Stephanie Alexander: The doyenne of domesticity reveals what she loves about visiting Tassie
In Tassie to launch her book The Cook’s Table, the woman who is one of the most recognisable cooks in the country, Stephanie Alexander, talks to SHAUN McMANUS about the importance of supporting local produce
STEPHANIE Alexander is a tough woman to impress.
Having spent much of her life in the harsh environment of restaurant kitchens, she does not lavish praise on anything unless she deems it worthy.
Tasmania has captured her imagination though, and her passion for the state’s produce shines through even in a hurried conversation in the aisles of a food store.
“It’s clean, green, and very beautiful,” she says, before going on to animatedly describe the picturesque scenes she witnessed on the drive down to Hobart from Devonport.
Stephanie is “very impressed with things like Tasmanian scallops and salmon, ocean trout, and cheeses,” and uses scallops and mussels from the state regularly when cooking at home.
The prosperity of local shops selling local produce gives Stephanie confidence that the food industry in Tasmania will continue to go from strength to strength.
“I’m sure it will [continue to grow, but] the population has to go along with it, the population is small in Tasmania, but when you look at a place like Hill Street, it’s very high quality, very sophisticated, and it shows real confidence in the population,” she said.
Given that she has spent more than 40 years as a cook, and 25 years working in a professional kitchen at her famed ground breaking restaurant, Stephanie’s, in Melbourne, her stamp of approval carries a certain weight.
“I’m sure it will [continue to grow, but] the population has to go along with it, the population is small in Tasmania, but when you look at a place like Hill Street, it’s very high quality, very sophisticated, and it shows real confidence in the population”
She is one of Australia’s best known cooks, and has also channelled her array of talents into writing and working as a food educator.
While she believes that the food industry can still be improved upon, Stephanie sees plenty of positive signs in Tasmania.
“With produce from every state in Australia, which is being shaken up and more and more, people are, I think, becoming aware of the need to buy local and to support local, and that’s certainly happening in Tasmania.
“There’s always room for improvement in service standards, and that means training and awareness of standards that are operating elsewhere, but the food I’ve had has been beautiful.”
When we met in Hobart late last month, Stephanie was in town to promote her new book,
The Cook’s Table, which features 130 recipes to share with loved ones.
It comes 21 years after she wrote the extraordinarily successful food bible, The Cook’s
Companion, which became a staple in kitchens across Australia.
“[The Cook’s Table is] a collection of 25 menus which are hopefully an encouragement for people to entertain family and friends, putting a bit of effort into it,” she said.
“I’ve given wonderful timetables so that I’ve tried to make sure that the person giving the party has a good time too, [and] doesn’t get stuck in the kitchen.
“Each of the menus is inspired by something, either a place I’ve travelled to, somebody I’ve met and been inspired by, or a sort of occasion we all celebrate.”
It’s not just book launches that bring her to Tasmania, with The Kitchen Garden Foundation, a food education program Stephanie established in 2004 that has grown to span 830 schools across the country, ensuring that she is never away from the state for too long.
“I’ll always keep coming back, because the Kitchen Garden Foundation has quite a few schools here in Tasmania, and I come to assist with training or to just be re-inspired by watching the kids,” she said.