Chef Hat Award Winners Share Their Secrets

2014 Chef Hats announced, share in their recipes. 

January is always one of the most exciting months of the year for AGFG, as we have just announced the winners for the AGFG Chef Hats. So to keep your mouth's watering into the new year we have put together some recipes from some of the top award winners that you can try at home.  

First off we have Attica, awarded a 19 Chef Hat and consistently looked upon as one of the world's best restaurants. You can't go past the culinary skill of Ben Shewry without at least whispering a WOW, and one recipe that makes us WOW is Ruby's Rhubarb. A dessert created by Ben for his daughter Ruby. It also features in his book Origin - one definitely worth a read or a gander. 

Restaurant Amuse in East Perth, awarded an 18 Chef Hat, run by a husband and wife team and consistently produces some of the finest food in the country. For something creative at your next dinner party, Head Chef Hadleigh Troy's Beetroot, Coffee and Cocoa recipe will have your friend's astounded. 

For something a bit different, a bit spicy and a bit Asian, try Longrain's asian eggnet, awarded a 15 chef hat, this recipe won't disappoint.  

Another one for those that like to entertain (we're still in holiday mode right?) Enjoy Sarti'seye fillet with persian feta and caramelised onion vol-au-vent. Sarti has become one of Melbourne's most popular restaurants and with a 14 Chef Hat, it is easy to see why. 

Moving to main beach, Queensland, Chill on Tedder awarded a 14 Chef Hat can inspire you how to cook barramundi like an expert. Check out their recipe for Cone Bay saltwater barramundi with spanner crab - sure to satisfy your taste buds.  


Disclaimer - these recipes are a suggestion and were not involved in the judging process of the 2014 Chef Hat Awards. 

Christmas Holiday Helpers by Maggie Beer

Country-Style Christmas Celebrations

Come Christmas there’s nothing better than enjoying time off and relaxing. Intertwining the holidays with our kitchen love, the key to hosting at this time of year is selecting simple recipes. That way you can cook to your heart’s content, entertaining family and friends, all the while enjoying their company relatively stress free.

Holiday Cooking with Maggie Beer

Since relocating from the city to the picturesque Barossa in 1970, Maggie Beer has embodied the spirit of country cooking.  Today the recipes she shares and her eponymous brand –including over 50 products– encourage you to follow the rhythm of the seasons and allow you access to her fail safe, top quality ingredients.  

Christmas Recipes & Maggie Beer Ingredients 

Pick up ‘Maggie’s Verjuice Cookbook’ and you’ll discover that her gentle flavour enhancing, not-so-secret ingredient can be used in absolutely everything.  Verjuice is the juice of unripe grapes that acts as a subtle acidulant in your cooking compared to lemon juice, vinegar and wine.  

For starters, set you inhibitions aside and seek out robust, locally grown lentils combined with fresh Extra Virgin Olive Oil and golden brown verjuice onions, to make an unforgettable lentil salad with pale green celery.

Another option to begin with is Maggie Beer’s green bean salad, based off a traditional Nicoise recipe. Here she entices you to incorporate her aged red-wine vinegar.  Alternatively, you may opt to try this dish the day after your big Christmas lunch or dinner, when you’ll be tempted to add-in leftover eggs and proteins (though this recipe officially calls for thick tuna steaks).

Australia's Favourite Christmas Day Recipe

A quick and easy lamb roast is an ideal main for any special Christmas meal. 
However, as lamb can be on the expensive side – or if you’re shopping last minute… possibly unavailable – there are always other options.

Maggie Beer’s braised chicken is a convenient one-pot dish and a definite tried and true ‘family and friends pleaser’.  If you opt not to make your own golden chicken stock, it’s readily available for you to purchase.  This simmering dish will enliven your celebration with its figs and cinnamon, verjuice and lemon zest. 

