Sally Roeckell Portrait Project Story - Food & Beverage Magazine

Sally Roeckell Portrait Project Story

Sally Roeckell

Getting to know Sally Roeckell feels a pure, unparalleled gift. Sally’s passion and commitment to beauty are reflected in all she does, and like Sally, it is all quite irresistible. To say she is gifted is missing the mark. She has incredible love, range, and dedication. It is the type that lifts, never humbles – her way is asking you to join in her joy. Laughter and love bubble quickly to the surface!

Sally wears many stunning hats in the food and lifestyle space – photographer, stylist, writer and recipe developer. To visit @TableandDish is to be transported into a magical world, I fell in love at first sight!

Recently, I had the great fortune of learning more about Sally and her days as an artist, parent, partner, and much more. She was stunningly honest and funny as well. What an absolute treat! I am so happy that you will get to know the remarkable Sally Roeckell – read on…

WHAT IS ONE PIECE OF ADVICE YOU WISH YOU COULD OFFER YOUR FORMER, EXPECTANT SELF?

I would say don’t put so much pressure on yourself to be everything to everyone. I pushed myself to the brink trying to handle everything. It’s ok to be delicate without guilt. As much as I loved being everything to my kids I would have been better mentally and physically if I took time for myself in the beginning. I would tell myself, and any young mother, to take that tennis lesson, take time to recharge and keep date night a priority.  

WHILE RAISING (AKA CHASING) A FAMILY OF FOUR AND NOW TAKING IN YOUR NIECE AS SHE FINISHES HIGH SCHOOL, YOU HAVE HAD ALSO BUILT QUITE A NAME FOR YOURSELF THROUGH YOUR INCREDIBLY DYNAMIC AND DIVERSE CAREER. YOU ARE REPUTED TO LEAVE AN INDELIBLE STAR WHEREVER YOU CONTRIBUTE – RANGING FROM THE WORLD OF FORTUNE 500 ORGANIZATIONS INCLUDING CONSULTANCIES AND FOOD PHOTOGRAPHY FOR A WONDERFULLY DIVERSE RANGE OF CLIENTS. NOW A MUCH LOVED STYLIST AND RECIPE DEVELOPER, YOUR WEBSITE, TABLE AND DISH IS DROOL-WORTHY INSPIRATION. DO TELL WHAT HAVE YOU LEARNED ABOUT YOURSELF AS YOU HAVE EVOLVE YOURSELF AND YOUR CRAFTS.

First, thank you for your kind praise. Ive learned that building my business and focusing on my skills does not have to take away from my family. I spent the first years thinking I had to be 24/7 hands on wonder Mom and wife. Some how it was fine for my husband to get his MBA while we had three babies but if I took a weekend workshop I felt guilty. I was the only one placing that guilt on myself. I have a wonderfully supportive husband. Once I realized my talents were worthy of the time required doors started to open and clients opportunities filled my schedule. Most importantly I learned that my kids respected what I do. They love being a part of it. 

SO MANY WOMEN ARE TAKING THEIR TALENTS OUT OF THE CORPORATE WORLD AND CHOOSING AN ENTREPRENEURIAL PATH. WELCOME TO THE GREAT RESIGNATION. YOU HAVE BEEN IN THIS SPACE FOR DECADES – WHAT WOULD YOU SAY IS DIFFERENT NOW? AND WHAT WOULD YOU SHARE ARE KEY LEARNINGS OF THE EARLY DAYS OF HANGING YOUR OWN SHINGLE? I have seen a shift in the industry in a few ways. When I started it seemed difficult to find anyone who would actually be honest and open with the ins and outs of the industry.  It’s seemed people were quite competitive and always kept a few cards tucked beneath the table. Camera equipment was incredibly costly and figuring out what you actually needed to purchase versus what you thought you needed what is sometimes a hard lesson learned. Photoshop was a very expensive and very complicated program. Now cameras are quite affordable. Photoshop can be a $10 a month subscription and there are people coming out of the woodwork offering to teach you the skills necessary to compete in this industry of content creation, advertising, food and product photography and blogging. I’m actually glad I learned it at the time I did because I feel like I was forced to quicklyI was forced to deeply research and learn.    

