Chef Sarah Moulton
Has a Fresh Recipe for Success
From the moment she kicked off her
cooking career, American chef and Julia
Child protégée Sara Moulton has had
one overriding objective: to help home
cooks put a tasty dinner on the table
every night using fresh ingredients.
Like her mentor, Julia Child, Moulton
has been an advocate of extinguishing
the movement toward canned and fast
foods that became prevalent during
the ‘50s and ‘60s and replacing it with
meals made with real ingredients. As
far as Moulton is concerned, quick and
easy doesn’t have to come from a box
or a can.
Moulton’s background is an impressive
one. She has always been passionate
about food, but it wasn’t until after
completing her degree at the University
of Michigan that she realized she could
parlay her appetite for it into a career.
After graduating from the Culinary
Institute of America (CIA) with high
honors in 1977, Moulton apprenticed
with chef Maurice Cazalis in Chartres,
France, then went on to work at restaurants
in New York City, including La
Tulipe in the West Village. When she
decided to leave restaurant work to start
a family, her interests turned to recipe
testing and development. She also discovered
her affinity for teaching when
she worked for two years at the New
York Cooking School, now known as
the Institute of Culinary Education. In
2001, Moulton was named CIA’s chef
of the year.
Along with all her other accomplishments,
Moulton was executive chef
at Gourmet Magazine, one of the food
industry’s most respected and cutting
edge publications, for 20 years. In her
continued pursuit of helping Americans
create healthy meals daily, Moulton
has published a number of bestselling
cookbooks, including Sara Moulton
Cooks at Home, Sara’s Secrets for Weeknight
Meals, and Sara Moulton’s Everyday Family
Dinners. The latter won a 2011 IACP
Cookbook Award in the category of
Children, Youth and Family. Her most
recent print confection, which aims
to make readers more confident and
efficient in the kitchen, Sara Moulton’s
Home Cooking 101: How to Make Everything
Taste Better, was released in March
of 2016. Moulton also writes a weekly
column for the Associated Press called
“KitchenWise,” which is designed to
teach basic cooking skills using delectable
Moulton’s career is a truly varied one
that stretches beyond print media into
television. In 1979, she was hired to
work on Julia Child & More Company,
spawning a lifelong friendship with the
famous advocate of French cooking
and leading to a job as the food editor
at ABC TV’s “Good Morning America.”
She was also one of the original
chefs at the Food Network and hosted
“Cooking Live,” “Cooking Live Primetime,”
and “Sara’s Secrets” between
1996 and 2005 introducing the world
to new talent like Michael Lomonaco,
Gale Gand, Michael Symon, and
Anthony Bourdain, who were all her
guests. She also created “Sara’s Weeknight
Meals” for PBS.
CKW Luxe had the pleasure recently
of talking with Sara Moulton about her
storied career, her involvement in the
New York Women’s Culinary Alliance,
her love of teaching, and her quest to
simplify healthy meals for American
CKW Luxe: As a protégée of Julia
Child, the executive chef at Gourmet
Magazine, and an original
Food Network host, you have had
an illustrious and successful career
as a chef. Our readers would love it
if you could share one or two of the
secrets to your success with them.
Sara Moulton: I am the classic example of being in the right place at the right time, which is the biggest reason for my success. I met Julia Child through a coworker at a catering operation in Cambridge, and Julia hired me to do food styling on her PBS show because her usual food stylist couldn’t make it until midway through the taping. She thought that because I had gone to the CIA I must know how to food style. I did not, but I muddled through, and that started a relationship that was really important for the rest of my career. I met Jacques Pepin when I was young and chefing in Boston because a friend of mine did a radio show and Jacques had just come out with La Technique,and my friend thought I would do a better interview than he would. I got to work with Jacques several years later when he came to guest chef at La Tulipe. He has also been an angel to me. I met Jean Anderson, a noted cookbook author (with something like 40 books under her belt) because she had moved into my parents’ apartment building, and my mom thought we should meet. Jean ended up hiring me to go on several trips with her to Europe and Brazil and became an important mentor. I am not saying I didn’t work hard. I have always had more than one job. I have never taken “no” for an answer. If someone tells me I can’t do it (like most of my fellow male students at the CIA who thought women did NOT belong in the kitchen), it is catnip to me. I must prove them wrong.
