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.

Chef Sara Watson of Vergas's Blackboard restaurant visited Mainstream Boutique in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, May 28, 2022, to sign copies of her new cookbook, "Cabin  Chef." Watson created all the recipes that are featured in the cookbook.
Chef Sara Watson of Vergas's Blackboard restaurant visited Mainstream Boutique in Detroit Lakes on Saturday, May 28, 2022, to sign copies of her new cookbook, "Cabin Chef." Watson created all the recipes that are featured in the cookbook.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune
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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."

Cabin Chef cover.JPG
Copies of "Cabin Chef" are available at Sara Watson's restaurant, Blackboard, as well as at Creative Kitchen, Zandbroz Variety, Plains Art Museum and Ferguson Books, all in the Fargo-West Fargo area.
Vicki Gerdes / Detroit Lakes Tribune

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 Blackboard as well as several Fargo locations: Zandbroz Variety in downtown Fargo, Creative Kitchen in Fargo's West Acres Mall, the Plains Art Museum and Ferguson Books in West Fargo. Watson said she hopes to find some more local bookselling outlets in the future, as well.

A reporter at Detroit Lakes Newspapers since relocating to the community in October 2000, Vicki was promoted to Community News Lead for the Detroit Lakes Tribune and Perham Focus on Jan. 1, 2022. She has covered pretty much every "beat" that a reporter can be assigned, from county board and city council to entertainment, crime and even sports. Born and raised in Madelia, Minnesota, she is a graduate of Hamline University, from which she earned a bachelor's degree in English literature (writing concentration). You can reach her at
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