Meet the Whisking Apprentice. This local chef and entrepreneur, Sarah Bogan, has found a winning recipe for balancing her family and business all while launching her own television show, S.O.S. – Surviving On Stamps. “I drive energy from my work, it doesn’t wear me out, it energizes me to share with others. I’m always ready to go out and cook a gourmet meal!” she exclaimed.
Sarah’s interest in cooking developed as a child. Her mom cooked family meals every day even though she despised cooking. Since Sarah had an aunt in the family who was a chef, the culinary art was learned from her.
In college, Sarah said it was eye-opening to see students spending so much money on fast food instead of groceries. While earning her BS in Accounting at Truman State University, she utilized her cooking skills by teaching and assisting in cooking classes at a kitchen supply store in St. Louis.
Sarah came to Fayetteville by way of her husband’s career with the 82nd Airborne Division. She noticed that single soldiers and college students have the same type of eating habits so she is helping them move beyond wasting money by ordering pizza everyday. She frequently hosts cooking classes within the company level inside the barracks. Part of her class included a grocery tour at the commissary explaining how to pick out avocados and other produce. Sarah made her class hands on, teaching her students to break down a whole chicken (purchased for $5) and cook it on the stove top, so they could see the process and realize they could do it themselves. “It’s a matter of the ingredients list and where to locate it in the store.” She continued, “Some soldiers grew up eating mac ‘n cheese or frozen dinners, so that’s what they buy,” she said. “I demonstrated healthy food they can make using the stove, microwave and fridge in their limited spare time, but most meals are made on the stove.” Some of the dishes she won them over with included one-skillet items like Mousaka, a traditional Greek dish with ground lamb, eggplant, and tomatoes.
“A lot of what I do is focusing on time management and fitting cooking into the busy schedules of others,” she explained. “For my mom, it was like a mental block. I try now to make it more fun and turn it from a chore into an exciting event.”
Trying to break people out of their shell idea about fast food, Sarah designed a menu for a local café in Fort Benning to encompass different ways of eating – so a vegan could hang out with their Paleo friend at the same place. The menu was a gathering place for all types of eaters. Dishes offered included: pepper jelly sweet potato sandwiches, roasted beet pesto salad, roasted veggie platter with carrots, asparagus, beets and brussels sprouts topped with an herb seasoning with olive oil. “Men would come up to me and say they never ate veggies until they had the platter,” she said. “It was really healthy stuff, not doused in sugar or salt.”
Expanding her territory upon moving to Fayetteville, Sarah finally opened her mobile culinary school for the everyday cook. “It’s healthy gourmet food, not bland,” she explained. “I do meal planning for people with busy and flexible schedules. Some have time to make elaborate meals, others don’t have much time and dread cooking.”
One thing she pushes is corporate packages. “Working women in particular want to eat healthy,” she said. “There’s no way fast food is going to be healthy, you have to do it yourself.”
Understanding that corporations have huge healthcare costs, some might use employee wellness plans, but none of them incorporate healthy cooking. Sarah knew it had to be more than a dietician simply handing out a healthy recipe here and there. “I’m showing corporations a model through packages so their employees can incorporate dietician recommendations and make real changes.”
How it works
Sarah puts together virtual packages made up of a list of ingredients she emails out to the consumer. Then, they all tune in and walk through the recipe together, Skype-style. “I can angle the camera to see if their knife skills are correct,” explained the chef. “Then they have made their own meal, usually in the hour and they can interact and ask questions and get ideas from the others. Best thing? They are at home feeding their family.”
Another corporate package she created is all about sharing…your leftovers of course. Pods of five people are put together and each person has one day a week when they make a guided meal with Sarah’s recipe based on each person’s goal and dietary restrictions. Each day of the week one member is assigned to cook so that everyone gets a meal each day and only cooks once.
“Group members will share ingredients, it’s about sharing and I’ve found with singles that’s the biggest complaint, they don’t have many people to cook for and ingredients go bad,” she said. “It’s more efficient and it’s a creative way to try different foods.”
Sandhills Farm to Table is great about bringing Sarah into cooking demonstrations. “We had FSU host an Earth Day event at T.C. Berrien Elementary School and they had different stations,” she explained. Looking to surprise the kids, she did a veggie station that was pitted against a smoothie station. The teachers told Sarah the veggie station (where she made a stir-fry) was the all-around children’s favorite. “The reason they thought it was cool was because I talked the whole time about where food came from, like mushrooms grow on dead things, stuff kids like that are wild about nature,” laughed Sarah.
Last year Chef Sarah taught nutrition, cooking and “chef for a day” courses at Fayetteville Technical Community College. Everything the class made was from scratch, from icing to maple syrup and even kale chips.
Tips on Cooking from Scratch
“Finding an easy bread recipe is important. My no-knead recipe is five minutes. I’m always doing stocks. It’s the foundation for everything from soups to sauces. The easiest thing is to avoid the center aisles from the grocery store. Bread crumbs are full of hydrogenated oil, so I use my own.”
Chef Sarah said the key to cooking from scratch is to craft basic ingredients ahead of time. Prepare stock ahead of time if you are making soup. “The beginner cook often doesn’t realize what they need, like old bananas for instance, slice it up and throw it in the freezer and you have instant ice cream for later,” advised Sarah. “Or stale bread, I rarely throw out food, save everything; peels from onions I put in my freezer for stock later. Doing things now that you’ll think about in the future, like tomatoes. Put them on the stove, cook them down and freeze them. Same with produce, cook it now, freeze it and it will buy you several days in the fridge and months in the freezer. It’s a nice surprise later on a night when you don’t feel like cooking.”
Be sure to look for Chef Sarah’s locally grown creations from nearby farms, around town, like her A.R.M.Y. Butter. The acronym stands for allspice, rum, maple and yams. It sells for $5 and some of the proceeds go to charities like Growing Warriors, a local veterans group.
Setting out to show that families can still make healthy choices on a limited food budget, Sarah lived and cooked on food stamps for month. Hence the show’s title, S.O.S.: Surviving On Stamps. Her point is for her message to reach the masses; her target audience for healthy cooking is those working in lower income brackets, including soldiers.
Chef Sarah has seen a correlation between income levels and obesity, it’s an inverse correlation, as income tends to go down, obesity rises but they don’t have money to spend for cooking classes, so how can she reach them?
Thus deciding to go the TV route, she has been working with a family from Hickory, NC. Sarah hopes to generate a following on social media and hopefully the networks will pick up the show. Check out Sarah’s web series, Surviving on Stamps, by simply typing the title into the search bar on YouTube.
Visit www.whiskingapprentice.com for ways on how you too can save and eat healthy.