Click to View Latest IssueClick to View Latest Issue

Sarah Juenemann and Grazing KC: Art that Brings People Together

By  0 Comments

It’s a feast fit for the eyes and the stomach. Graze boards, rooted in their French ancestor charcuterie–usually prepared pork products–can be described as a visual delight to behold with their bright colors, yet a treat for the taste buds with their delicious meats and many times cheeses artfully arranged to function as food and decor.

Graze board creator Sarah Juenemann, a former English teacher turned food entrepreneur, has melded her skillset in carefully crafting words into fashioning mounds of enticing savory spreads or sweet treats for the KC-metro with her company, Grazing KC.

“I thought I would take a year off from teaching to stay at home with my daughter. Chloe. Many of my friends were having showers, and I started creating graze boards for them with no end game in mind,” shared the Westwood, Kansas, mother. “But the power of social media to share my creations was incredible to get me started. After seeing photos of my boards, multiple people messaged me asking me to create graze boards for their events. I had an aha moment, and that’s when I created my Instagram account and built a business.”

This transplant from Northern California decided she wanted the college town atmosphere of the University of Kansas, and she found herself hundreds of miles away in Lawrence, Kansas. She met her husband, Jordan, during that time and became a member of the Rock Chalk Dancers for all four years of college. She later parlayed her dancing skillset to become a member of the Kansas City Chiefs cheerleaders from 2013 to 2016. She graduated with a degree in secondary education with emphasis in English and spent the next six years teaching, with her last school being Shawnee Mission North. Her background and experience certainly wouldn’t suggest a career of gastro-success built on artistic composition, but little did she know she was composing a new recipe for her life.

“That’s my biggest compliment. I never considered myself artistic, but it has been so rewarding to have this gift and share it with others,” she stated. “Uncovering this talent that I can design and create this type of art is fulfilling.”

Grazing Board Ingredients
According to Sarah, graze boards vary from charcuteries in that she incorporates more than meats into her offerings. She invitingly arranges veggies, nuts, fruits, meats, cheeses, crackers and more in artful ways that simply have you craving the delectable goodies, yet hesitating to upset the balance by removing a brushstroke of the masterpiece.

“There truly is an art behind my creations. I wanted something that would come off as aesthetic and perfectly plated to create a wow factor. My concept is that the boards draw you together and you create connections. I love connecting people and there’s no better way than food. We all can agree that food is wonderful. It brings conversation when we’re all drawn to the same board.”

Sarah refers to her graze boards as a snack that doubles as a centerpiece. The presentation focuses not only on the colorful offerings, but the arrangement of foods that complement one another either through taste, form or function.

“The beautiful thing about the board is the 20 or more ingredients on it. What other meal offers that?” Sarah asked. “There’s something for everyone—all of your guests—and it’s something special for you to offer them. They’re created in advance, and you’ll truly be the host with the most because it gives you the opportunity to enjoy your company. You’re not cooking while they are there; you’re making memories.”

Designing with Food  
It’s not as easy as placing foods on a tray or serving platter or, in some cases, even a table. Sarah designs each board with key aesthetics in mind such as color, texture, height and more as she crafts impactful pieces that no guest will forget. “I love different textures and volumes for the aesthetic value of the board; even a sprinkling of pomegranate seeds can add interest. And there is a science behind making sure the raspberries aren’t touching the crackers to make them soggy, so placement is very important,” she revealed. “I love playing up colors and using themes for the board such as autumn hues or serving figs, pomegranates or farm-fresh apples in the fall. In the winter, I love using sugar-coated cranberries. I can incorporate custom chocolates, even using cookie cutters to cut out cheese; any special touch is what I love. It draws people to the board, creates conversation and connects us.”

Sarah notes that all of her boards are customizable and one of a kind. She enjoys working with customers to determine their vision or theme for their event. She recalls one customer asked for an all-blue board keeping in the theme of the company’s color. It was a request that she stepped up to the plate and fashioned, much to the delight of her customer.

While much of her work is with individuals looking for trays for home gatherings, many Kansas City event planners call upon her services. “I’ve worked with wedding planners and event planning companies, which is taking me down an avenue that I didn’t anticipate. It’s been an exciting journey. For a Luxury Picnicking event, I created a tablescape of food for the outdoors. Cocktail hours at weddings are normally the largest group with up to 400 people in attendance,” she shared. “But whether it’s tables for hundreds or graze boards for two, they are customized to my customer’s request. It’s fun to see what my customers are doing with my boards such as using them during a wedding proposal. It’s very meaningful to me because I get to be a part of someone’s memory-making or special day, which could be the most important day of their lives.”

Sharing Tips of the Trade
While not everyone can hire Grazing KC for their gathering, Sarah is generous in offering some tips of the trade for readers constructing their graze boards. “There are no right or wrong things to do. Think of it as an opportunity to clean out your pantry and create a beautiful board. Add anything you personally love, and if that’s local honey, add it to the board. If you grow rosemary, use as a garnish. Make it your own, one of a kind,” she advised. “Don’t be afraid to add multiple layers. With soft cheeses, add honey or jam on top, and layer it even more with fruits, nuts, and garnish. There are no strict rules when creating these pieces of art.”

For those looking for a few more pointers and even a hands-on approach to learning, think about signing up for one of Sarah’s workshops. “Last year during the holidays, I was booked full. I thought about sharing skills as a teacher so why not a workshop on graze boards. I used my passion for teaching and my love of graze boards to create these classes because sharing is really important for me,” she commented. “Attendees create an individual, personal-size board and wrap it up to take home or they can eat it at a winery. However, when COVID-19 hit, these larger-scale events came to a halt. Now, I offer small, in-home workshops.”

Good Advice
While business is booming for Grazing KC, Sarah offers these pointers for others contemplating creating their own business. “The world needs each unique person and their skills and passions. If you have a passion, share it. You never know where it will lead you. You don’t have to have it planned out but start with small steps. Also, I had to be open to learning, although it was a delightful way to learn my craft,” Sarah remarked. “And embrace your local community. I wouldn’t be successful without Kansas City and the support that I’ve received. People are cheering me on, whether that’s other small businesses or customers.”

Whether she’s dishing up graze boards to feed two or two hundred, Sarah is fully committed to creating the wow factor for her delicious and gorgeous presentations. While others are concentrating on the artwork in front of them, she revels in the delight of bringing people together, as she calls it, “connectiveness.”

“We all have something to share, a skill or passion, and it doesn’t mean you have to become an entrepreneur; you can volunteer. If you have a calling in heart, you should take the first step,” Sarah shared. “Regardless of the size of your event, it’s creating memories around the table with food; it’s connectiveness. We’re gathering with others to graze by sharing a meal that’s not only delicious but hand-crafted and eye-catching.”