The Lesser-Known Truth Of Sara Moulton

Chef, TV personality, and cookbook author Sara Moulton has been contributing to America's culinary culture for over four decades. Moulton was the protégée of Julia Child, she hosted her own cooking show on Food Network, and was the executive chef at Gourmet Magazine. Moulton still works hard and most days she is filming episodes for her TV show "Sara's Weeknight Meals" here in the U.S. Sometimes she's abroad, like when she traveled to Naples to explore the famous pizzas of the region in Season 12. 

She is also the heroine of home cooks. Her whole career has been dedicated to helping working parents and busy professionals prepare healthy and delicious meals so they can sit down and enjoy them with their loved ones. When she's not in front of the camera or behind a mic, you'll find her in the kitchen of her New York apartment, either putting together a delicious meal for her own family or filming a short demo for Instagram. As a chef navigating a changing world, Moulton confronted numerous challenges throughout her career and has leveraged her experiences to pave the way for others. Here is more about the respected chef's journey and how she has contributed to our culinary culture.

She excelled in culinary school despite being discouraged by her male peers

Chef school was a baptism of fire for Sara Moulton. The opposite sex outnumbered her and the lads didn't want her there. At the time, her male peers didn't believe women should be chefs. It was 1975 when Moulton enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America in New York. Despite it being the height of the feminist movement, gender equality wasn't reflected on the line, and it was moving at a snail's pace in the restaurant industry.

"It was very hard," Moulton shared in a keynote address in Boston attended by Cape Cod Times. "That's where I first heard, mostly from the other students, that women can't do this. They can't handle the pressure, they can't lift the pots, and they can't stand the heat." Instead of caving from the derision, Moulton rose to the occasion. "That was catnip to me. I'm a short female and I have a Napoleon complex. If you tell me I can't do it, I will do it. So, I worked really hard and I adored it. It was more interesting than anything I ever did," she shared. Moulton showed them — she graduated with honors, second in the class of over 400 students.

She was Julia Child's assistant

A significant moment in Sara Moulton's career was when she became Julia Child's assistant on the show "Julia Child & More Company" and later on "Good Morning America". In 1979, a few years after cooking school, Sara nabbed a gig working as a volunteer on "Julia Child & More Company" In the job interview, Child asked Moulton if she styled food, and Moulton, who'd trained as a chef but not a stylist said yes, boldly added she was very good at it. The rest is history.

Moulton worked with Child on that show three days a week for three months. Child wanted her volunteers to get involved. "She was interested in our ideas," Moulton shares in Season 3 of "Sara's Weeknight Meals". "I got to know Julia and her team very well during that time." She then joined Child as an assistant on "Good Morning America". "She became a lifelong mentor and friend," Moulton wrote in a tribute to Child for PBS. "I learned so much from Julia." Child facilitated an apprenticeship for Moulton at a Michelin-star restaurant in France and later a job in New York. "She was so much fun to work with. She taught me to be a perfectionist, to have more than one job ... to never stop learning. And years later ... how to smile, which is hands down the only really important thing you need to do on TV," Moulton said via Cape Cod Times.

She was one of Food Network's original stars

Sara Moulton's big break came when she joined the Food Network as one of the founding personalities in the late 90s. Her show "Cooking Live" and later "Sara's Secrets" brought her widespread recognition and established her as a trusted culinary expert. Working with Julia Child on "Good Morning America" led to a job offer at the then-fledgling Food Network. "I came on board in 1996. You have to remember, none of us had TV experience. We were petrified, nervous wrecks," she told Saveur. "For my pilot, I cooked fish meunière and asparagus — and never once smiled. When I held the asparagus up to the camera, it was shaking. But I limped along and got better over time. By 1999 I had two live shows on the network."

Moulton worked at Food Network for nearly a decade and starred in about 1500 shows. "I was really a workhorse," she shared in an interview with Eater. "A lot of people were discovered on my show because I had guests all the time." In 2004, Food Network suddenly told Moulton it was over. "I was part of the old guard and every time a new president comes in they make changes." It was a hard adjustment for Moulton. "I was devastated ... I forgot who I was," she told Eater. "When they took the show away ... I started seeing a shrink ...I had to talk to somebody about it." 

Her mom was the reason she became a chef

Sara Moulton wasn't planning on becoming a chef. She graduated from the University of Michigan with a major in the history of ideas. But food is in her lineage. Her grandmother attended Boston Cooking School, and her mother was passionate about sharing cuisines from different countries she visited. "My mother would go to France and come back and we'd have big French meals. She'd go to Greece and come back and we'd have big Greek meals. And because we lived in New York City, we could get the ingredients," Moulton shared in a speech in Boston via Cape Cod Times. "I've always said that behind every great chef there's a mother or aunt or grandmother. There's some great woman."