I’ve never considered myself a traditional blogger. My blog was always a personal project that archived our family recipes and meals. I hope to continue as my children become young adults adding all of their favorite recipes and kitchen stories so they will have a place to visit me in the kitchen long after I’m gone. I just didn’t want that space to be a part of my business covered with advertisements and pop-ups. I’m happy with that confident decision.

 I wish young people today starting in the industry understood the value of their efforts. I think too many believe they have to give it away to make a name for themselves. There were many days when I didn’t feel worthy of being behind the camera or on set styling and I still struggle to think my work is as good as some people might say it is. I believe everything I do is one step in a long education process. Having the confidence to just keep moving forward is an important asset. In this industry, it’s important to be curious always.

Lastly I have found in my industry that business skills will take you a very long way. I know marginal photographers who have made sensational businesses. And I know incredibly talented photographers who have made very little because they have more artist then businesses in them. The women today who are coming from corporate jobs and reinventing themselves as creatives seem to bring an intelligence to their craft that I think will change the face of what we see moving forward. It’s an exciting time. 

YOU WORK LONG HOURS AND OBVIOUSLY POUR YOUR DEDICATION INTO ALL YOU DO. YOUR LOCAL, NATIONAL AND INTERNATIONAL CLIENTS ARE DEMANDING. DESPITE IT ALL, YOU MAKE THE PICTURES LOOK INVITINGLY LUSH. STILL, IT IS NOT JUST THE FOOD AND SETTINGS, CHARLOTTE AND STYLING THAT SPARKLE –  YOU LOOK STUNNING AND BRING A CERTAIN SIGNATURE SMARTS TO THE TABLE ON A REGULAR BASIS. HOW DO YOU PREPARE? HOW DO YOU KEEP YOURSELF RESTED AND WELL? AND OF COURSE, WHO CARES FOR YOU!?!?

Can you hear me laughing? In the beginning, there was little resting or wellness. I had a knowledge of basic photography skills from a young age but as the world shifted from film to digital I had to learn a great deal. Many nights I could be found at my computer learning the necessary skills until wee hours of the morning. I was equally exhausted and invigorated by the challenge. I was fortunate that my husband saw my talent even when I didn’t and he helped greatly with the children. As a freelancer, my dad changes with each project. Sometimes I’m flying across the country to work on location. I’m located north of Chicago and some of my jobs our long days in the city with a long commute. This is always tough when you’re a parent. My kids know that they’re my first priority always and they are my biggest champions and cheerleaders. 

My true self-care started when I decided to travel to learn more about food photography in other cultures with other photographers. At first I traveled as a participant in a workshop but quickly built a community of friends and colleagues who share my passion. We continued to travel together experiencing food cultures and photography whenever possible.

This time away is restorative.  I return with memories and lessons that are priceless. During one trip I missed a special event in my sons kindergarten class and when his teacher asked where I was he answered in a very solemn voice by saying “she’s in a better place”. His teacher was confused and worried enough to inquire further only to find that I was in France. Still laughing. 

While traveling with Accenture around the country I did miss my daughter’s first dance recital. I was broken to have missed it but thinking there would be many I took the job. When I returned home my daughter announced that she would never dance again. It was probably for the best, today she’s a 6’1” basketball player. Dance recitals we’re never going to be a thing for her. 

We all get pulled in multiple directions as a mother. I think my husband and I were pretty good at loving our children in a way that allowed them to respect each other, lift each other up and be there for one another. In the same way they were always there encouraging me to keep moving forward and celebrating my small accomplishments with more fanfare than they deserved. I am a very lucky mom. 

WHAT WERE YOUR BIGGEST COVID LEARNINGS? HOW DID YOU HANDLE THE TRICKY CHALLENGE OF SUPPORTING OLDER CHILDREN AND A RADICALLY NEW BUSINESS LANDSCAPE? HOW DID THIS IMPACT YOUR FRIENDSHIPS? MARRIAGE? DID YOU EVEN HAVE A MOMENT TO REST? AND OF COURSE, WHAT IS DIFFERENT ABOUT YOU NOW, IN THIS BRAVE NEW WORLD?

Covid was tricky. I’m not alone in experiencing that. 

