Sarah Crawford is only 30 and already wears many hats: business founder and owner, content creator, team leader, food stylist and photographer, educator, wife, dog mom. We caught up with Crawford — on her second wedding anniversary, no less — to chat about her inspiration, motivation, and plans for world domination (the baking world, that is).
In 2010, Sarah Crawford was a homesick student at New York University who missed her mother’s recipes and home-cooked treats. Specifically, she longed for her mom’s chocolate chip cookies, aka the sweet taste of Crawford’s childhood.
The anthropology major realized she also missed her first true love: photography. So she did what any self-possessed millennial would do: She started a blog.
“I wanted something that was comforting,” Crawford says, “and I wanted a creative outlet to really continue to explore that love of photography.”
A family affair
Crawford developed her passion for baking from her mom, Katherine Canfield. When asked who taught her mom to bake, Sarah lets us in on a secret: “My mom was actually taught by her dad.”
After Canfield’s parents divorced, her father moved out of state. The one thing she would do together with her dad every time he came to visit was bake cookies. “She grew up just really equating baking with love and warmth in this household and being able to spend time with her dad,” Crawford says.
Crawford adds that, growing up, baking was always a family affair. It was something she always did with her mom, or with her younger sister, and that togetherness made the experiences so much more meaningful.
Like Sarah, her sister, Rebecca, is also in the food content business, although her interest lies more in cooking than baking. She manages social media and recipe development for Ambitious Kitchen, a healthy food and lifestyle blog founded by one of Sarah’s friends, Monique Volz.
A taste for nostalgia
The recipes on Broma Bakery did not, in fact, get passed down from generation to generation. Rather, they come from everyday, accessible pantry ingredients. “We grew up with the chocolate cake on the back of the Hershey’s cocoa box,” Crawford says.
Other treasured recipes, such as the carrot cake made by her aunt’s college roommate, have been sourced from family friends and represent the best of the best preparations of rather simple foods.
And then there are the aforementioned Katherine Canfield Cookies, which are, as Crawford describes them, “the best chocolate chip cookies you’ll ever eat.”
“My mom influenced my style and preference for baking,” Crawford says. “It’s a style that’s definitely a step up from box mixes, but the flavor profiles are pretty nostalgic and pretty simple.”
A picture is worth a thousand words
When asked if she could only wear one professional hat for the rest of her life, Crawford doesn’t hesitate: “I would, without a doubt, be a photographer,” she says. “I am such a visual person, and photography is such a unique artistic medium because it really combines putting real subjects in front of you and making artistic choices.”
Crawford’s love for photography began during high school in suburban Boston, where she practiced the art form all four years. When it came time to choose a college major, she didn’t think she could make a career out of photography, so she pushed it aside, instead opting for biological anthropology. (We all make questionable decisions in college.)
After graduating from University of Michigan (she transferred to Ann Arbor after spending two unhappy years at NYU), Crawford worked in catering while continuing to channel her creative energy into Broma Bakery. As her audience grew, so did her desire to work for herself. She quit her job and decided to commit 100% to making Broma Bakery a full-time business. From there, her blog imagery captured the hearts and minds of her followers.
“It got to the point where I was taking photos that were clearly good enough, and I would have people emailing me or commenting on my blog, asking, ‘What props do you use?’ ‘What’s your set-up?’ ‘How do you edit?’ So many questions about how I photograph,” Crawford says.
She came across people online hosting in-person photography workshops, so she thought she’d try it for herself. Her first-ever workshop session in 2016 sold out in four days. One of the attendees told her, “You should consider putting this course online.”
A few months later, Foodtography School was born. Crawford started with a beta course and kept tweaking it along the way until it developed into the program she and her team of 10 offer today. It’s a program she believes is unmatched by the competition.
“We really focus on the technical side — composition, editing, light, color — plus the business and marketing side, which is something a lot of other online courses miss out on,” Crawford says. “You need both to turn food blogging into your business.”
Find beauty in the imperfections
Crawford has advice for start-up food bloggers. “Your first few creations are going to be ugly. I think you should really lean into those imperfections.”
One of her objectives for Broma Bakery’s food photography is to post images that aren’t absolutely perfect but instead show a rustic, even messy, finished product.
“Food is imperfect, and I think there is something really beautiful about that,” Crawford says.
Food is imperfect, and I think there is something really beautiful about that.
Founder, Broma Bakery
Much like photography, food styling is an art and takes time to master. Even after decades of experience, Crawford’s goal remains the same: to make food taste delicious first and photo-perfect second. That said, she still does everything she can to try and achieve the latter. And sometimes, she does so at her own peril.
“One time, I made a key lime pie with the meringue on top, and I didn’t have a blow torch [because] we ran out of butane,” she recalls. “I decided for 20 minutes to use a lighter and move the lighter slowly up and down the meringue. I had to take breaks because the lighter got so hot on my thumb.”
So, how did it turn out? “The inside was totally raw, but the outside at least looked like it was done,” Crawford jokes.
Expanding her empire
No doubt, Crawford is a very busy woman, juggling two full-time businesses, and now about to launch a third.
A self-described extrovert, she derives energy from being around people and interacting with them. This desire for connection beyond the virtual world was the genesis for her latest business venture, a boutique photo studio and creative event space in the heart of South Boston. Studio B is complete with a full-service kitchen and 12-foot high windows that allow natural light to pour in.
Crawford gushes, “It’s going to be epic.”