Chef at raved-about Vergas restaurant, Blackboard, creates recipes for new cookbook
Sara Watson, chef and co-owner of Blackboard restaurant in rural Vergas, collaborated on the recipe book, called "Cabin Chef," with writer Amanda Henke, creative director Dirk Ockhardt, and photographer Scott Thuen.
DETROIT LAKES — When Sara Watson showed up for a recent author signing event in Detroit Lakes for her new cookbook, "Cabin Chef," the co-owner of Blackboard restaurant in rural Vergas was quick to point out that while the recipes were hers, the writing and photography were not.
"It was a collaboration," she said as she sat down to begin autographing copies of the book at Mainstream Boutique that morning, Saturday, May 28. "I feel bad that it's only my name on the cover."
Inside, however, it's a different story. The copyright page lists Amanda Henke as the "wordsmith," with Dirk Ockhardt's name appearing just beneath hers, as creative director.
"Dirk came to my restaurant one day," Watson said, recalling how she became involved with the project. "Cabin Chef was something he'd had in the works for a while. I really only take credit for the recipes."
It's Watson's own words, however, that can be found on the dedication page, and in an "About Sara" section that precedes the recipes. She gives credit to her husband, Eric — "the better-known Watson Chef," as she puts it — along with their four children, Miles, Olivia, Keena and Sophie, and her friend and partner at Blackboard, Terry Trickle, for their support.
"I did not plan to be a chef," she said. "In fact, I did not plan on going into the restaurant business. Far from it! It took me a while to figure out what I should grow up to be."
She also discussed all the experiences that led her to open Blackboard (in the building that once housed The Pickle Factory), stating that she was glad she did.
"Here among the rolling hills and open green space dotted with lakes, I feel like I have room to breathe and stretch my culinary wings," she said.
Ockhardt wrote the book's "Guten Tag" welcome page himself, noting that after moving to the lakes area from Germany 10 years ago, he discovered a passion for cooking: "Finding local ingredients, time spent preparing, experimenting with recipes, gathering with friends and family, all the wonderful times we spend in the kitchen and at the dinner table have become very fun and memorable times to me," he wrote.
He also mentioned how he had met Watson when she worked with him on a podcast recording that highlighted her new restaurant.
"She was so lively and accessible that I flat-out asked her after the interview was finished, 'Would you like to work on a cookbook with me?' 'Yes' was her immediate answer, and here we are today," Ockhardt wrote.
Ockhardt and Scott Thuen are both credited for photography on the project; Watson prepared the food that appears in those pictures.
Copies of "Cabin Chef" are available at
as well as several Fargo locations:
in downtown Fargo,
in Fargo's West Acres Mall, the
Plains Art Museum
in West Fargo. Watson said she hopes to find some more local bookselling outlets in the future, as well.