Sharing your table with everyone at Christmas time, you likely have favourite holiday foods – particularly dessert – anticipated year after year.  If you haven’t already, purchase Maggie Beer’s verjuice once and for all then try her fruit mince in verjuice syrup with ice cream.  With apples, sweet sherry, nutmeg and cloves combined with dried fruits that you love, make this one once and it’s likely to become generational.  

Christmas Chocolate Gifts to Eat All Day

Because we know a major Christmas highlight is indulging in fine chocolate, we have selected an array of colourfully wrapped Fardoulis chocolates for you to choose from in the AGFG Shop. 

Maggie's Christmas: 

Your perfect accompaniment this Christmas, check out "Maggie's Christmas"a recipe book that has everything you would ever need at Christmas time.  

Try Maggie's Frittata or Apricot, Almond and Rosemary Clafoutis

Sugar + Spice Nuts; The Frosted Vegan

By Abby Thompson


You know how sometimes you’re thinking all “Hey! I want to make [insert incredible recipe you saw on Pinterest/Facebook/Favorite Food Blog], because it looks amazingly scrumptious and I’ve been wanting it since I laid eyes on it”.  But your cabinets are all “Ha, no! That bag of [mystery ingredient here] got swallowed into the abyss of Dark Cabinet Land, so. no.”  I can’t even tell you how many times I’ve gone to the cabinet and an essential, yet missing, ingredient has gone rouge somehow.


Good news! These spicy + sweet nuts can be made regardless of the ingredient stealing cabinet monster.  These crunchy morsels only take a few ingredients, and simple (minimal!) preparation.

Bad news, they are really easy to just nibble on and before you know it, whoops!  Half the pan is gone.  Just like the Halloween candy that you were supposed to save for the trick-or-treaters, buuuut who would notice if you didn’t turn the porch light on and ate the good candy anyway?


This recipe can be modified and flipped up so many ways that it’s just crazy.  The nuts/sugar mixture has an almost brittle-like texture, but not quite as hard, while also acting like a nut bark at the same time. This means this recipe is completely versatile according to what you have on hand. Throw in some salty pretzels, M and Ms, popcorn, anything that won’t melt under the heat of the baking would be a perfect addition.  


Sugar and Spice Nuts

3 cups mixed nuts, any kind you have (I used peanuts, walnuts, and almonds)

1 flax egg (or 1 egg white)

1 tbs. orange juice

1/3 cup granulated sugar

1/3 cup brown sugar


2 tbs. grated orange peel

1 tsp. cinnamon

1/2 tsp. allspice

1/2 tsp. ginger


  • Combine nuts and spices in large bowl, set aside.
  • Whisk together egg (flax or egg white),  orange juice, orange peel, and sugar in separate bowl.
  • Mix egg and sugar mixture in well with nut mixture.  Spread in rimmed cookie sheet or 15×10 pan.
  • Bake at 275 for 50 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes. The mixture may not be crispy at this point, but once it has been removed from oven and cooled the mixture will harden.
  • Cool and store in airtight container for up to a week.



Photography copyright of Abby Thompson.

Follow Abby's blog, 'The Frosted Vegan' for more delicious recipes like this.

Always an Italian Restaurant Nearby

By Kelly Korpesio

Do the Italians cook better or is it the way they serve food with such panache that makes it the go-to cuisine for the masses?  Be it for romance or good old fashioned family fun, the common consensus is "let's go out for Italian".

On Sunday, 2nd June 2013 we celebrate Italy’s National Day, the ‘Festa della Repubblica’ which commemorates the fall of Fascism and rise of a new Italian republic in 1946. Maybe you’re not a history buff, but surely you’re a bit of a foodie. Taking a cue from MasterChef, if you were a contestant and had to identify the pasta noodle by its proper Italian name, how would you fare? Now there’s trivia for you.

The colours of the Italian flag stand for hope, faith and charity; and the Italian people seem to be born with a food gene.  Whether you’ve travelled to Rome or Milan, Sicily or Sardinia, or anywhere in Italy for that matter –it’s the fourth most popular tourist destination in the world– you’ve had your fair share of their noodles… by which name?  

