Champagne & Fries
Sarah Elder Chabot blends the unexpected in pursuit of life’s passions.
By Jessica Hein
Crisp and effervescent, Champagne bubbles float like miniature hot-air balloons from the bottom of the crystal flute to the top, dancing across the taster’s tongue in a ballroom waltz. They juxtapose the hot and salty French fries that follow—silken middles wrapped protectively in a crunchy cover, leaving just a trace of savory oil on your fingers to be licked clean and a shadow of grease in the bottom of the paper boat after devouring the delectable delights.
Though these delicacies come from different worlds, one alluding to high society and the other rooted in down-home comfort, both share equal rank on equestrienne Sarah Elder Chabot’s list of favorite things. It’s the simple things done exceptionally well that bring Sarah comfort, joy and a sense of sophistication, and there’s room for all in her life.
Sarah’s made something of a habit of blending the unexpected. Director of marketing for a luxury hotelier, she conducts the symphony that is Blackberry Farm and its unique blend of high-end accommodations, gourmet dining and heirloom values rooted on a family farm tucked away in the heart of Tennessee’s Great Smoky Mountains. Wholesome values, an appreciation for hard work and the harvest it yields, and an eye for quality transcend her personal, professional and family life in ways that feed her sense of curiosity and adventurer’s soul.
Ties That Bind
An independent spirit, Sarah doesn’t filter herself too much, speaking her mind and sharing everything from the mundane to the exotic on her social media feeds with far-flung friends and acquaintances from around the world.
“I think what you see on my Instagram account or my Facebook page is authentically me: horses, bikes, my husband, my dogs, my work. I am a pretty open book,” she laughed.
The 35-year-old grew up in Maryville, Tennessee, where she still lives today—Sarah and her husband, Andy, bought an aged, well-worn farmhouse on 40 acres next door to her parent’s property, with plans to restore the antiquated abode to its former glory. From their homestead, Sarah has prime views of the farm where she grew up and where her horses still graze contentedly in lush pastures bordered with split-rail fencing. This equestrian expanse was the backdrop against which her life took shape.
“My parents both showed horses. My dad mostly did cattle classes and is a calf roper, my mom did the hunter classes, and I grew up doing a little bit of both,” Sarah said. “My grandparents also had draft horses, so I’ve always had a love for carriage driving. Horses were definitely a deep-rooted part of our family. We didn’t go to Disney World; we went to horse shows.”
Moving to their 40-acre farm in 1998, the family breathed new life into an old Thoroughbred race-training facility, which gave way to Elder’s Last Lap Ranch, a boarding and training operation run by Sarah’s parents. While her mother, Sandra, taught riding lessons, Sarah and brother John helped their father, Roger, hold down the fort at the family farm—feeding horses, mucking stalls and greasing the cogs that keep farm life running smoothly. The hard work instilled in the young horsewoman a sense of pride that comes from a physical workout at the end of the pitchfork and gratification for playing some small part in the contented munching and familiar nickers coming from horses tucked into deeply bedded stalls.
Though her role today is more understated, Sarah still makes daily visits to the farm, zipping across the adjoining fields most mornings and evenings in her golf cart with her Jack Russells Riley and Sissy riding shotgun. There, you’ll find Sarah brainstorming with her father, Roger, about their broodmares and next year’s magic crosses, talking through a horse-training goal with her mom, and grooming her beloved horse “Calvin”—a double-registered Paint known as A Well Dressed Man—until his chocolate coat gleams in the last rays of the late-afternoon sunshine. Time at the barn brings Sarah a sense of peace that’s even more meaningful when it’s also fortified with family time.
With an innate love of storytelling, Sarah first toyed with the idea of sitting behind a newsroom anchor desk; as she explored the potential career path, however, it pushed her away from—rather than toward—a job in television broadcast.
“I job shadowed during my senior year of high school, and I immediately knew I didn’t want to do that,” Sarah said. “To really be successful in that world, I would have had to skip all over various markets, and that wasn’t conducive to horse showing.”
Instead, she set her aspirations on the broader communications field that would satisfy her love of storytelling in a more flexible format while allowing her to stay closer to home.
“I’ve always enjoyed the story behind something—I was just always really curious,” Sarah said. “Marketing is a fun way to share my great passion for that. It’s easy for me to write about things I love.”
This is an excerpt from the full article—get the whole story in the Fall 2017 Chrome magazine, which is sent to all current APHA members. Not a member? Join or renew at apha.com/join.
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