SARAH ALI CHOUDHURY REVEALS THE KEY TO GOOD FOOD PREPARATION
by ASJAD NAZIR
A close connection to cooking has led Sarah Ali Choudhury towards a massively successful career, including working as a private chef, running a catering business, teaching, appearing on national TV and becoming one of the youngest females to manage an Indian restaurant.
Today, the award-winning chef and food entrepreneur is sought after on multiple platforms for her culinary expertise. It has been a remar- kable rise for the inspirational mother of four from Bournemouth.
This strong bond with food started as a youngster living above a restaurant her parents owned and having family members who worked in the same business. “Growing up in the restaurant meant we were never short of food. We got to understand good food from an early age,” said Sarah.
The women in her family being encouraged to work in the restaurant led to Sarah growing up in an environment, where she learned about all aspects of the trade, including food preparation.
By the age of 15, she became perhaps the youngest female to manage a restaurant. “I never liked working in the catering kitchen. There were too many rules. I used to have very long hair, which was tied tight. I wore a sari from a young age and was told it would catch fire if I weren’t careful, so I used to think there was too much to consider. I preferred front of house and was good at it too.”
During this time, she also perfected her cooking techniques. Even when Sarah started working at a bank, she continued to manage the restaurant. She stopped at 23, after getting married and became a stay-at-home mum, but carried on cooking.
Sarah went back into work when her four children started full-time education and taught Indian-Bangladeshi cookery to small groups of people. She began uploading cooking tutorials on YouTube and was invited onto Channel 4 reality cookery show My Kitchen Rules, with celebrity chefs Prue Leith, Michael Caines and Raymond Blanc. “I then started doing live cookery demonstrations at food festivals and got speaking opportunities. I offered private cookery classes and writing for publications. This included my work being highlighted by Forbes, who recognised me as The Curry Queen and as a leader for Asian women in catering. This proved really successful for me. I have been able to make my own purpose-built studio. I am currently planning to run more cookery classes and content for YouTube.”
Sarah recently filmed for BBC’s Inside Out about women in catering and has further high-profile projects on the way. Not surprisingly, she has had many memorable moments on the lifelong cookery journey and highlights include, being recognised with multiple honours. “Awards have given me so many further business opportunities that I’m very grateful for.”
According to her, the secret of planning the perfect family meal is to be happy while preparing it and cooking with love. Sarah thinks the most common mistakes people make in the kitchen is adding too much of everything such as oil, spices and water. She is a great advocate of a less is more approach in cooking and points out that not getting distracted by things like television and telephone is key to good food preparation.
The rising cooking star admits to having had disasters in the kitchen herself and encourages beginners to not give up. “The best way to learn about food is to experiment. Try cooking it again and again to perfect it. Write down what you have learned and present what you have made nicely on a plate. Just be true to yourself and remember, it’s ok if someone else’s food is better than yours and keep practising until you perfect it.”
She urges all cooking enthusiasts to learn about spices. The mother of four also encourages home cooking and advises parents to prepare food with children, so they can learn life skills. “I work closely with Bournemouth University teaching students about sustainability. Last year, I cooked for 100 students with a £10 budget. The students ate real, delicious home-cooked food. They enjoyed it more than eating out and it was achieved on a minimum budget. By teaching children this, you will be enhancing their future.”
In terms of cuisine, she is inspired by rustic home-cooked, authentic food and enjoys preparing dishes from around the world. The big-thinking food entrepreneur is planning to open a cooking school, a book of recipes and online tutorials. Sarah will also continue with live events, TV projects and campaigning for inclusion. She is the senior vice president for Poole Bay rotary club, and the district leader for equality, diversity and inclusion. Sarah is also an executive director on the board of Bournemouth Chamber of Trade and Commerce, Patron of Tyler’s Friends Charity and an independent Advisor to Dorset Police. The hardworking mum also successfully carried out a course for military veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD).
Sarah finishes off by revealing why she loves cooking. “It’s nice to be able to take spices and create something that everyone enjoys. I love that my children enjoy my cooking and that food brings people together. For me, it’s like a form of therapy. I put music on and start chopping, mixing and spicing and lose myself somewhere in between cooking and serving!”
Instagram: @sarahalichoudhury, Facebook & YouTube: Sarah Ali Choudhury, Twitter: @saraheasycurry and sarahalichoudhury.com