Renowned food blogger, television show hostess and cookbook writer, Sarah Graham talks to us about her love affair with wholesome food, an incredibly successful career as a foodie, and her adoration for her family, as we discover why South Africa has become ‘Smitten’ with this awe-inspiring woman. 

The simple life

“I grew up on a small game farm in Zimbabwe, where the milk came from the farm next door and most of the veggies came from the back garden,” says Sarah, who describes her childhood as idyllic, and wouldn’t swap it for the world. With fond memories of wholesome meals around full, happy tables, and living under an enormous, blue, African sky, it’s hard to argue against her as she has enjoyed the perfect, simple life with her loving family. “My parents are amazing, they live a life that is humble and honest, and my Dad is a crazy conservationist who works with lions. We grew up with lion cubs in our house and those are also some of my favourite memories,” adds Sarah, who further calls to her location in the bush as one of the main reasons for her enjoying such fresh, natural foods while growing up.

“I have a huge family and I absolutely love it, our door was always wide open to friends and family,” says Sarah. It was with her family that Sarah found and nurtured her budding love for food, as she recalls the hearty meals they used to share, “Sunday lunch is a big thing in our family. Yorkshire puddings were always a favourite, drowned in gravy; as were sweetcorn fritters on Sunday mornings. Also, my Mum is the queen of mini meringues, and we used to eat dozens at a time, sandwiched together with whipped cream.” The family, Sunday lunch theme is still prominent in her popular cookbooks of today, as Sarah keenly mentions the inspiration behind them, “My cookbooks are even inspired by the uncomplicated, unfussy food that I love to cook for family and friends, with the idea that any meal has the potential for greatness.”

A foodie lives here

How did Sarah find herself flourishing in a foodie career? “It kind of just happened!” she exclaims. “I always loved food and cooking, and always loved words and writing, and then one day I stumbled upon a food blog,” adds Sarah. From this moment onwards, she realised that she could combine everything she was passionate about in one space, and ‘self-publish’ whatever she wanted to write about. “The second I started food blogging I was hooked,” she says. This soon led to her sending a proposal to publishing house, Struik, who were more than happy to publish a book based on her ‘blog-to-book’ concept. “Everything has kind of snowballed from there,” explains Sarah. “My first book, Bitten, was eventually released in February, 2012, and in 2013 we filmed our first TV series, ‘Sarah Graham Cooks Cape Town’,” lauds Sarah, of her fast progressing career.

However, it hasn’t always been easy for Sarah, as a lot of hard work goes into managing her successful career, “Probably the hardest thing I’ve done so far though, was filming my first television series,” she says. Sarah continues in explaining that before then, she had no idea how much work went into filming a cooking show, from the recipe development to scripting, to being on her feet and ‘making it happen’ for 14 hours a day. “We won a prestigious, South African Film and Television Award for Season One, and that was a great acknowledgement for a lot of hard work,” she adds.

How to balance a foodie’s scale

With the demanding work schedule that she has, it is essential for Sarah to have the necessary support to help her maintain balance in her life, “It’s not easy, and it’s not always rosy, but Rob (my husband) and my whole family are amazingly supportive, and they step in and help out when I have work commitments that are really stretching me thin,” she says. This includes fitting precious moments of exercise into her daily routine, of which she says, “It’s tough! And I don’t love it, but I do ensure that I regularly exercise. In my line of work, I can’t really afford to not stay fit and healthy, and so I run two or three times a week and do Pilates.” This balance is imperative for Sarah, as she endeavours to maintain a healthy lifestyle that is vital to her and her family, “A healthy lifestyle is super important. Rob and I both grew up eating and living simply on farms, and it’s really the only way that we know,” she adds.

What’s next for Sarah? “My third cookbook comes out in July, 2015, so having written three books already feels like an amazing accomplishment,” she says. Sarah doesn’t plan on slowing down there though, with plans to return to our hearts and television screens soon, “We’re due to film Season Two of my cooking show early in 2015, so look out for more news on ‘Sarah Graham’s Food Safari’.” With an infectious personality and a passionate-fuelled talent for all things food, South Africa can’t wait to once again be ‘Bitten’ by this remarkable foodie.

In the frying pan, with Sarah Graham 

Q: What has been your greatest accomplishment in life thus far?

A: Having a happy marriage with my husband Rob, and being a mum to our two daughters, Sophie and Isla.

Q: What is your idea of a healthy meal?

A: Simple, grilled trout with a chickpea, roasted beetroot and avocado salad.

Q: If you could cook for any five individuals (celebrities included), who would they be?

A: My grandparents, who have all passed away; and Rob would need to be there to pour the wine!

This article was published in Weigh-Less magazine, in the May/June 2015 issue: WEIG0615pg044-045

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