When Sarah Scott won the Betty Crocker Homemaker of Tomorrow Award at Henry Grady High School in Atlanta, Georgia, little did she know she would someday become a chef in the Napa Valley, working with and learning from all her culinary heroes.
After studying journalism in college, Sarah left the Deep South for Napa, California, with plans to pursue a writing career. Instead she found herself drawn into the world of food. A job in a local cheese shop led her to learn all she could about international cheeses. Her next job, at the Wine and Culinary Center, set her on a serendipitous path of learning from an eclectic roster of gifted chefs, cooking at the center’s restaurant, learning about wine from its enology experts, and cultivating relationships with local farmers and food producers. New ideas and information flooded in, and Sarah knew she had found her calling.
After working with several restaurants and caterers she opened her own catering company in 1984. For the next eight years her clients included many wineries and grape growers as she honed her cooking, event production, and wine and food pairing skills.
In the 1980s the valley’s vintners and chefs were just beginning to discover the complexities of matching wines with food. Sarah participated in scores of tastings, panels, and discussions about what made for “perfect” pairings. She also worked at the Napa Valley Cooking School alongside such world-renowned chefs as Jeremiah Tower, Marion Cunningham, and Michel Richard. In 1989 she was part of Madeleine Kamman’s first class at Beringer Winery’s School for American Chefs.
In 1991 Robert Mondavi asked Sarah to join the culinary team at his namesake winery, and in 1993 she became Executive Chef, first at the Mondavi Wine and Food Center in Southern California and, a few years later, at the Robert Mondavi Winery in the Napa Valley. For Sarah, this marked the beginning of another period of intense learning.
In the Mondavi Winery’s Great Chefs program she cooked alongside Thomas Keller, Julia Child, Jacques Pepin, Alice Waters, Daniel Boulud and other top chefs. She traveled around the world on the winery’s behalf, sharing the philosophy and flavors of the Napa Valley. She directed the winery’s culinary and wine and food education programs and, with Master of Wine Mark de Vere, created and taught a cutting-edge wine and food seminar about correctly balancing foods to pair beautifully with any fine wine.
In 2005 Sarah formed her own business as chef and culinary consultant to wineries and restaurants around the country. In addition to writing articles and co-authoring a critically acclaimed cookbook, The Wild Table, Sarah continues to develop recipes and menus, plan events, and provide memorable food and wine experiences for her clients.
She remains passionate about the things that first drew her into a life centered on the kitchen and the table: home cooking, great cheeses, local dishes, artisanal farming, the French language, cookbooks, travel, and the magical ways wine and food can enhance each other. She likes to think that Betty Crocker, if she really existed, would be proud.