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Celeb Chef Sarah Todd Talks Being a Single Mum, Not Being a Helicopter Parent, and Her Four Fave SG Dishes

Interview celeb chef Sarah Todd on parenting by Sassy Mama
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We caught up with Celebrity Chef Sarah Todd while she was in Singapore to chat about parenting (and co-parenting with her ex), how she suffers from PCOS, her Indian cooking journey and her four favourite Singaporean dishes!

We chat to Chef Sarah about the key to co-parenting her 11-year-old son with her ex (it involves not being a helicopter parent!), how she manages to do all the things (be successful at work as a chef, TV show host, restaurateur) and make time for her son. Sarah reveals her strategies for success “It is OK to say no! I am a people pleaser, and, at times, I spread myself so thin that I was burnt out.” Plus how she talks to her son about racism and being proud of his Indian and Australian heritage, and where exactly she learned to cook Indian food so well that she won the love of audiences all over India when she was on MasterChef Australia!

You’re a successful celebrity chef, TV show host, restauranteur, cookbook author and single mum. How do you do all the things?

Juggling motherhood and business is not easy, and I think it is important to be honest and admit that. However, I have developed a few strategies to achieve a better work/life balance. Phoenix is now 11 and at an age where he understands that sometimes we need to find a compromise. If I explain the situation to him, we can work together to find a solution. When I spend time with him, I am 100% present. Today’s technology means that we are reachable 24 hours a day, so it is vital to put away the phone and the laptop and focus on my son, the most important person in my life.

With my busy schedule, it is essential I stay strong, fit, and healthy, so eating healthily and exercising are important. Taking time to nourish and nurture yourself must become part of your routine so that you are in the best shape to nurture others.

My final strategy took some time to master – setting boundaries. It is OK to say no! I am a people pleaser, and, at times, I spread myself so thin that I was burnt out. Open and honest communication with all parties leads to a better outcome.

Celeb Chef Single mother Sarah Todd interview with Sassy Mama

Does your son live with you most of the time or does he split the time with his father?

Phoenix splits his time between his father and me.

How do you navigate co-parenting Phoenix? Do you and your ex have any rules or strategies that make things easier?

We have a good co-parenting relationship, which comes down to communication, and being open and honest with each other. It is also understanding that you can’t helicopter parent when co-parenting. Phoenix’s dad must be free to make decisions around Phoenix when he spends time with him and vice versa.

We understand you have Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS) – how has it affected you and were you successful in getting treatment?

PCOS is something I have struggled with from a very young age. I tried multiple treatments, and nothing worked. I was unsure if I would be able to have kids, which is something that’s a reality for those who have PCOS. PCOS is a condition that is hard to live with, especially in those younger years, and for me, improving my diet helped.

Celeb Chef Single mother Sarah Todd interview with Sassy Mama

Do you cook at home with your son?

We love cooking at home. He can make perfect poached eggs and breakfast himself! We also cook different curries, parathas, and many beautiful North Indian dishes.

Does your son like eating Indian food? Any tips on how you get kids to enjoy spices and spicy food?

My son loves Indian food but does not have a high tolerance for spicy food. My cooking at home is very mild; I use a lot of spices but not necessarily chilli.

I introduced Phoenix to spices by cooking paratha filled with a beautiful cauliflower spiced filling. It is one of his favourite dishes. He has now progressed to curries.

Interview celeb chef Sarah Todd on parenting by Sassy Mama

Do you make packed lunches for your son (I bet the other kids envy his options if so!) As a fellow lunch packer I’m always running out of ideas – can you share 5 good ones?

It’s winter in Melbourne, so he gets a hot packed lunch to take to school every day. Some things I usually pack for him are Gheema (Spiced minced dish), Nasi Goreng, Spaghetti Bolognese, Ham and Cheese Toastie and Lamb Curry. He loves lamb – it’s his favourite thing to eat, so we make many lamb dishes for him to bring to school!

Has your son ever experienced any racism being half Indian and growing up in Australia? When you travel with him to see his family in India are there ever any difficulties with the different culture and how do you help him with this if so?

It is important that Phoenix is proud of his heritage, and, as his mother, I have a responsibility to ensure that he is exposed to both cultures. I want him to understand that he is blessed to have such a rich heritage. We discuss skin colour, race and racism and the fact that he is different means he is unique. He should feel comfortable taking paratha or a ham sandwich to school for lunch. He feels at home in India and Australia.

Interview celeb chef Sarah Todd on parenting, cooking, travels to India by Sassy Mama

You are known for your Indian cooking, but you only first travelled to India until after your MasterChef Australia series where you cooked Aloo Gobi and gained a loyal Indian following! Who taught you to cook Indian food? Did your perception of Indian cooking change after you experienced Indian food in India?

My culinary journey began at Le Cordon Bleu in London. At the time, I was living with my son’s Indian grandparents. I would bring French creations home for them to try, and in turn, I would feast on Indian delicacies. It was this experience that sparked my love for Indian food. Phoenix’s grandmother was an incredible cook and taught me about North Indian flavours and to cook dishes from Punjab. I fell in love with the cuisine and culture.

It wasn’t until I went to India after MasterChef that I realised how diverse the cuisine is across the country. I took the time to explore the different cuisines across India and understand the differences. I’ve gained much knowledge over the last eight years about balancing flavours and spices.

Gastrobeats Chef Sarah Todd celeb chef

You’re cooking at the Culinary Masters at Gastrobeats 2022 in Singapore with George Calombaris, and two MasterChef Singapore contestants – Derek Cheong (Winner of MasterChef Singapore Season 2), and Genevieve Lee (Runner-up, MasterChef Singapore Season 1). What dishes are you making and what are you most excited about?

I’m so happy to be cooking alongside George, Derek and Gen in Culinary Masters here at GastroBeats. It’s the first significant event I’ve done since Covid. We are having a wonderful time meeting and greeting guests and sharing our food.

It is a balanced menu that I think represents Singapore as a melting pot of different cuisines: Indian influences from me, Greek influences from George, and influences from Derek and Gen, who both have such incredible food knowledge.

My favourite dishes are the Beef Cheek Vindaloo Pie Tee, the Crab Salad Pani Puri, the Apple-Chai Bombolinis, which are a special for Gen’s week, and Derek’s special, Buttermilk Red Curry Chicken Wings.

Is it your first time in Singapore and are you here with your son? Any Singaporean dishes on your must-try list?

Phoenix is in school, so he couldn’t make this trip. We have been to Singapore before and explored many beautiful sites. I am tasting my way around Singapore this time, and some highlights have been: chicken rice, nasi lemak ayam taliwang, chendol and fish head curry. The flavours are incredible!

Thanks so much for your time Chef Sarah – you are such an inspiration for us foodies and fellow mamas. We will be following your next culinary adventures!

Celebrity Chef Sarah Todd is in Singapore for Gastrobeats which is on from 3-26 June 2022.

Images courtesy of Chef Sarah Todd's Instagram (with permission)

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