Influences and interesting people

I’m back from the Christmas break.

Time flies really. Its been over a month since my last update on perfect Chicken Parma’s. Would love to hear if you tried it, and what your own favourite variations are.

So while my brain gets back into blogging gear (because I can assure you, the cooking never stops) I wanted to make mention of a few of the influences on my cooking life.

Real people.

Mum is the go to source for anything cooking. From how a prepare broad beans (yep, that was only a new experience. Mainly due to the broad bean incident. More on that later), to how to best baste a chicken, what flavours best match which food. I’m lucky enough that mum has prepared me a handwritten cook book of some of her family recipes (some from Italy and Austria), the meals she cooked for us when we were kids, and some that her friends from Mother’s Group shared (so many years ago). She waxes lyrical about her mums cooking, which I don’t remember well enough before she got too sick.

Having started cooking at a fairly young age, most of what I learnt came from mum.

The wife – Mrs Johnson.
There is no-one better to cook for than my wife. It seems every meal I cook is possibly “the best meal ever”. She savours every mouthful as if its her last dinner, brags about me to her friends, and doesn’t share the left overs. Like I said, there is no-one better to cook for than my wife.

Mrs Johnson

Mrs Johnson

Andrew Carson.
Carstupants will be wrapped to have got a mention in the blog, less thrilled that I used his wife’s pet nickname for him. Carson (as he’s known) worked as a chef throughout Melbourne, lastly under Rosa Mitchell @ Journal before undertaking (yet another) career change to be a web designer. Carson has regularly given up his time to provide impromptu cooking classing for me. On how to make ravioli, carbonarra sauce, duck a l’orange and so many more. He’s a brilliant source (he he, pardon the pun) to have, eager to share his knowledge and open to challenge my creativity with food. His main fault though, he is far too polite when I’m managing to stuff something up!

Mr Gary Price.
On a blog I’ve featured on here before, I spent almost 10 weeks doing a cooking class with Gary Price at Mr Price’s food store. With 3 other guys Gary showed us how to do the simple things like peeling tomato’s through to baking Christmas puddings with suet. At the end of the 10 weeks Gary gave the kitchen to us, letting us provide a “feast” to him and a group of his friends. Gary continues to help me with ideas and like Andrew has such a wealth of knowledge on all things food. Check out my post on Gary here, or ring him on 9326 8062 to ask about his cooking classes.

Celebrity chefs.
I spend so much of my time watching cooking shows on TV, reading articles on chefs, collecting cook books. Like you, I have a few of my favourites.

Giorgio Locatelli
Giorgio’s book “Made in Italy – Food & Stories” is my bible. Such a brilliant mix between the story of Giorgio, the produce he uses, and the way he cooks it. It is the first cook book I actually read as if it was a novel (and she’s a fairly hefty one too!). Whenever I’m making up a risotto and forget my quantities, its Giorgio’s book that I grab to confirm.

I love his passion for produce from his family’s region, and the amount of emphasis he makes on getting all the little things perfect. Not right, perfect. I remember one story in the book about how he makes his basil pesto. Its not enough to use the finest basil he can find (actually shipping them in from Pra in Genova), but he only uses the smallest leaves to make the pesto. Its takes the whole team all morning to make two large jarfuls. That’s dedication to the quality of produce.

It’s a pity that in Australia we all don’t have a the same understanding about what great produce can be produced locally. So often it is easier to just grab it from the supermarket which may have been made in the next town, the next state, or not even in the same country. For some crazy reason some of our bread is half baked in Ireland and shipped over to us. How does that make sense?

There is a slow growth in the amount of people pushing to get a better understanding of where their food comes from, particularly meats and deli goods. More people are looking for paddock to plate suppliers. Hopefully this trend continues.

Giorgio Locatelli

Giorgio Locatelli

Rick Stien
Watching Rick’s shows is like a little journal into his heart. He carries so much passion for his food and laments the demise of being able to get great simple food to such an extent that some days I wonder if he’s about to cry. He takes individual ingredients and cherishes them, refuses to over complicate a meal but instead lets it speak for itself.

If you get a chance, check out any of his cooking shows (I think they’re on BBC, SBS or Lifestyle Food)

Rick Stein

Rick Stein

Everyone else

I have so many friends of mine that are willing to chat for ages with me on the best way to make a chicken meatball, where the best happening restaurant in town is, how to cook their salmon steaks. Some I’ve known since high school, many I’ve met since then in my many foodie pursuits. Chance happened that a recommendation for a travel agent (Thailand, here we come) gave me details through to a small food and wine travel company in NSW called “Amongst the Vines“. Through the countless emails back and forth I discovered his love for food, and he discovered my food blog. It was only minutes before he suggested a plug on the site for his next gourmet food and wine tour through the High Country.


All foodies love other foodies and all foodies share. We share our recipes on blogs and recipes sites, we review restaurants and urbanspoon them. When we get asked to plug a tour, we very carefully read through the itinerary, and wonder how many people we would have to sign up for him before I get a free trip myself?

To me, it all sounds pretty good. Read for yourself from his site, but foraging for mushroom, sampling craft beers, learning how to make bread, how to break down a carcass (and where all those cuts of meat come from), goats… And remember, if you are interested, mention to Ben that you heard it from me and he’ll swing you a discount.

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