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

Sunday Tasmanian - Tassie Living - - NEWS -

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.

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