By : Lauren Price
Sara Moulton graduated with high honors from the Culinary Institute of America in the late ’70s before finding great success at some of the nation’s finest restaurants: La Tulipe in New York, Harvest Restaurant in Cambridge and Cybele’s in Boston. While at Cybele’s, she took on the challenge of working as an associate chef behind the scenes of the acclaimed PBS series, “Julia Child and More Company.” Not very long after that, Sara took Julia’s advice and headed for Chartres, France for an intense apprenticeship with Master Chef Maurice Cazalis at the Michelin One-Star restaurant Henry IV.
In 1984, Sara joined Gourmet magazine’s staff as Food Editor and four years later was named Executive Chef, a position she still holds today. It was during this period that Sara was invited to teach at Peter Kump's New York Cooking School and where she discovered her love for teaching.
She was soon named Executive Chef of ABC-TV’s “Good Morning America,” working behind the scenes with legendary guest chefs like Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Wolfgang Puck, and Marcella Hazan. Sara was eventually named the show’s Food Editor and Correspondent and currently appears on the show at least once each month.
Recently, we spoke to Sara about her latest achievement, the completion of her first book, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home.
The introduction to your new book, Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, seems to flow so naturally. It’s as if you’re simply sitting among friends, telling them how your life is going. And the personal stories connected to each recipe, along with all the photos of family and friends, make the book very touchy-feely. That had to be very time consuming, right?
Well, at first I did want to hire someone to help me write the book. But I soon realized I wanted to write the way I talked, and before long, help became occasional phone calls. All my recipes are filled with history, and it was imperative that those histories be part of my book. And my husband’s a writer, so he helped with some editing, and that was great.
When did the idea of a book come to you?
I think I always loved the idea of one day putting my collection of recipes together for a book. Certainly, being on TV made it much easier getting published. Look—I love food. I love to eat. I think I always thought about my next meal before I finished the one I was having. And of course, I love to teach; so it just seemed a natural progression.
It must have been an overwhelming task at first. Was it?
No. Because I really did have help when it came to testing the recipes. In fact, I hired a tester to come right into my home to test and cook—and every night we were dining on the results. Like maybe she’d test two or three soups for that day and that’s what we’d have for dinner. Sometimes it was maybe two salads. So it was a really hands-on experience. Really like being in the trenches.
How long have you been collecting recipes?
Gosh, I began accumulating recipes years ago. Actually, many of them were ones I used as a working mom trying to get dinner on the table fast.
Your recipes come with wine recommendations. How difficult was that?
I had my dear friend and colleague Michael Green create those partnerships and write the chapter on the pairing of wines and food. He’s fabulous because he really demystifies the process. He makes choosing wine easy and accessible. It’s the same philosophy I strive for with cooking.
Are you planning a big promotional tour?
Oh, sure. I’ll be in San Francisco, Los Angeles, Chicago, Atlanta, Cincinnati, Portland, Houston and Seattle. The exact schedule is posted on my website.
Our readers would love to know a few of your favorite restaurants. What’s your favorite in New York?
That is so difficult to answer. Sometimes it’s just a great little find in my neighborhood. But I do like Babbo. I also really love Daniel Boulod’s and DB Bistro Moderne. And I always enjoy Park Bistro and Beppe.
My picks would have to be Rick Bayless’ Frontera Grill and Topolobampo, Arun’s for Thai and certainly, Charlie Trotter’s. He’s always so innovative.
And in Los Angeles?
I love the new Spago in Beverly Hills. I have worked with Wolfgang Puck before and I just love his restaurants.
What is a favorite food to prepare?
I’d have to say sauces and salads.
What’s your favorite junk food?
That’s easy: a great potato chip. Except I do my best to avoid them since it’s impossible for me to just have one. And I love cheese—any cheese—even smelly cheese. Melting cheese on anything is my idea of perfection.
What edible items do you think you couldn’t live without?
Coffee. Great French roast coffee every morning. Olive oil and garlic are on the list too, when it comes to cooking. And lately, chilies are must-haves for me. The hotter, the better.
What kitchen tool could you not live without?
That’s easy: my 10-inch, Wusthof knife. Good knives are very central to a chef.
Where do you shop for produce and meats?
In New York City, I love to buy from the Green Market at Union Square, but they are only open four days a week. I do love Jefferson Market for meats and ordering produce from Indian Rock in Pennsylvania. I also love Cook’s Garden out in Ohio.
It had to be amazing to work with Julia Child. What was that like?
Well, I began working with her in the late ’70s. The pressure was certainly on to perform and to perform well. I learned so much from her. You know, she’s 90 now and still going strong. My husband and I saw her recently and as always, we adored our time with her. Actually, I once made a list of 10 reasons why I loved working with Julia: She first hired me over the phone; she ran her kitchen like a democracy; she taught me perfectionism; she taught me the importance of hard work and never-ending learning; she insisted upon a formal European education; she is good-humored and wise; she works to remove our fear of cooking; her passion and excitement about cooking and eating don’t evaporate as soon as the tape stops; she is unquestionably modest; and she’s interested in everything.
What do you think your mission in life is?
That I may in some way help people sit down as a family—or even alone—to enjoy a lovely meal. And that means setting the table, too. I feel that I have learned well from some of the great masters, and that I can perhaps empower people to forget about eating so much junk food and concentrate on honest-to-goodness food.
Sara Moulton Cooks at Home, Broadway Books, $29.95, 800/726-0600, randomhouse.com/catalog
Jefferson Market, 450 Avenue of the Americas, NYC, NY, 212/533-3377, jeffersonmarket.com
Indian Rock Produce, 530 California Rd, Quakertown, PA, 800/882-0512, indianrockproduce.com
Cook’s Garden, 9009 Huron-Avery Rd, Huron, OH, 800/289-4644, chefs-garden.com (Trade Only)
Beppe, 45 E. 22nd St, NYC, NY, 212/982-8422
DB Bistro Moderne, 55 W. 44th St., NYC, NY, 212/391-2400, danielnyc.com
Park Bistro, 414 Park Avenue S., NYC, NY, 212/689-1360, parkbistro.com
Babbo, 110 Waverly Pl, NYC, NY, 212/777-0303, babbonyc.com
Frontera Grill, 445 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL, 312/ 661-1434, fronterakitchens.com
Topolobampo, 445 N. Clark St, Chicago, IL, 312/661-1434, fronterakitchens.com
Charlie Trotter’s, 816 West Armitage, Chicago, IL, 773/248-6228, charlietrotters.com
Arun’s, 4156 N. Kedzie Ave, Chicago, IL, 773/ 539-1909
Spago’s, 176 N. Canon Dr, Beverly Hills, CA, 310/385-0880, wolfgangpunk.com/spago
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