After university when Moulton was flipping burgers at a local bar, her mother became concerned for her daughter's future. She wrote to the then-food editor at The New York Times and asked what to do. He wrote back and said that if Moulton wanted to become a chef, she should attend cooking school. And that's where young Sara Moulton's culinary career began. In 1975, she enrolled at the Culinary Institute of America. She posted a photo of herself arm-in-arm with her late mother in a 2022 tribute on Instagram. "She's the reason I became a chef. I miss her every day," she wrote.

Her best dishes came out of Gourmet Magazine's kitchen

In 1984, Sara Moulton joined the test kitchen at Gourmet magazine. She assumed the role of executive chef for the magazine's dining room four years later, a position she maintained until the magazine closed in 2009. During her time at Gourmet, Moulton contributed significantly to the magazine's culinary content and played a key role in shaping its reputation as a leading publication in the food industry. "As the executive chef of the dining room, I cooked meals for the advertisers. We'd wine and dine them. Then, we'd hit them up for advertising. It used to work really well," she told "I was making the best food of my life in that dining room. It was a great job."

Moulton said Gourmet was a "cutting-edge" magazine "willing to cover other things no one else was." "I know the recipes were better. We had 11 full-time test cooks. I worked in the test kitchen for the first four years but these women and one man were really much better. I think it's a great loss. I don't blame Condé Nast. The magazine was in trouble and you can't float a magazine forever," she told Eater. The magazine folded quickly. She had such a long career there, she left with 30 boxes of books and a special copper bowl from France that had sentimental value.

She outed a famous French chef for sexual harassment

In October 2017, the #MeToo movement gained momentum when actress Alyssa Milano tweeted "me too" encouraging others who had experienced sexual harassment or assault to speak out. This resulted in a staggering 12 million responses on social media within a single day. A few months later, in January 2018, Sara Moulton penned an article for Huffington Post. She shared her experience of sexual harassment in the restaurant industry. In her early 20s, Julia Child arranged for Moulton to gain experience in a French kitchen by securing her a two-month apprenticeship in France. This opportunity was pivotal for her growth as a chef but also exposed her to the harsh realities faced by women in the culinary world.

As soon as she arrived in chef Maurice Cazalis' kitchen, the young chef was relegated to food prep. The married chef was flirtatious. When they were in the wine cellar alone, he'd make suggestive comments. He invited Moulton to Paris to visit Palais de l'Élysée where one of his former apprentices was a chef. On the drive there, he tried to make a move on Moulton. He booked one room for them to share, said that he liked to sleep in the nude, and took her to a strip club. When Moulton told Child about her experience with Cazalis, Child dismissed her complaint saying: "Oh dearie, what did you expect? They're all like that. Get over it."

She married a music journalist and is mentioned in famous hip-hop lyrics

Sara Moulton and Bill Adler have been married for over 40 years. They have two adult children and live in an apartment in New York. "If I were forced to explain what makes my husband and I such a good match ... I might just say that I'm a chef who loves music and he's a music business professional who loves to eat. And, really, there are very few things that go better together than good food and good music," she wrote on her blog.

Adler is a music journalist and critic, specializing in hip-hop. In the 80s he was the publicist for rappers like Run-DMC, Beastie Boys, LL Cool J, Public Enemy, and Will Smith, to name a few. He has promoted hip-hop in numerous roles, such as biographer, record label executive, museum consultant, curator, and documentary filmmaker. "I love the Beastie Boys and I like Run DMC, the early stuff," Moulton told Eater. Through her involvement with hip-hop artists, she has been referenced in song lyrics and credited on album releases. Ad-Rock of Beastie Boys fame put her into one of his rhymes, and her Baked Alaskan was mentioned in the Beastie Boys album "To the 5 Boroughs".

Her TV show, Sara's Weeknight Meals, has aired for over 12 seasons

Throughout her long career, Sara Moulton has proved her dedication by staying the course. She worked at Gourmet Magazine for 25 years. Her early TV cooking shows, "Cooking Live" and "Sara's Secrets," aired successfully before changes at the Food Network. Her blog has been active for over a decade, regularly featuring her delightful recipes. In April 2024, the 12th season of Sara's Weeknight Meals premiered, showcasing her continued passion for cooking, and sharing practical and quick meal solutions for busy families.

