being a single mom?
It is extremely rewarding raising your child. You learn a lot about your own self in the process, while you see a little human grow; it is an incredible feeling. Your child makes you laugh with all his little quirks and helps you to be in the moment.
You are in brilliant shape. Despite making and trying out new dishes, eating out. Share a pearl with other moms.
(Laughs) Some days, honestly, I have to try 20-30 dishes for a new menu. But, for me, it is all about balance. I never deprive myself. At home, I always eat clean: lean protein and lots of vegetables.
Where are you based, in Oz or India? How do you work out your support system?
I am constantly moving between Australia and India, and for me both countries spell home. My mom is a great support. Phoenix’s father also takes care of him when I have to travel.
How do you divide your time between your restaurants, travel, website, Phoenix…? Any time management tricks from a hands-on celeb chef-mom?
Focus on what you are doing right at that moment. It is very important to prioritise.
One thing that you do with Phoenix everyday?
I read to him or with him every night. At the moment we are reading Charlotte’s Web by E B White.
One thing you are particular about?
I make sure he eats nutritious food and indulges in one form of exercise every day. It could be playing football, or walking to a shop with me.
Are you able to make time for family vacations?
I am lucky that my work takes me to fantastic destinations, but I am making a conscious effort to take some down time. My mum, nephew and Phoenix are spending a month together travelling. I have planned a four-day vacation to Tulum in April for a friend’s wedding and I am going to be sure to disconnect and take the time to soak up my surroundings.
Being a single kid, how close is Phoenix to his cousins, grandparents?
Phoenix and his cousin Jackson are as close as any brothers can be and are only five months apart in age. We often spend the school holidays together with their grandmother. Like we are all enjoying our time together here in Goa at the moment.
What are weekends like with Phoenix?
Sports, pancake Sundays, swimming…he is a very active kid so we are always outdoors.
What has been your biggest learning so far, as a successful chef and as a mom?
Life is full of ups and downs. I have been told that it will be tough for five years and I will have multiple moments of feeling like I want to quit. Then one day it will all come together, and it will be worth it. As a mom, I feel we often make the mistake of pigeonholing our children because of a habit they may have had when they were two or so. What we must accept is that children’s tastes and interests develop and change quickly. Being a mom, I feel you need to introduce new things into their lives on a regular basis. They just might end up surprising you.
One nugget of wisdom that you would like to share with other moms?
Teach your kids ‘why’. Kids are more intelligent than you think and if they understand why you want them to eat healthy and why you want them to practice reading and exercise then they will make the choices for themselves.
What is next for Sarah Todd?
I have worked extremely hard for most of my life but recently I have realised the importance of taking time for myself and not feeling guilty about it. 2019 is here and you are going to see a stronger, fitter and more focused Sarah!