I saw Maggie at the Noma Australia dinner from across the room and squealed myself into a frenzy before rapidly shuffling over to inform the culinary queen that I had lived on a steady diet of her quince paste and Tasmania double brie for the majority of my 20s in Australia (before sheepishly requesting the below interview). Maggie Beer's range of gourmet foods grace the tables of dinner parties and special occasions across the nation, and it was always a sign of affection when guests took the time and spent the money to source and bring any variety of Maggie Beer item. Her delicious food products and hugely successful restaurant mark her influence in Australia's food world, and whether by releasing highly acclaimed cookbooks or appearing as a guest judge on Masterchef, Maggie Beer is cooking royalty in the eyes of Australians, as well as those further afield.
It was our honour to chat with her about how a woman navigates what is still largely a male dominated world, her no-no's in the kitchen and what assists a chef in making their mark in any F&B scene.
"My food philosophy will always remain; to cook from the heart, making the most of each and every ingredient I have to hand. Taste and quality are paramount in the creation of my range. My aim is to make the very best products available to everyone, regardless of cooking skills or the time restrictions of a busy lifestyle. I hope I can share my love of a good food life with you all."
The future of food; what does it look like?
Homegrown and local I’m hoping! Getting to know the rhythm of the seasons, how to delight in fruit and vegetables picked at their best, truly ripened, is one of the best tips I could share. Good produce needs so little doing to it, and this covers the necessity for food to be fast too, but without ever compromising flavour.
You've accomplished so much in a profession where women haven't achieved as prolifically as men. Is that something you're cognisant of?
I’ve never really thought of cooking and farming as a particularly gender specific industry, at least not here in the Barossa, where the overarching rule is that everyone ‘mucks in’ where needed. Perhaps, it’s more about what we all consider achievement to be.
For me, when I see an orchard of fruit ripening and I’m able to rely on my sense of taste in order to determine the best time to pick, I feel that is a real achievement! It’s all relative isn’t it? And the wonderful thing about being guided by nature here in the Barossa, is that so much of what might be considered personal achievement elsewhere, is simply stripped back to being ‘a good year’ and we congratulate the growing season rather than attribute it solely as an individual achievement.
Tell us something you wish you'd been told when you were younger?
One of the key lessons I’ve learnt over the years is to feel your way into cooking. Recipes are only ever a guide; cooking from the heart is the most inspiring way to create your favourite dishes.
You can only cook with three ingredients for the rest of your life–what are they?
Verjuice, extra virgin olive oil and fresh vegetables (I took the liberty of making one of the three a complete category!)
Verjuice by Maggie Beer
What's one habit we could all work on?
I know I could do with a little more balance, so I’d imagine others feel the same too! There’s a lot that needs to be covered on a daily basis for all of us, and especially for those that are driven by their own passion, it can be difficult to pull back before the exhaustion line!
Any "no-no's" in the kitchen?
Yes! The most important one are smells that intrude on tasting!
No perfume; no smell of cigarette smoke on people, which means no smoking at all. Also no music; unless it's mine which would be opera or jazz.
How important is reputation?
In a world where our social media profile precedes us, I can understand that reputation is very important because it is a natural extension of what sits as the substance of who we are. That is the especially important part for me though, there must be authenticity that sits behind any reputation.
How does a cook make their mark in the modern culinary world?
Believe in your natural intuition when it comes to creating food; cooking from instinct with what excites you, with what you have growing around you, or on hand, will put your creative stamp on what you are making each and every time.
Maggie Beer's burnt fig, honeycomb and caramel ice cream sticks