Just prior to Covid I started a small catering company specializing in charcuterie and grazing boards. It combined my love of plating and preparing food for others with my photography skills. It allowed me to show our product at its best on my website www.sageandjamgrazing.com

In a time when photography clients were not looking for content creation because they weren’t sure they were going to be able to keep their company afloat my catering business gave me work. Sadly, because of Covid we had to pivot and postpone some of our goals. Our main product is grazing tables and boards and with the uncertainty of covid people didn’t want to eat off a common surface. So we created individual Grazing boxes that became very popular. We managed to stay pretty busy. I think being flexible is the common theme of the last year. 

Our family dynamic changed in this past year as well. We took in my 88-year-old mother-in-law and my 16-year-old niece. They are now part of our family and our daily cadence is a little different. For the first year of Covid my 25-year-old son moved home and as much as I loved having him here I was glad when his industry open back up and he was able to go back to work.

I found myself pulling back significantly choosing to spend time with family and let work take a backseat. I am lucky to have the freedom to do that. I feel for so many I’ve struggled during this time.  Happily now my schedule is starting to fill again and I am creating new content for my blog and clients. 

THINKING BACK, WAS YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE AS A NEW MOTHER WORKING? CAN YOU GIVE SOME FLAVOR TO THAT TIME IN YOUR LIFE?  IF MOTHER WAS NOT YOUR BIGGEST CHALLENGE, WHAT WAS?

I think I alluded to this earlier in that being a mother was not a challenge for me.  I think I was born to be a mother. It is what I am most blessed by being. My biggest challenge was getting out of my own way. Allowing myself to let go of some responsibilities and guilt and sometimes simply say no. Or other times say, I don’t need anyone else’s approval to take time for myself and my work. Being flexible has allowed me to grow in my industry and care for my family simultaneously.

WHAT PRO-TIPS DO YOU HAVE TO SHARE WITH OTHER NEW OR EXPECTANT MOTHERS? 

Relax, they will live. They will be educated and go to college if they choose to. All the stress you put on yourself worrying will not help them. 

You don’t need to spend a fortune on the latest coolest toy or gadget what a kid really wants is your undivided attention from time to time. And then in equal measure They need the space to be able to do things themselves to acquire the confidence to keep moving forward.

I’m sure products have changed since I needed them but in my day Dr. Brown’s bottles saved me from colic in a way that I will be forever grateful. One of my sons had colic straight for 16 weeks.  I don’t think he stopped to take a breath from his crying in that entire time. When my daughter was born and started down the same path someone suggested I try these bottles and it worked the first time and she never cried again with colic. 

Lastly, trust yourself. Trust your intuition as a mother. Trust your husband. You’ve got this. Enjoy the little moments that seem exhausting. I’d give anything for one more day holding those little pudgy fingers and Enjoying those little squishy hugs. 

WHO WAS YOUR BIGGEST SOURCE OF SUPPORT IN RETURNING TO WORK AS A NEW MOTHER? My husband Was a big help but I also had a network of friends that saw things in myself I couldn’t always see. Friends who built me up when I tried to tear myself down. Those are people you definitely want to surround yourself with.

 I also have a strong faith life. Taking time to center myself in prayer Has been a big part of my support. It has kept my marriage and guided me as a mother and countless ways.  

WHO ARE YOUR MENTORS? WHO DO YOU MENTOR? I had and have many mentors. Some who don’t even know they were mentoring me. When you see someone that has the spark you’re looking for bring them in to your life and learn from them. Don’t assume they have something that you can’t achieve. I almost made that mistake thinking I was not properly and professionally trained in the way I needed to be. When a dear friend who is wildly successful was honest with me by saying that he to had never had professional training. I never would have guessed. He allowed me to jump into a world I thought had a bar to entry. 

FILL IN THE BLANKS:

As a working parent, I never expected _________would be so hard and _____would be so much easier. 

As a parent working in a freelance position sometimes from home and sometimes and location I didn’t realize that prioritizing my time and space as legitimate work would be so hard and that working on location without the distractions of home would be so much easier. I actually love being home and having the flexibility that offers but it is much more difficult to create a work life balance. 

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