Meet Sasha, The Force Behind Sasha’s Fine Foods
Everyday should be women’s day, right? There are millions of superwomen out there who wake up, multitask like crazy all day long, then get up and go right back to it the next day. But a day like this is important, it’s a chance for the world to sit up and take notice of at least a few of these wonder women! And why not? If sharing someone’s story inspires someone, or can influence policy, or women’s rights are highlighted, then March 8 – International Women’s Day is crucial so mark it in your calendars!
Sasha’s story is the story of a woman who found a way to combine her passions into an incredible career, while making an impact on the community. She left behind a career in law to pursue her love of food and set up a food business in Singapore called “The Barbie Girls”, which eventually evolved into “Sasha’s Fine Foods”. Sasha curates and sells only the finest food staples from England, Scotland, Australia, and New Zealand. Just browsing through her website, one can judge the level of personal commitment and her belief system, which can only inspire consumer confidence – for instance her description for one of her favourite products “Cocolux Liquid Gold” says “I have a teaspoon of this liquid gold every afternoon at my desk!” It is also apparent that Sasha really looks after her team and encourages growth, when she shares the story of her first hire Iz Mar, a driver who remains with her till this day.
Here are some excerpts from our interview with Sasha:
Can you share your earliest food memories? What’s your go-to comfort food?
My mum was born in India and this was a huge influence on our eating at home. From my early years, I remember Indian spices popping up in all sorts of concoctions. My go-to comfort food now is pretty much any Italian pasta dish – spaghetti bolognaise, lasagna, meatballs. These were the first meals I asked our chef to make at Sasha’s Fine Foods!
What did you do in the UK before moving to Singapore?
I was working as a lawyer in London and left that world behind to start a new adventure in Asia in 2008.
What were your interests growing up in the UK? Where did you go to University and what did you specialize in?
Food, wine, travel and living a balanced, healthy life – a glass of wine in one hand and a glass of water in the other! I went to Uni in Manchester and read Law and French. I worked at a law firm in Paris for the 3rd year of my course, which was amazing and helped cement my love of food and wine!
Please tell us about your family
I have a lovely husband, Jonny and 3 divine children: Grace (16), Albert (14) and Layla (9). My family are my world and are at the forefront of everything I do. They give me my purpose and help me stay focused on what I want to achieve in my work and my life.
Why food? What inspired you to start The Barbie Girls?
I was inspired by the vast selection of incredible food and ingredients available in Singapore, but like many new arrivals, I found it very difficult to buy food staples I could trust. Despite the proliferation of supermarkets and butchers, many essentials like quality meat and seafood were of dubious origin. Few if any retailers were clearly labelling where these products came from, if hormones and antibiotics were used in their production, or how the animals and fish were raised. This lack of transparency, along with increasing reports about food scandals and safety, led me to producers in New Zealand and Australia. By sourcing food this way, I was able to get much closer to the farmers and their produce, reinstating my trust in the food I was feeding my family.
Tell us about your journey from The Barbie Girls to Sasha’s Fine Foods?
In early 2017, I decided the time was right to rethink how I was presenting the company to my customers and suppliers. I had long before evolved beyond BBQ meat (the original inspiration for The Barbie Girls name!), and with an increasing diversity of customers in Singapore, I chose to rebrand the company to Sasha’s Fine Foods. This evolution made it easier for me to reach and communicate with all my customers, regardless of their product preferences. It also signalled a new chapter for the company, featuring an enhanced online customer experience with a wide range of additional features and a commitment to significantly expand our service to newer customers.
Can you explain Sasha’s Ethos a bit more in detail?
I care deeply about the source, quality and flavour of what we eat and sell. In my sourcing I am guided by a set of simple philosophies which are rooted in understanding where our food comes from, ensuring it is as close to its natural state as possible and that it has been produced and delivered with care and respect for the animals, the environment and the individuals who bring it to us through every step of the supply chain.
I love to support the "small guy", the local farmer who is trying to farm in the right way and to help him avoid resorting to mass production where all his principles have to be uncomfortably buried in order to make a living.
I avoid any foods that have unacceptable or unhealthy additives, e.g. antibiotics, hormones, artificial colours, trans-fats or enhancers.
Can you explain, “direct from source” a bit more in detail? And also what countries you source from and how do you ensure your sourcing process is not compromised?
From day one, I made the decision that I would only sell products from suppliers I had personally met and vetted and who shared my vision to provide customers with the purest food on the planet from smaller, often family run businesses who genuinely cared about animal welfare and the surrounding environment. This marked the beginning of my interest in and commitment to understanding the true provenance of what I was to sell. I started making regular trips to visit suppliers and quickly built up a personal network of like-minded producers, walking the farms and fisheries in the English countryside, the New Zealand alpine lakes and the vast expanse of Australian cattle lands. These personal connections helped establish a strong basis of trust and knowledge, and to this day underpin my ability to offer customers consistently reliable high quality food from sources I now know personally.
I source from England, Scotland, Australia, New Zealand – at the moment. I will shortly be adding Wales to the list!
Why is organic living important to you? And what are your top 5 things to always eat “organic”?
I want to eat products that are as close to their natural state as possible and that come from producers and farmers that genuinely care about their animals and their surrounding environments.
All the meat and seafood I eat has been “organically” produced and this is very important to me as I don’t want to be feeding my family protein that is packed full of growth hormones or have traces of antibiotic residue in them. Vegetables too, they need to be free from harmful pesticides and I am super excited about the recent launch of our fresh vegetables. I also cannot go a day without my Kombucha!
Besides Sasha Fine Foods online store, are your products available anywhere else as well?
A small selection of our products (only frozen ones) are available at Redmart – soon to be Lazada. We also have a selection of products available at The Providore, OUE Downtown Gallery.
Can you share your future plans for Sasha’s Fine Foods? Any plans to venture into the restaurant space?
Our plans are to continue to expand our carefully curated product range and to reach more and more conscious consumers across Singapore. We are contacted by many restaurants and are supplying a select handful.
What do you like to do when not at work?
Spend time with my family and friends, eating the delicious food I have sourced from around the world!
Share some of your favorite places to eat in Singapore.
Le Bon Funk; this is brilliantly delicious food paired with natural wines hence the name. Open Farm Community; if you haven’t been here yet this is an absolute treasure. They focus on sourcing locally as much as possible, creating seasonal and innovative dishes. Hyatt Mezzanine – The Hyatt have an incredible sustainable policy and having spent time with their chefs, I know how fussy they are about the quality and sustainability of what they serve.
Can you share some of your favorite pantry staples from Sasha’s Fine Foods?
My current favourite staples from our Pantry are our new delicious range of coconut products (Liquid Gold is my number 1), our guilt-free Vegan Snackaroons and our delicious, gut-friendly range of Kombuchas.
Finally, can you share any insights or tips with our readers?
I do not necessarily buy, sell and eat “organic”. To me organic practices are about caring for our planet and producing the healthiest foods. We work with farms that are looking after the land and environment for future generations through organic and sustainable practices. It is important to remember just because a farm is not certified organic it does not mean they aren’t doing their part to repair and nourish their surroundings.
Above everything else, I believe passionately that food is to be enjoyed, an experience that is at its best when products have been created with an eye to the impact on the wider world; the land, the sea, the animals and the people - all which play such a vital role in allowing us the privilege of enjoying beautiful everyday food.
Sharing and eating food is one of life’s best experiences, its more than an act of consumption, it’s a story. Sasha’s work only makes these stories with food and people richer and more meaningful.