CKW: Please tell us how you became interested in encouraging the use of fresh food over fast food and how much of an influence Julia Child was in your doing so.
SM: I was brought up with nightly family dinner, cooked by my mom, who for some inexplicable reason (passion?) was a very good cook. She cooked from scratch. So that was my head start on the use of fresh food. Julia Child was certainly very influential, but in other ways.
CKW: In 1982, you cofounded the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance. Please explain its purpose to
our readers and your reasons for being part of it.
SM: When I was in Boston in the late ‘70s/early ‘80s a bunch of us in the food industry formed a culinary group for women (with the help of Julia) called the Boston Women’s Culinary Guild. We realized that men had clubs, but women had none, and women seemed to always be at a disadvantage in the food world. So, when I went to New York and encountered even worse malechauvinism here than I had in Boston(none of the really good restaurants would hire me because I was a woman), I wanted to do something about it. With a good friend from Gourmet, Maria Reuge, and a bunch of other Gourmet editors and food professionals, we formed the New York Women’s Culinary Alliance and it is still going strong.
CKW: It is evident from your Associated Press column, your many cooking shows, and your numerous
cookbooks that you love teaching people how to prepare better meals and become more confident in the kitchen. Please tell us how that interest started and how you use it approach your many projects.
SM: I started out in this industry wanting to be the best chef I could possiblybe, but then that goal morphed into other pursuits when I decided it was timeto have kids (something you cannot do working 80 hours a week in a restaurant), and I have ended up doing a variety of things since then in the food industry: recipe testing and development, food styling (yes, finally I learned how), TV, writing, demos, and so on, but I finally realized that the thing I do best is teach. When I was growing up in NewYork City, my mom joined the school volunteer program and encouraged me to do the same. Our job was to tutor
elementary school kids who were behind in reading and writing. I read every book about how children learn and why children fail, and I loved the challenge of finding a way to grab them, to get them to be successful. So when I was asked to teach at Peter Kump’s New York Cooking School in the mid ‘80s, I rediscovered my interest in teaching. I was a bit jaded from working so hard in restaurants, and it was like falling in love again to witness the excitement of a new cook when they roasted the perfect chicken or made a beautiful pie to crust. I have focused on that ever since.
CKW: During the time you’ve been a chef and food personality, have you noticed a change in America’s
eating habits? How would you like to see them change further?
SM: For the most part, I think we are eating better. There is a huge interestamong many people, especially the younger generation, to eat locally and sustainably and to take better care of the planet, and that is fantastic. Also, I believe that more people are cooking than even 10 years ago, and I attribute that to both food TV and to the Internet. However, we cannot lose sight of the fact that not everyone can afford to eat locally and sustainably (organic is expensive), so we need to focus on how to feed everyone healthy food. Sara Moulton is a celebrated chef and educator who has made it her life’s work to help people in all walks of life provide their families with delicious meals they can easily create using the best ingredients available. With her various cookbooks, television shows, online videos, and Associated Press cooking column, she has succeeded in taking the mystery out of cooking
for countless numbers of Americans by inviting them into the kitchen and providing them with all the skills they need to succeed for themselves. It is an honor to be able to feature three of Moulton’s best recipes in our magazine.
How to grind your own meat If you happen to own a meat grinderor a stand mixer with a meat-grinding attachment (KitchenAid makes an excellent model), by all means, read the
instructions and use it.
If you’re not the happy owner of one of these gadgets, here’s what to do instead: Cut the meat into 1-inch cubes, and pop them into the freezer for about 30 minutes. Then, working in smallish batches, pulse the cubes in the food processor until hey look properly ground. Be careful not to overdo it— you’re making burgers, not mush.