Creating gorgeous grazing platters and wedding cheese cakes, Sarah McGree highlights the best of Irish produce with her business, The Wild Grazer.
A Kilkenny-based business at its core, The Wild Grazer began during the Covid lockdown, and is now an award-winning specialist business offering its services nationwide.
Sarah McGree is a food stylist and event catering specialist, who has catered for impressive clients like Hilary Clinton and Warren Buffet. Her grazing boards and wedding cheese cakes are thoughtfully and intricately created, producing an end result that’s almost too pretty to eat! We had a chat with Sarah about her journey with The Wild Grazer.
Have you always had a great love of food?
I’ve always enjoyed food but my real passion for it developed when I moved to America after college and started working with a premier caterer in Chicago. I got to taste and experience foods that I didn’t even know existed. This sparked a love for exploring new foods that continues to grow to this day.
Can you tell me about your own background in the food industry?
I moved to Chicago right after I graduated from college at 23. I started working for a premier catering company called Jewell Events Catering. This was my first exposure to fine dining and it’s also where I discovered my food styling abilities.
After Chicago, I moved to Toronto and worked as a Senior Weddings & Events Consultant in a Boutique Art Hotel. While working there I helped develop new food experiences, unique catering menus and I was the in house food stylist for all of our big events.
What inspired you to set up your business? Did you notice a gap in the market?
I was still working in Toronto when COVID hit – the hotel that I worked for shut its doors and didn’t reopen until 2022.
After 6 years of living in North America, I moved home in August 2020. I was under the impression that we were almost done with COVID as Ireland was out of lockdown at that point.
Shortly after I moved home, Ireland was faced with its second lockdown. I was back in my childhood bedroom at my parents house after 10 years of living out of home. I decided that I needed to do something to give purpose to my days and to keep my sanity.
I knew that there was a gap in the market in Kilkenny for a luxury cheese & charcuterie grazing business and I was confident in the demand. It was something that one of my best friends and I had talked about a few times before, always toying with the idea of setting one up. I was speaking to her the day that we went into lockdown, I was worried what I was going to do with myself. She gave me the push that I needed to take the plunge and start The Wild Grazer.
How did you set up the business and how has it been growing over time?
After the conversation with my friend I just decided there and then I was going for it – I launched a week later.
I barely slept for that week and a lot of weeks after! Within the first week I created all my branding and brand story, I reached out to every cheesemaker in the country, I sourced sustainable packaging, organised printing, sourced a kitchen to use from a business that was closed due to COVID, registered the business, created a social presence, reached out to local influencers and built a website. And the name “The Wild Grazer” was like an epiphany. After spending days thinking of and almost immediately disregarding names I literally woke up in the middle of the night, sat up in bed and was like THE WILD GRAZER, THAT’S IT!
It was a complete whirlwind and I got utterly consumed by it which was exactly why I was doing it!
The business absolutely took off over that lockdown, it was something new and unique for people in Kilkenny. My little boxes of joy brought smiles to so many faces during lockdown. As restrictions began to ease I had to change and adapt to the changing needs and demands of consumers. I started offering catering for weddings, corporate & social events, I launched the Wedding Cakes and started doing work with brands like Hayu, Bravo Tv & Tesco. Thankfully the business has continued to grow ever since.
Where do you source the ingredients used to make your product(s)?
Can you tell me about some of the benefits associated with your product(s)?
I source all that I can locally and have a number of local partners including Arán Bakery and The Wine Centre along with all my local suppliers, so not only are you supporting my local business but customers are supporting multiple local businesses.
I also promote a zero waste philosophy & use sustainable packaging. Events are traditionally big offenders when it comes to food waste, combatting this, my cheese cakes give couples the option to serve any remaining cheese as part of a grazing table or individual grazing cups for day two of the wedding, saving catering costs and significantly reducing wastage.
How important has social media been for you in spreading the word?
It’s been everything, it’s pretty much all that I have used to date to promote my business. It definitely was a mindfield to learn how to use social media for a business as opposed to just scrolling through funny videos but once I wrapped my head around it, it’s been an absolute godsend!
What makes your product unique?
I like to think of my work as little pieces of edible art that I gift to my customers. I’ve heard so many times that people don’t even want to touch the platters because they are so beautifully curated. I truly think my ability to present incredible local produce in a way that makes people gasp when they first see it is what makes The Wild Grazer unique.
Where can people get your product?
They can order directly on my website, thewildgrazer.ie
What, do you think, are some of the most interesting dishes you’ve created? Do you have any favourites?
The most interesting display that I have done was for an event with Hayu and Bravo Tv at the premiere of Below Deck. I created a lavish display where all the boards were custom made in the shape of anchors.
Are there any other small Irish food producers you admire?
Loads! I admire all of the producers that supply me. Nearly all of the local producers that I work with have beautiful stories of generational farming that stemmed into fruitful family businesses. In particular, Cooleeney and Gubbeen have heart warming stories and also produce show stopping cheeses and meats.
What are the biggest challenges you’ve faced since going into business?
Funny enough coming out of lockdown was probably my biggest challenge, I had to change and adapt to the changing needs of my customers. I created a catering menu, launched the wedding cakes side of the business and started doing “build a board” workshops for corporate events and hen parties. I also invested in my own bespoke kitchen.
What do you feel is your biggest achievement to date with this business?
I’ve had a few pinch me moments over the last 2 years but winning Cake Designer of The Year at the Weddings Online awards gala last week is definitely my biggest achievement to date.
Could you ever have imagined doing anything else with your life?
I always knew that I was going to end up working for myself but I didn’t know how exactly. Now that I’m doing this I can’t imagine doing anything else!
What does the future hold for your business?
I’m just getting started! I’m so excited for more people to learn about what I’m offering and to be able to bring my edible creations to many more happy couples, companies and families. I love getting to meet my customers and spend time with them so I definitely want to do more workshops. They’re just the perfect group activity for hen parties, corporate team building or anyone looking for a fun activity that you can eat and drink while doing!