What do you get when a priest, pastor and nun enter the kitchen? Well, if it’s on the the Food Network, you have a themed episode of Chopped! We recently caught up with contestant Sara Marks. Read on to learn about her foodie adventures and a recent life change!
FP: Tell us about your experience on Chopped. What was the hardest part of being on the show?
SM: Being on Chopped on Food Network was an amazing opportunity. The best part was getting to see up close and personal the logistics of the show. I’ve watched Chopped for years now and having the opportunity to be on set, meeting Ted Allen, Alex Guarnaschelli, Marc Murphy, and Geoffrey Zakarian was very humbling and exciting! The hardest part of being on Chopped is when during the first round you realize you quite literally open your basket and go! I always imagined it was edited that way and that in reality you had time–even if it was five minutes–to think some things through. Chopped is VERY REAL! There is no editing to make things look more intense . . . it REALLY is that intense! Which made for a great challenge! I also have to say, the judges were amazing! Absolute best moment was having Geoffrey tell me my croutons were “Seasoned with authority” and having Alex rave over my appetizer. They aren’t easy judges and they really enjoyed something that I–little ole Sara from southeastern PA–had made! It was amazing and I felt on top of the world!
FP: When you’re at home, what are some of your favorite meals to cook for yourself or friends?
SM: My absolute favorite meal is a kale and pasta dish that I make. I saute onions,kale, craisins, and pecans in coconut oil. When it’s just about done I add some brown sugar to cut the bitter in the kale. I pour the whole skillet of goodness over fresh pasta and add Parmesan cheese! It’s really my guilty pleasure I think!
FP: That sounds delicious! We’ll have to give it a try. Where are some of your favorite places to eat in Philadelphia or other cities you’ve visited?
SM: Without a doubt, Harvest Seasonal Grill and Wine Bar in Glen Mills, PA–about 20 miles outside Philadelphia. Harvest keeps a seasonal menu using locally sourced vegetables, meat, cheese, etc. They are known for their flat breads which are often unique and appetizing. My three favorite meals so far are the Local Grass Fed Beef Burger, the BBQ Braised Short Ribs, and their Butternut Squash Ravioli. Their dessert shooters are to die for; my favorite is the Sea Salt Caramel!
FP: What are some of your guilty pleasures? We call them foodie pleasures, hence the name. 😉
SM: It sounds ridiculous but Jelly Belly Jelly Beans! I like to pop them in my mouth and guess which flavor I taste! Bacon Cheeseburgers . . . like really amazing juicy ones with extra bacon! YUM! Bacon . . . just bacon! Fondue! I am such a food person, I love to eat, so I have so many guilty “foodie pleasures!” Churros! Anything with Pesto on it! Pineapple casserole!
FP: That’s a mouth-watering list! If you could get on a plane tomorrow and visit any place just for its food, where would it be?
SM: In 2010 a friend and I traveled through India and Nepal. In the city of Kathmandu there is this seemingly small restaurant that opens up into a beautiful, quaint and intimate tiled patio. They offered an 18 course meal–YES you read that right! 18 Course meal! It was essentially a sampling of all the delicacies Nepal had to offer. We sat for hours eating dish after dish. It was the rainy season and so throughout our meal there were showers watering the surrounding garden area. To be outside, in beauty, eating, with one of my best friends, in a beautiful and welcoming country, with wonderful people–that’s the place I’d go! I don’t even know what I ate, no one spoke English, but I didn’t care, as the flavors danced upon my palate I knew I was happy.
FP: What an amazing experience! Besides being a nun-in-training, what are some of your interests and hobbies?
SM: Plot twist! A few months after filming Chopped I actually decided not to renew my vows as a sister of St. Francis. So, I am no longer a “nun”. However, I still work with the sisters, I continue to direct their long-term service program, and I love the continued journey I am on with the community! What is most exciting to me is that they are a congregation of women who are really all about relationship! So, if there is someone out there considering religious life I would totally recommend getting to know this group of women, the Sisters of St. Francis of Philadelphia . . . because in the end, if you stay or if you decide it’s not for you . . . you’ve gained 450 women who care, love, and support you through life either way!
FP: Plot twist indeed! Sounds like you are continuing your life of service in a meaningful way. Thank you for sharing your time and experiences with us. All the best in the future!