How pioneer organic chef Brenda Fawdon came to grow her own menu.
HOW PIONEER ORGANIC CHEF BRENDA FAWDON CAME TO GROW HER OWN MENU.
When chef and restaurateur Brenda Fawdon moved to Queensland’s Tamborine Mountain five years ago, it was a case of trying to beat the heat. “We were living in a warehouse apartment in Brisbane’s Teneriffe,” says Brenda, who shares her life with writer and illustrator Christine Sharp. “I always felt hot there in the inner city — going from the restaurant kitchen to home felt like jumping out of the frying pan into the fire.” Another advantage of the couple’s cool mountain eyrie is the volcanic soil. tamborine Mountain is part of an ancient chain of volcanoes that form a spur off the Great Dividing Range, and is a short drive inland from the Gold Coast’s beaches.the rich soil and abundant rain of the rainforest-cloaked plateau make it great for gardening. Brenda was an early member of the organic food movement. Mondo Organics, the restaurant she owns with Sonja Drexler, is now 15 years old, a veteran by eating house standards. It was, she says, the first licensed organic restaurant in Australia. these days Brenda conducts regular cooking classes at Mondo, leaving chef duties to her team, and she and Sonja also lead food tours to northern Italy. Part of her food sourcing starts “on the mountain”. Brenda and Christine found a house perching on the edge of the escarpment, with its stunning views to the Gold Coast.the abundance of blackbutt timber and a wrapping of corrugated iron made the building reminiscent of a country shed, but the major attraction was the garden potential. Quite apart from the region’s soil and climate, “We loved that there were no chemical sprays or toxins
used on the property,” Brenda says. “this was a big plus for us, as we wanted to plant an organic garden.” A pretty potager near the front door, with an entry through a vine-covered trellis, provides daily herbs and vegetables. Down the steeply sloping site, they have established an orchard of dwarf fruit trees, all watered by stored rainwater and fed by the composting worm farm. there are plans for a beehive. Brenda and Christine collaborated on a recipe book, Wholehearted Food (University of Queensland Press, $39.95), a beguiling expression of their philosophy of nourishment and seasonal delights. Using their own garden produce, and the delightfully renovated kitchen — an assemblage of recycled timber — Christine photographed the dishes that Brenda prepared.
Allowing nature to take its course on the mountain side is all part of the organic approach to gardening, to which the pair are deeply committed. As Brenda notes, “In summer much of the place is covered in weeds — wandering Jew, cobbler’s pegs, dandelions — and there are lots of snakes.we just let it all go wild and wait for the big autumn clean-up.” Incidentally, dandelions are more than weeds to Brenda, and appear several times in the book — there’s dandelion tea for breakfast, as well as the delicious and exotic chocolate dandelion pudding recipe. As Brenda says, “Eating wholefoods isn’t about deprivation — it’s about enjoying life.” Mondo Organics is at 166 Hardgrave Road, west End, Queensland. (07) 3844 1132; mondo-organics.com.au
CLOCKWISE, FROM TOP LEFT ‘Joppa’ is an early fruiting orange; daisies and marigolds by the alpine strawberry patch; nasturtium flowers crown a salad of freshly picked leaves; raised beds of kale, lettuce, cabbage and cauliflower, with turmeric, ginger and galangal along the back fence; a stroll through the orchard. FACING PAGE, CLOCKWISE, FROM LEFT Brenda in the kitchen that served as a backdrop for the recipe book; apples, pumpkins and several potato varieties; ‘Merlot’, a deep purple lettuce.