Sara Khong is a food enthusiast, food stylist and developer of recipes. But she didn’t start her career that way.
She is a law graduate but never practised law for a single day in her life. By the time Sara graduated, she was well entrenched in another passion–her online fashion business.
“When I was reading law, I already knew it was not something for me. Even during internship, I didn’t do it at a legal firm. Instead, I spent my time doing lifestyle stuff. I liked fashion and I started a blog shop in fashion and accessories.
“Four months before graduation and while waiting for results I started a proper e-commerce site where payment could be made via credit card. I would get my stock from Petaling Street. It felt good to be my own boss. I worked very hard.
“Money was good and I could make RM2,100 a day at the bazaar.” Sara was 23 and she could sustain herself with that income.
After about three years of that she burnt out as keeping up with trends and travelling overseas to buy goods and shipping them back became a tiring affair. “I had to buy a lot for the economies of scale. And fashion accessories are heavy.”
Chasing fashion trends lost its meaning and I like working for passion and I like working for myself.”
From Fashion To Food
“When I was on my own managing my fashion business I had to cook for myself. I wasn’t a cook at all. I was more of a kitchen hack and I blogged about it. And I also blogged about minimalism. I had so much naturally I need to organise for space. So no choice I had to be a minimalist.”
At that time, fashion was still a lucrative business and it sustained Sara for three years. Soon her eye for fashion buying wasn’t good enough as competition was keen at her heel and they were also cheaper.
“There were so few people selling fashion online then. As the business grew, competition also grew and I didn’t think of taking a partner.” When the going got tough, Sara was also missing homecooked food–her staple of three dishes and one soup!
Soon, out of necessity a passion was born. Sara became popular for her life hacks that she posted on her social media. Her website Jewelpie on personal lifestyle had everything she wanted to do with her life.
A Food Stylist In The Making
“Basically it was all about what makes me happy and how to do things easily, like cooking a meal for others in my situation. It was also during this time that my fashion business became a chore and I was not enjoying it anymore.”
Her content got picked up by Buzzfeed especially about her chance to dine at the prestigious Jiro restaurant in Japan.
She progressed to being a food stylist and became a food blogger by starting New Malaysian Kitchen website with all her recipes she developed and collected from family and friends.
Being an avid reader and a curious one, it helped her to create and curate content for her website www.Jewelpie.com. “I am the kind of person who believes that there must be a different way of doing things. I would read and research to find a way to solve the problem.
“When I first moved out I didn’t know how to clean a house so I bought a manual on how to keep house. I also read about the science of cooking. Cooking is a lifestyle skill that is unappreciated.”
Her post on how to peel an orange with ease earned her great following in her blog. MPH publisher found Sara through the Jewelpie site and asked her to write a book on how to cook from home targeting the younger generation.
Advocator of Sustainable Living
Looking for different ways to carry out a task seems to be Sara’s inherent trait. As she ventured further into the food industry, Sara realised she needed to be formally trained. She packed her bags and set off to Beijing, China for a two-year culinary course.
Her first cookbook is Malaysian Meals in 30 minutes and subsequent two were One Pot Wonders and 3-Ingredient Recipes.
She has since moved back to stay at her family home where there is a large compound where Sara has cultivated her organic vegetable garden. In some of her freelance work she is required to develop recipes and do cooking demonstrations for her clients.
Sara is also an artist and she approaches her recipes and cooking with much creativity and she keeps a journal of her work.
Text by YY Chen • Photos by YY Chen & Sara Khong