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Business News/ Mint-lounge / Features/  Sarah Todd: Down Under in Little Vagator

Sarah Todd: Down Under in Little Vagator

A MasterChef Australia contestant on reinventing herself as a restaurateur in Goa

Sarah Todd. Photo: Rakesh Mundye/MintPremium
Sarah Todd. Photo: Rakesh Mundye/Mint

“Look at this, how could I say no?" she says, pointing to the view when I ask the first, if obvious, question: Why did she choose Goa as the venue for her restaurant? Sarah Todd, model-turned-MasterChef Australia contestant-turned-chef, is right: The palm-fringed beach and the sea beyond make for a breathtaking view.

Antares, scheduled to open in mid-November, sits atop the hill known to locals as Little Vagator. The 250-seater casual dining restaurant is part of a larger complex of villas, clubhouse and swimming pool promoted by hospitality entrepreneur Ashish Kapur.

While her Indian-origin partner and son are to arrive in India soon, Todd is accompanied by her “Aussie posse", including mixologist Nathan Ford and six kitchen staff.

Edited excerpts from an interview:

Where does your love for food come from?

When I was younger, my mum cooked a lot of sweets because I have a massive sweet tooth. I loved to eat everything she cooked. That’s where it probably began. But it wasn’t until my son was born that I realized that food had to be nutritious as well as tasty. Living with my partner’s family in London and eating a lot of Indian food, I learnt that cooking is not stressful when you’re playing around with flavours, throwing things in intuitively, rather than following a strict recipe.

What took you to ‘MasterChef Australia’?

I was living in London, modelling full-time, but I realized I didn’t want to be away from my son. I started cooking and it ignited a passion. So I went to culinary school at Le Cordon Bleu, London. After that, I was looking for a way to go home to Australia but Devinder (my partner) wasn’t too keen. So I said to him, “If I get into MasterChef, can we go back?" And that’s really how it all happened.

How did ‘MasterChef’ influence you?

Oh, it altered many things! Before MasterChef, I always followed a recipe but when I started doing mystery boxes, I had to learn to be intuitive and play around, taste as I went and make sure it all worked together. The biggest thing the contest taught me was to be brave. But it was only after I heard my name being taken as one of the toughest competitors that I realized, “Wow, maybe I’m good at this."

Why a restaurant in India?

In my early days at MasterChef, people still saw me as a model who would just ride through. And it became my biggest ambition to show that I’m good at this, can work hard and be one of the best chefs. Using my looks was an easy option before, but now I want to be in the kitchen. I’m not going to just put my name to it, design the menu and run away. I’ll be here the whole season. We’ve created an open kitchen so it’s not even hidden in the back. You’ll see me in there, cooking every day, twice a day even.

What drew you to Goa?

To be honest, when Ashish showed me this property, I thought it was amazing. Australian laws wouldn’t allow me to set up a club on the beach. So this is a dream come true. I grew up in a beach town called Mackay, which is a lot like Goa. We have a lot of sea- food, tropical fruits and the temperature and lifestyle are similar there. Goa has a little bit of everything I love; the produce, too, is close to what I’d get at home.

What’s your menu like?

It’s going to be modern Australian, I don’t like to get more specific than that. Australia has a young cuisine, and we’re influenced by things around us—we love our barbecue and it’s a bit of a melting pot of Italian, some European, some Asian.

Australian cuisine with an Asian influence?

All modern Australian restaurants have an Asian influence. Spices, fermented sauces, condiments are simple ways to add flavours to dishes. Typically, you can look at something and tell it’s Australian, but when you taste it you’ll see different flavours come through. At Antares, we’ll be trying to incorporate as much of the local produce—kokum, red amaranth, Goan spices—as possible. We’ll grow some of the basic herbs and produce right here, so I can pick things out every day.

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Updated: 16 Oct 2015, 08:50 PM IST
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