I’ve neglected you over the last 12 months but it has been one crazy year and I have so much to tell you. It has been the hardest year and also the best year of my life and I want to share some of the highs and lows with you.
Firstly, a break-up in December 2014. My focus now as a single working Mum is to build a future for myself and my son. Then, four months later in April 2015, I lost one of the most important people in my life, my Aunty Cheryl, who was like a second mother to me and probably my biggest supporter, after my Mum! I was so lucky to have spent the last couple of weeks of her life with this beautiful lady. Cheryl was diagnosed with Systemic Lupus Erythematosus (SLE) at the age of 28 and bravely fought the disease through medication for 30 years. Her fight ended on April 19 2015 due to complications from Lupus. In honour of her memory and to help raise awareness of this little-known disease, I am proud to be an Ambassador for the Lupus Foundation in Australia.
The day I left MasterChef, I gave myself one year to make a career in the food industry. I put modelling on hold and this is what happened. I started working on a very special project that I would have to say has shaped my cooking to this day. My very first cookbook, “The Healthy Model Cookbook” published by Penguin Australia is out today. This was an amazing undertaking and it helped me through the stress of creating a new life and gave me a focus and drive. I spent months creating recipes that were quick, simple, achievable and above all delicious, because ‘healthy eating doesn’t need to be boring’. After 10 years as a model and figuring out a way to maintain a healthy lifestyle without cutting out the good things, I decided that it’s all about balance. I’d like to thank my fabulous team, talented Photographer John Laurie and Prop and Food Stylist and Recipe Developer, Lee Blaylock for making an intense month of hard work seem like fun. Your creativity and attention to detail has helped produce a cookbook I am truly proud of. Finally to the Staff at Penguin Australia for your guidance and support and for believing in me.
My next project was quite unexpected. After being a part of MasterChef Australia I began taking short trips to India for cooking demonstrations and appearances and built a large following. I then took a huge risk and opened a 250-seat Restaurant and 150-pax Beach Club as part of a 13 villa resort in Goa, India….yes you heard it right – India! It’s called Antares and the best way for me to describe it is by saying that Goa has a Bali/Ibiza sort of vibe. Antares is perched high on a hill overlooking the Arabian Sea with a cool breeze, the sun setting in the afternoon and a view like no other.
Planning for the restaurant began in early 2015 and included going over plans, liaising with commercial kitchen specialists, marketing, designing logos and the list goes on. I arrived in India in September to oversee the build of the restaurant and I can tell you there was a lot of blood, sweat and tears. There were weeks when I thought we would never open the doors. I had to rethink almost every decision to cater to the Indian way of doing business.
Against all odds, on November 28 2015, Antares was open for business, just in time for the season. We had 900 people attend the launch but I had only just reached the starting line and the race was about to begin. Now the real work had begun; I was working 20 hour days and rarely a day went by without a problem. My hair started falling out and there were times when I felt that it was never going to get easier. It wasn’t until mid January when things started to come together and I can honestly say that I am proud of what I have built.
My aim was to create a chilled vibe that has Cafe Del Mar style tunes, natural architecture, calm earthy interiors and a relaxed ambience. The Australian style cuisine with Asian influences showcases fresh local produce including fruit and seafood and pays homage to the land. A share plate dining experience is encouraged and allows conversation to flow easily. I loved what food blogger, Fernando Monte da Silva wrote about me and the restaurant and I feel it pretty well sums it up, “Antares is Sarah Todd, just as much as Sarah Todd is Antares. They are synonymous with each other, and the Aussie girl from Queensland is not afraid to get down in the dirt and learn how the local cuisine works and how to weave it into her own scheme of things.”
So I think that with a Restaurant and Cookbook, I can proudly say that a career in the food industry is within my reach. My cookbook is available now at most bookstores and online Booktopia. I hope you enjoy making the recipes as much as I have enjoyed creating them.