Sunday, April 29, 2012

Stephanie Alexander opens up about life as a superchef

Stephanie Alexander
MEMOIR: Chef Stephanie Alexander is turning the attention on herself with A Cook's Life. Source: Herald Sun

SAY the name Stephanie Alexander and someone will invariably mention The Cook's Companion, a work considered by many to be the Australian kitchen bible.
But after five decades exploring and working in food, there's a great deal more to her resume than cookbook writing - however iconic the results.
A recently published memoir, Stephanie Alexander: A Cook's Life, fills in the blanks.
From early experiences as a restaurateur - opening her first venue with a three-week-old baby on her hip - through to her efforts as a food campaigner at the Kitchen Garden Foundation, Alexander's career has spanned a period of huge change on the Australian food scene.
Here she chats to Fiona Donnelly about a life spent celebrating food.
Why write a memoir?
It felt like the next thing to do. It's interesting to explore your life - the challenge is to do it in a way that's not seen as self indulgent. I have seen a tremendous amount of change in Australia. Many modern practitioners weren't even born when I was starting in hospitality and it's good for them to know what went before. The memoir is also about recording food history and changing attitudes.
How does it feel to have it out in public?
A bit scary. I have certainly not used the book as a way of scoring points or hurting anyone but there are painful periods in everyone's life and it's important to write about them. I haven't had a lot of reaction to the parts which are painful, so perhaps it's just my sensitivities.
It's been a varied and impressive career - what do you consider your greatest achievement?
My children. Career-wise? It has to be The Cook's Companion - I loved the years at Stephanie's but the impact of one restaurant can only go so far - over 21 years - that's how many people? I can't do the maths! The Cook's Companion has had an impact on so many lives. I'm very proud. It's absolutely true that not a day goes by without someone telling me that it's their Bible. If you've written a cookbook and you're told daily how useful it is - then that's really what it's all about. It's about teaching people to have the confidence to be relaxed in the kitchen.
Which aspects of your career have you enjoyed the most?
They've all been amazing experiences but one of the things that I'm gradually realising is that it's the collaborative effort that has given me the most happiness - whether it's the Kitchen Garden Foundation, or something like going to Tuscany with Maggie Beer. I love working on a project and I love the sense of collaboration.
Full interview at Courier Mail.

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