A marriage of art and food
KUALA LUMPUR, June 7 — Putting the art in food is Sara La Fountain’s forte, so is healthy food. “My recipes are quite simple,” said the chef from Finland. ‘It’s about balance, and trying new things in order to build new flavours.”
For her, half the fun in cooking is plating. “I love it; it’s like creating a first impression. I also like to design plates too.”
Sara is in two AFC shows, Perfect Day and New Scandinavian Cooking. She was in Kuala Lumpur last week to present cooking demos, a lunch and two dinners at The Royale Chulan Kuala Lumpur.
In a cooking demo for the media, she appeared in a chef’s white coat teamed with a black hat, and had on her feet, kitchen shoes with colourful prints which she had designed herself. Sara has a passion for fashion as well as food, and she has a blog that combines both.
The Goat Cheese Salad with Beetroot, Dark Sweet Bread Croutons, marinated Red Onions and Blueberry-Balsamic was one of the simple recipes that Sara put together for us. As she did, she explained about the picking season in August for blueberries in Finland, how honey is used in different vinaigrettes, and goat cheese being a common ingredient. “I like to eat salads as they are quite healthy. Salads celebrate summer.”
Sara had brought with her the Finnish Archipelago bread, a dark rye bread which she turned into a crouton for the salad. “We eat this sweet, multi-flavour bread with butter, gravlax and a nut such as pecan on top.”
Then it was on to the Fried Fish with Summer Potato Vegetable Salad that had raw sugar snaps in it. “We eat a lot of sugar snaps. We just peel and eat them like a healthy snack. They remind me of summer in the archipelago. It’s also a very Finnish thing to have horseradish; it’s a little like wasabi.”
Dessert was the Summer Pavlova with Passionfruit Cream served with strawberries and pistachios. There are no passionfruits in Finland. Sara had bought the fruit the night before in Jalan Alor, Kuala Lumpur where she had been taken for an immersion into Malaysian street food.
It’s not the first time she’s been to Malaysia though. She was here in Kuala Lumpur in 2006 when she was awarded the Best First Cookbook award – for a la Sara — at the prestigious Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, at a dinner hosted by the prime minister in Putrajaya. “It was like a movie set, and it’s a memory I really treasure.”
Since then she has released a cookbook A Perfect Day based on the TV show, and another Passion for Food.
“The pavlova is light and airy like a ballet dancer. We love to have this during summer and there are many variations of it. We serve it with whipped cream, different ice-creams and caramel sauce.
For summer too in August, the Finns have a lot of crayfish parties. “We boil them in salt and eat with dill cream and we will be singing the whole night. It’s a lot of fun.”
Sara's father is a restaurateur, mum is a painter and her stepfather is an architect so you can see where the art in food ideas come from. She trained at The Culinary Institute of America in New York. She is also a fashion model, having represented brands like Marrimeko and Puma. She runs a catering service and a cooking school.
She runs her own blog Passion for Fashion & Food, designs dinnerware called A La Sara for a Finnish kitchenware company Luhta Home, and kitchen shoes with colourful prints for Ejendals, a Swedish company.
“I have always been into my palate. At age four, I tasted oysters and loved them. I also like deepfried food. Food is like a hobby; it doesn’t feel like work. “She enjoys food TV as it inspires people at home. “I have good memories about food and hope that people have that too. I like a stew my mum and grandma make – with lamb, beef and a lot of cabbage in a demi-glace braised for four hours.”
The chef also loves mushrooms. “Chanterelles are just beautiful and you can pick these and other mushrooms for free in Finland. When you find a good chanterelle place, you don’t tell anyone in Finland! Blueberries are also a must – “we can do jams, juice, dry them in granola, do a porridge, and make upside down cakes with them.”
Winter is about heavier dishes, with lots of roasts and stews, with game meat like reindeer, venison, elk and moose. “A reindeer steak is soft and lean and very light. The texture is almost like butter; there’s not much fat. It’s a super healthy meat.”
When she is not cooking, she loves music. “I’m having DJ lessons at the moment. I would like to do a demo – with music and cooking at the same time, like disco cooking!”
She’s good at drawing and designing and has done plates, bed linen, shoes for kitchen professionals and colourful aprons. “Now I’m into sauté pots and pans. I’m thinking of doing knives.” She does these with different companies but she also has her own brand a la Sara.
“Finland has the purest water in the world. My new project is to bring Finnish water to the world in a stylish, trendy way. I design logos for the glacier water.”
She would love to stay a couple of weeks in Malaysia, and visit the markets. She has tried durians, and loved it! “I even liked the smell! I enjoyed the food I had last night – salted egg prawns, clams in shrimp paste and oyster pancakes. They were excellent.”
She has even tried balut in the Philippines. “It was a bit weird with the feathers inside.”
Sara would like to meet Jamie Oliver. “I love his style of food, his recipes are easy, affordable and he has a wonderful philosophy.” And she would love to cook for Lady Gaga!