“I think food is very good at telling peo­ple’s sto­ries, and the story of a coun­try and a cul­ture.”

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For me, all my mem­o­ries of Dar­win — all the smells and flavours — have an Asian in­flu­ence. I grew up with lots of other Thai and Asian kids, and our child­hoods were lit­er­ally all about food — we’d go to friends’ houses and play with the spring roll wrap­pers or I’d help my par­ents har­vest man­goes and turn them into dried mango strips. Dar­win has such an in­cred­i­ble mix of cul­tures. There were lots of Greek kids at my school and my par­ents were re­ally good friends with one fam­ily who’d in­vite us round for a big lamb on the spit in their back­yard. I used to love go­ing there. In those early years we lived in a few dif­fer­ent houses. I re­mem­ber one had a re­ally beau­ti­ful, trop­i­cal gar­den. It had a ba­nana tree, a mango tree, loads of chill­ies and Asian herbs, and a mul­berry tree. Our hands would al­ways be stained pur­ple from pick­ing the berries. On week­ends Dad loved to take us to the swim­ming holes at Berry Springs and Twin Falls at Kakadu Na­tional Park. We’d also go boat­ing at Kather­ine Gorge and took car­a­van trips to Ten­nant Creek. I wasn’t all that ad­ven­tur­ous as a kid — I’d only go into the wa­ter at Berry Springs if Dad would hold my hand. Dar­win is also fa­mous for its storms and I re­mem­ber as a kid, those storms would roll in and scare the crap out of me! When I was seven, Dad’s work took us to Pa­pua New Guinea. Liv­ing there for four years was an amaz­ing ex­pe­ri­ence and some­thing that I’m very grate­ful for. There were a lot of Asian and Aus­tralian fam­i­lies, so for me as a kid, it al­most felt like an ex­ten­sion of Dar­win. I left for board­ing school in Bris­bane when I was 11, and Mum and Dad moved back to Dar­win in my fi­nal year of high school. I went back in 2011, af­ter my first cook­book was re­leased. We did a bit of a tour and went to the Parap mar­kets. There was a very fa­mous laksa stall there when I was a kid and we went back and the laksa was just as I re­mem­bered. I reckon it’s the best laksa in the world, al­though I’m prob­a­bly bi­ased. Also, Dar­win is the only place in Aus­tralia you can get Pauls Iced Cof­fee. It’s the one with the NT map on it and, if you’ve grown up drink­ing that iced cof­fee, you will never be able to drink an­other! Af­ter high school I stud­ied jour­nal­ism and law, which led to a job with the ABC, who sent me to South Aus­tralia. I met my hus­band Tim in Ade­laide in 2006. He was work­ing for a win­ery at the time and, through him, I started to meet all th­ese amaz­ing food and wine pro­duc­ers and I started to think more and more about what I was do­ing and whether it was some­thing I re­ally en­joyed. In 2009, I de­cided to quit my job and study gas­tron­omy. Then I went on Masterchef. Be­ing on the sec­ond sea­son of the show was amaz­ing — just be­ing able to travel to Paris and London, and cook with all th­ese amaz­ing chefs like He­ston Blu­men­thal, and put all my fo­cus on food. I re­ally loved it. Do­ing the Fox­tel se­ries Mar­ion’s Thai­land in 2013, where we trav­elled to the vil­lage where my mum grew up, was prob­a­bly more per­son­ally re­ward­ing. With my back­ground in jour­nal­ism, I re­ally loved the sto­ry­telling as­pect — I think food is very good at telling peo­ple’s sto­ries, and the story of a coun­try and a cul­ture. Hav­ing lived and worked in Thai­land for the past four-and-a-bit years now, my per­cep­tions of Thai food have re­ally changed. When we set up the com­pany, I al­ways wanted to come back and con­nect to Mum’s side and her cul­ture. Run­ning a busi­ness here has re­ally been a a dream come true.

DAR­WIN Vi­brant and trop­i­cal, the North­ern Ter­ri­tory’s cap­i­tal is also its main ser­vice cen­tre for the min­ing, off­shore oil and gas pro­duc­tion, farm­ing and tourism in­dus­tries — al­though gov­ern­ment is the ma­jor em­ployer in the re­gion, mak­ing up around 60 per cent of the work­force. Dar­win’s tra­di­tional own­ers are the Lar­rakia, who to­day are a na­tion of about 2000 peo­ple known for their mu­sic and art. White his­tory dates back to 1839, when the city was dis­cov­ered by Lieu­tenant John Lort Stokes, who named it af­ter Charles Dar­win, his for­mer ship­mate. A his­toric port city, Dar­win has long been a gate­way be­tween Aus­tralia and South-east Asia, and to­day boasts a re­laxed life­style and di­verse, mul­ti­cul­tural pop­u­la­tion of about 145,000. Visit dar­win.nt.gov.au or tourism­topend.com.au

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