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Local FM Chef Spotlight: Personal Chef Sara Watson

Meet Sara Watson, Personal Chef

The Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo community is full of talent, especially in the culinary industry, Talented folks from all over bring with them different and unique backgrounds, skills and passions to our area. And we want to take you inside their culinary masterminds. Let’s meet our community’s chefs in our Chef Spotlight!

Q: Where are you from? Does that have any influence on your career in the industry?

A: I grew up on a farm near Glyndon, Minnesota. While growing up, I appreciated good food and life on the farm, but I don’t think that is what drove me to culinary. It came later.

Q: How did you learn to cook?

A: My love for cooking didn’t start until I was about 20 years old, working in restaurants in Minneapolis. I worked front of house primarily and one day the kitchen was short of help so I volunteered. I quickly realized my passion was not front of house, but actually behind the scenes learning to balance flavors and work with fresh products to create art. I began to experiment more at home with new products and recipes. Culinary School is where I really learned. The apprenticeship program was the perfect fit for me as it provided a very hands-on experience in many of parts of the industry. As much as I “can” cook these days, there is always more to learn and challenges and cuisines to attempt and new products to try. That is the fun/exciting part of this business for me.

Q: What degree or certifications do you have, and when and where did you receive those?

A: After graduating from Glyndon-Felton High School, I moved to Minneapolis to attend the University of Minnesota and ended up with a BA in Art History. During my time at college, I worked in many restaurants to make ends meet. It quickly became apparent that I loved my restaurant jobs and cooking.

Q: How did you start your current businesses?

A: It is very new. I started in early November of this year. After owning and operating a variety of restaurants and a catering company over the years, I decided it was time to slightly change my career path to allow for more balance in my own life. One of the reasons I started cooking was because of my love for nourishing my friends and family through food. After over 20 years of restaurants and catering, we nourished a lot of folks. While it was fast-paced and exciting, it was never really that personal. I feel like I’m going back to my roots and remembering the “why” of why I chose this culinary journey As a personal chef, I get to communicate directly with the families I serve. My goal is to provide them healthy, nutritious meals with quality ingredients that are creative and easy for them to heat and get on the table without spending hours in the kitchen.

Q: Do you have unique education, background or mentor experience that helped you to where you are now?

A: After graduating from college I moved to Colorado to attend the Colorado Mountain Culinary Institute. I went through a three-year apprenticeship program where we learned ALL facets of the industry. At the time I really loved the challenge, fast-paced and professionalism of the five diamond restaurants. I felt so lucky to be a part of such talented teams in the kitchen. I also spent time in a large banquet kitchen learning how to prepare for large parties and a stint in a breakfast cafe. Breakfast is still one of my favorite meals to cook. Eggs Benedict with real hollandaise all the way… yum! My mentors would be Chef Kevin Clarke who is the director of the Culinary Institute and my spouse Eric Watson who I met in Colorado. He has been an inspiration since we met and is always studying new trends or going back to old-school ways to prepare items. We really enjoy re-inventing our career paths and trying new things.

Chef’s Choice

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Here is a dish Sara will make for one of her clients—a Gnocchi Parisienne with sweet potatoes, wild mushrooms, butter beans, kale and brown butter sauce! The perfect meal for these chilly winter evenings.

Q: What dishes/foods/cooking styles do you specialize in?

A: This is a hard question. I love to prepare almost all cuisines. I am most comfortable preparing classic dishes with a modern twist. However, when given the chance to experiment with a new product or ingredient, I am all in!

Q: In your opinion, what makes a great meal? How do you try to bring that to people?

A: A great meal doesn’t have to be a high-end steak or seafood item, although they are delicious and an absolute treat. A great meal to me can be simple, humble, etc. A lot of my cooking these days is comfort food, maybe because it is December. If I was asked this question in May, I might have had a different answer. Currently, I think slow-roasted and braised items make for a perfect meal. I love a buttery whipped potato or wild rice dish to go with it. A hearty salad that can be simply dressed with good olive oil and vinegar.

If I am dining out, I tend to look for something I wouldn’t normally make for myself at home. If we are traveling, we search for a perfect restaurant to experience a cuisine we may not have available in the FM Community. We seem to always be drawn to Asian, Caribbean, Mexican or Pacific Rim. Lately, I’m on a quest for authentic German or Austrian cuisine.

Q: What would you say drives you as a chef?

A: I love thinking of food as art. Balance of flavors, preparation, fresh quality ingredients, spices and herbs—when it all comes together, a chef can create something amazing. I love the fact that there is always more to learn…this is an industry that truly is always evolving and changing, trends come and go and then come back again. I also love the art of plating,the visual excitement one experiences when a beautiful plate is presented to them (yes, I am a picture taker of beautiful food when dining in a restaurant)

BONUS Q: Sara recently started her journey as a Personal Chef for families in the community. Tell us about that venture.

A: After owning and operating restaurants and catering for 20-plus years and being a mom of four kids, I know how crazy life gets for busy families. My goal with this business is to simply provide a few good, easy-to-heat meals to a small group of clients each week. I work with each client to discuss dietary needs, likes/dislikes and how my service can make their life easier through nourishing good food.

For more information, you can email Sara at sara.watson5773@gmail.com or call 701-371-5740

Written by Geneva Nodland

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