Tell us about your post-Masterchef journey. For those that don’t know, what have you been up to since then?
It has been a busy ride since appearing on MasterChef Australia 2015. The first few years post-show I spent a lot of time travelling around Australia for food expos and writing recipes for several different publications. As my catering business grew I realised I really needed to surround myself with a team and wanted to travel less and have more of a base.
As Jessie Does Food (now Good Company Catering) continued to grow, the desire for an eco-conscious cafe did too. The event scene can be so wasteful, and I was proud of how little waste I created. I hired Taylor (my now business partner) and together, along with chef Jodie Zerna, the cafe space My Grandma Ben was formed. We've continued to grow and evolve the cafe and catering and now. We still cater loads of weddings and corporate events, and offer pickling and fermenting workshops too, all with mindful waste minimising practices at the forefront. These days, when I'm not at My Grandma Ben, you’ll (still) find me penning articles and recipes for magazines, doing a lot of recipe development projects, hosting pickling and fermenting workshops at the cafe and around Adelaide, and yes, still catering many, many weddings and events. When I'm not working, I'm running after a very busy 18-month-old bubba, Frankie!
Tell us your thoughts on sustainability, what does it mean to you and how do you incorporate sustainability into your kitchen?
Sustainability is such a throw-around and sometimes throw-away word these days. There is a full spectrum of sustainability and eco-consciousness that really comes with a lot of grey areas. For me, sustainability is more about mindfulness around consumption. This is easily transferred into food and the kitchen because it's about buying local, organic where possible, purchasing thoughtfully, and utilising all the food you bring into your home/kitchen and not wasting it. At My Grandma Ben, our goal is to minimise our plastic and food waste by composting what waste we can, including napkins and paper towels, food left over from customers and our own green waste. We don’t offer takeaway cups and encourage people to dine in rather than takeaway. We also run a preserving workshop to help encourage people to preserve their own food at home.
What were your thoughts about wine from a box/on tap, and did we change your mind?
I’m not gonna lie… at first, I was a little bit sceptical about boxed wine! However, after enjoying the wine with my friends, I’m converted. The quality and taste is there, and there are so many added bonuses around waste and packaging. You have certainly changed my mind.
What do you love about Organic produce / do you have your own homegrown produce? What does it do to the flavours of the produce?
For me, organic just has so much more flavour. I love that organically grown produce often comes in different shapes and sizes and has little imperfections too. Nothing beats local and fresh, so when I’m shopping I try to buy local and organic.
With rising costs organic produce can seem like an investment, however, I firmly believe if you purchase what can afford - perhaps just one item here and there - you’ll certainly notice the difference. It’s helpful to plan meals and only buy what you need to reduce waste too.
I grow a little bit of my own produce at home, although I am still very much a beginner green thumb. Since we bought our house two years ago we’ve planted 8 fruit and nut trees and planted out two veggies patches and a native garden bed… so I am learning quickly! Nothing is more special and delicious than homegrown fruit and veggies. There is really nothing quite like the joy of picking something you’ve grown yourself, it gives me a ridiculous amount of pleasure and pride.
Which of these recipes are your favourite and whom would you share them with and where?
The meatball subs are inspired by a recipe I made with a good friend for some of our favourite people when we travelled to the bottom of Yorkes for a wedding. Everyone had the most amazing time and some lifelong memories were made as we celebrated some beautiful friends tying the knot that trip. The subs we made were so delicious and went down a treat, I just had to create a recipe!
What inspired your match to each wine and how are the flavours working together?
For the Chardonnay
Jerk spiced chicken with honey roasted pineapple - There's a hint of pineapple and lemon in the Chardy that in my mind works really well with the zingy jerk spices, the honey roasted pineapple tires everything together. Squid ink pasta with SA squid, charred chilli and garlic oil - the buttery well rounded notes of the Chardy work really nicely with the garlicky charred chilli oil. The wine works to enhance the flavour of the food and vice versa.
Gin cured fish (kingfish or similar) with Kaffir lime and chunky herb salsa (lime, green chilli, coriander) - lime and Asian flavours and chilli heat scream pinot grigio to me. Perfect summer thirst quencher matched with light flavourful fish.
Panna cotta, charred pineapple, passionfruit - The passionfruit is the key here, brightening up the semi-sour panna cotta. The light dessert needed a fresh wine, and the pinot grigio works perfectly.
Moroccan lamb spiced meatball subs This recipe HAD to be paired alongside the Cabernet. Nothing says good times with friends around a campfire like meatball subs and a glass of red. Am I wrong?
Pan seared duck breast with orange butter pan jus, charred radicchio salad, shaved parmesan, orange and hazelnuts
I found the flavour of the cabernet to be quite fresh and fruity. I liked the idea of pairing it with duck instead of beef or lamb as I like the way the fat in the duck and the orange buttery sauce work alongside the clean-tasting cabernet.
Which was your favourite wine?
The red. Nothing better than a glass of Cabernet on a cold winter's night by the fire!
What is your favourite meal you cook for your friends?
I love to cook outdoors whenever I can on the weber. I love to pop big bowls of colourful flavour-filled food down on the table - casual and relaxed is my vibe. I have very food-focused friends, so there are always plenty of yummy things to eat and share.