Moulton partnered with Emmy-award-winning director Natalie Gustafson to create "Sara's Weeknight Meals" which debuted in 2008. The financial crisis hit and it was a few years later that the second season was filmed. By then, publicist and marketing professional Stephanie Faison, joined the duo, sourcing funding for the show. The trio have worked together ever since. In the 12th season of the show, they head to Italy. In an interview with WGBO, Moulton and Gustafson, who are both in their 70s say they're not in it for the money. "It keeps our brains going and our creative juices going. Every season I go to Natalie and I say, do you really want to do this again? And she says, yeah!"

She's published cookbooks, too

Throughout her career, Moulton has authored several cookbooks. The release of Moulton's first cookbook, "Sara Moulton Cooks at Home," in 2002 marked her entry into the world of cookbook authorship and further solidified her reputation as a culinary authority. She took her skill of encouraging Americans to eat healthier, make easy meals, and dine with the family from episodes on TV to a tangible product — a recipe book. Her second book, "Sara's Secrets for Weeknight Meals" has 200 recipes of easy meals for the busy home cook. By 2005, Moulton had cemented her influence beyond television.

Rachael Ray is a big fan of Moulton and her cookbooks. When she hosted Moulton on her show for the release of "Home Cooking 101", she teared up. Moulton had a quote on the back cover from Ray. Her latest book, "Sara Moulton's Everyday Family Dinners," maintains the theme of offering fun recipes designed to assist home cooks during mealtime. Moulton says the book differs from the others because it has a healthy agenda. "In a hidden way, it's also about health," she tells "I bulk up the recipes with vegetables. Protein portions are four ounces or less. In many recipes, I try to give suggestions for lighter options."

Culinary education is her jam

Sara Moulton's involvement in culinary education, including teaching at culinary institutes and advocating for home cooking, has been a significant aspect of her career. One of the key takeaways she learned from the late Julia Child when she worked as her assistant, was to never stop learning. She even ended an interview with Saveur saying: "Nobody should ever stop learning, and if they do, they're an idiot." To this end, Moulton spent most of her life teaching.

Her cooking shows, which reach millions of viewers, teach her audience how to cook weeknight meals. As the Culinary Institute of America coined it, Moulton is teaching through television. Moulton says she discovered her love of teaching when she was hired as an instructor at Peter Kump's New York Cooking School (now known as the Institute of Culinary Education). "I found out I was truly good at teaching there," she told The Washington Post. "When I was young I used to tutor second and third-graders. You know what? Teaching adults is absolutely the same thing as teaching kids." Whether it's through TV, cookbooks, live demos, or social media, Sara is giving lessons on how to cook. If you visit her Instagram page, most of her reels are her demonstrating different recipes and cooking techniques. She is still sharing culinary knowledge in an accessible and interactive way. Sara Moulton's life's work has been to make life easier for the home cook, and she's excelled at it.

She co-hosts a foodie podcast

Sara Moulton's role on the podcast "Milk Street Radio" is integral and multifaceted, bringing her vast culinary expertise and warm personality to this popular show. As a renowned chef, cookbook author, and former executive chef of Gourmet Magazine, Moulton offers listeners a wealth of culinary knowledge and practical cooking tips.

Each episode features discussions about food trends or cooking techniques. One interesting part of the show is when listeners call in with questions about cooking, and Sara Moulton and her co-host Christopher Kimball offer helpful advice and tips live on the air. The hosts also talk about specific recipes and sometimes have special guests joining in for interviews (like Jamie Oliver, Nigella Lawson, and Jacques Pepin). "Christopher Kimball's interviews with chefs and other experts are reliably illuminating, but the highlight for me comes when he takes listener questions with Sara Moulton," wrote Lorne Manly, Senior Editor of Culture at The New York Times. "Their banter — complete with gentle trolling (usually from Moulton) — helps demystify the challenges faced by the game but green home cook."

She founded the New York Women's Culinary Alliance

Sara Moulton founded the New York Women's Culinary Alliance (NYWCA) in the early 1980s alongside Maria Reuge to support and empower women in the culinary industry. As a trailblazing chef herself, Moulton recognized the unique challenges faced by women in the male-dominated culinary world and saw the need for a supportive network. 

"New York in particular back then was a bastion of male domination in terms of the restaurant industry ... We were shut out," she told Eater. "When I first went to New York, I had worked in restaurants for seven years, and I couldn't get a job ... they wouldn't hire me." The NYWCA provides a platform for women chefs, restaurateurs, food writers, and other culinary professionals to connect, share knowledge, and advocate for gender equality in the industry. Moulton's leadership and vision helped the alliance grow into a respected organization that continues to promote women's achievements and opportunities in the culinary industry today.