MAR­ION GRASBY COOK AND EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR

THE FOR­MER MASTERCHEF CON­TES­TANT TELLS CATHER­INE MCCOR­MACK HOW HER DAR­WIN CHILD­HOOD PAVED THE WAY FOR HER SUC­CESS­FUL FOOD COM­PANY.

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FOR MAR­ION GRASBY, Thai curry paste is the food equiv­a­lent of pure magic. “You get all th­ese huge, loud in­gre­di­ents — things like gar­lic, kaf­fir lime, lemon­grass, fish sauce and re­ally spicy chilli — you put them to­gether and the re­sult is some­thing re­ally beau­ti­ful and har­mo­nious,” says the cook and en­tre­pre­neur, who first grabbed Aus­tralia’s at­ten­tion as a con­tes­tant on re­al­ity tele­vi­sion cook­ing show, Masterchef in 2010. “To put in all those flavours and come up with that kind of alchemy is re­ally amaz­ing.” When the 34-year-old Thai-aus­tralian launched her South-east Asian-in­spired meal kit com­pany, Mar­ion’s Kitchen, soon af­ter be­ing voted off the show, Thai green curry, red curry and pad Thai were some of her first prod­ucts. To­day, the com­pany — which Mar­ion runs with her hus­band, Tim Althaus — boasts a range of some 25 prod­ucts, in­clud­ing cook­ing, wok and wrap kits. Mar­ion’s colour­ful pack­aged goods are stocked in more than 3000 stores across Aus­tralia, with an­nual sales of up to $10 mil­lion ac­cord­ing to a 2015 re­port in the Aus­tralian Fi­nan­cial Re­view. Over­seas, the brand is sold in around 6000 stores in the United States, with plans to branch into the United King­dom this year. In 2013, Mar­ion and Tim moved op­er­a­tions to Bangkok to be closer to their pro­duc­ers, most of whom are lo­cated just out­side the cap­i­tal. “Bangkok is such a vi­brant city,” she says. “In the af­ter­noons you can be in the street hav­ing food from a food cart then at night you’re hav­ing cock­tails in some fancy rooftop bar. There are ar­eas that are quiet and oth­ers where it’s all hus­tle and bus­tle — it re­minds me of an Asian New York.” The cou­ple travel of­ten within Asia, tak­ing their time to ex­plore new cuisines and de­velop recipe ideas. “I like to de­velop our prod­ucts in a very nat­u­ral, or­ganic way,” says Mar­ion. “For me it’s about get­ting in­spired and then turn­ing the food we’ve loved into some­thing for our cus­tomers. It’s like hav­ing a restau­rant but be­ing able to share your dish with 100,000 peo­ple a month — that’s a lot of cov­ers!” Mar­ion cred­its her mother Noi, a pro­fes­sion­ally trained chef, with teach­ing her how to cook. Her deep love for food reaches back to early child­hood ex­pe­ri­ences in Dar­win, where Mar­ion was born and where, as a young girl, she would help Noi pre­pare food to sell at the pop­u­lar Parap Vil­lage Mar­kets. To­day, the mother and daugh­ter con­tinue to work to­gether, with Noi the res­i­dent ‘qual­ity as­sur­ance chef’ for Mar­ion’s Kitchen. “Noth­ing gets past her taste­buds!” says Mar­ion with a laugh. More re­cently, Noi and Mar­ion’s fa­ther, Char­lie, moved from Dar­win to Phuket then Bangkok. “They’re liv­ing about 500 me­tres down the road now, much to my hus­band’s delight!” Mar­ion says. “I grew up in Dar­win and Pa­pua New Guinea but when I turned 11, I went to board­ing school in Bris­bane, so I kind of feel like I’m get­ting that time with my par­ents back — it’s great.” For more in­for­ma­tion, visit mar­i­on­skitchen.com.au

FROM LEFT In her mother, Noi’s, arms in front of the fam­ily’s “trusty sta­tion wagon” in Dar­win, circa 1983; a rare photo of Mar­ion wear­ing a dress — she hated frilly cloth­ing.

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