Meet Sarah Boswell, the Dinner Ladies’ Menu Director. Yes, that really is as important and exciting as it sounds! Sarah is in charge of the menu and testing all the recipes to make sure they work, can be properly cooked and frozen by us, can be easily reheated by you, and… most importantly… that they all taste completely delicious.
Sarah, where did you grow up?
In Albury, on the border of New South Wales and Victoria. I’m one of five children in a family that spends breakfast time talking about what’s for dinner. I moved to Sydney to go to University when I was 18.
Where have you worked before Dinner Ladies?
Many years ago I worked as a model booker in London. After that I moved into food and
had my own catering business for over 10 years. I’ve worked for private and corporate clients, including rock bands – yes, I’ve fed Fleetwood Mac! I’ve also worked at Simmone Logue, The Sebel and Pier One Sydney Harbour.
What’s a usual day for you at Dinner Ladies?
I work closely with our head chef, recipe developer and food technologist to develop recipes that taste great, can be successfully frozen, and provide solutions for our customers. There’s a lot of food tastings; writing, using our recipe writing software; checking cooking times are correct; and liaising with the marketing and customer service departments to let them know what the food team is working on. My job is very creative, which I love. I really enjoy collaborating and problem-solving with the team.
We love the sound of recipe testing! Tell us more about it, please.
Well, it’s testing quantities and ingredients and coming up with the best methods in the test kitchen. These can then be used on a larger scale in the production kitchen. We use a lot of maths in recipe testing!
I’m constantly tasting and tweaking amounts to get the balance right. Of course, everyone’s palate is different – that’s why we often suggest adding extra chilli or a squeeze of lime at home.
We always test our recipes at least two or three times. We also test the cooking and reheating times so that all the labelling is correct for the customers at home.
My favourites to test are the salads and soups.
What are the challenges in your job?
The main one is to keep prices down for our customers as the cost of produce rises.
What are your best days at work?
I love our tasting sessions in the test kitchen and photography shoot days are also exciting – it’s when we see the dishes looking their best.
My worst day ever was definitely when I crashed the food truck into a low-hanging branch!
What do you like to eat at home? Are you a good cook?
I hope so! I love to eat Asian brothy soups, like pho and ramen. Japanese and Italian are my favourite cuisines. As home, we eat a lot of Dinner Ladies. Otherwise, it’s pretty simple – we have lots of share plates, a few salads, grilled vegetables and – always – condiments!
Any kitchen disasters?
Years ago, I was working for a caterer and I used salt instead of sugar in the crème brulees. Luckily, I noticed before service!
What’s your favourite Dinner Ladies dish?
I love the Vietnamese caramel chicken. I serve it with coconut rice and some stir-fried greens. Also, the chicken and sweet corn enchiladas – they’re so easy and delicious with a quick guacamole.
I also always have a DL salad in the freezer for last-minute entertaining or if I’m invited somewhere and asked to bring a plate. I throw in some fresh herbs and leaves and it’s ready to go!
What would be your dream job if you weren’t at Dinner Ladies?
Dog walker or TV critic.
How has the Covid pandemic affected your work?
It has been super busy, which meant we had to put a few dishes on hold, such as our new all-in-one microwavable dinners. They’re fiddly to prepare and the kitchen was under a lot of pressure because of demand. But they will be back in the New Year!
Anything exciting coming up on the menu?
I’m really looking forward to the Summer/Christmas menu that we’re launching soon. We’ve tried to include the most time-consuming elements of festive entertaining. The menu is full of colour and bright flavours – exactly the kind of food I love to eat!