There’s no doubt that Italian food permeates every Australian kitchen in one form or another and that every food alley, even in the smallest outback towns, has an Italian restaurant.  We've compiled a few tips to help you celebrate that inherent love you have for Italian.

Italian Restaurant Options in Australia

Italian food is unparalleled in its popularity and if you need assistance in finding a restaurant near you, wherever you are in Australia, you can use the AGFG Restaurants guide refined by cuisine type to find Italian restaurants.

Italian Recipes for Home Cooking

If you’re not dining out and getting ready to cook up a storm for your own festa della repubblica, don’t sweat it if Nonna’s recipes aren’t handy.  Keep your eye out for Italian dish ideas and you’ll find them in abundance:  Lasagne, Spaghetti, Risotto, Gnocchi, Pizza, Polenta and Tiramisu.  


You can find Italian foods to try at home in our AGFG Recipes section.  Once you’ve picked your recipes and set out all the ingredients, turn on opera music (orginating in Italy) and perhaps partake in an espresso – also an Italian god sent invention.  

The Italians have gifted the world with delectable cheeses such as parmesan, gorgonzola, mozzarella, provolone, and ricotta, which Australian chef Tobie Puttock knows all about – he’s carved out his career specializing in Italian cuisine.  For a taste of his talent in the comforts of your kitchen, try his tomato and mozzarella salad.

You can also see Toby live on the Celebrity Stage at the Good Food & Wine Show this year and meet him at the book signing.

Other Italian Recipes to Try


Finally, because ice cream emerged from Italy, too, here’s an Australian cherry pie ice cream recipe, a fruity version of everyone's favourite Italian dessert.

Pete Evans on 'Cook with Love'

A Collection of Pete Evans' Passions

By Kelly Korpesio

Pete Evans has done it again and we vow not to let his popular TV series and cooking/travel adventures et al. overshadow the distinct fact that he just released yet another cookbook!

There’s nothing ordinary about ‘Cook with Love’, rather it verges on the extraordinary. Taking a cue from rock n’ roll marketing, Murdoch Books promises this one is a “greatest hits” cookbook that won’t sit in your home library with that distinct new book smell for long.

Akin to the white linen on the table of your favourite local bistro, you’ll try your damndest to keep ‘Cook with Love’ crisp and clean, but that’s never going to happen. These hand-picked recipes by Pete Evans span over 20 years and the collection includes wide-ranging styles and varying techniques.

This Q&A with Pete Evans nuts out some of the stories underlying his chosen ‘Cook with Love’ recipes and goes beyond activated almonds controversy into the true health and lifestyle force that hugely defines Pete’s uber-successful career in its current incarnation.

AGFG:  Foodies are starting to think about what gift to buy for Mother’s Day. Why is ‘Cook with Love’ a sure Mum-pleaser? 

PETE:  ‘Cook with Love’ is a very versatile cookbook and it has recipes that will please everyone in the family, from children to grandparents.  The recipes are predominantly simple, easy to prepare and flavoursome but there's also a “show off'” section for when you're feeling especially creative.

There's a little story with each recipe as to why I love them or how I came across the dish, so it has a very personal touch, too.

AGFG:  What’s one recipe from ‘Cook with Love’ that… you still cook all the time?

PETE:  I cook recipes from 'Cook with love' all the time.  My mate Udo (legendary Bondi fisherman) just gave me some freshly caught whiting today, so I made Aqua Pazza for a big family feast - aqua pazza is Italian for fish in crazy water.  It's such an easy dish, but so damn flavoursome. 

AGFG:  … a special person shared with you?

PETE:  A mate of mine, and a great man, Jimmy Shu from Hanuman restaurant in Darwin, shared his signature oyster dish with lemongrass, sweet basil, chilli and fresh coriander for the book.  It's a divine way to enjoy oysters and it's the first thing I order when I have the pleasure of dining at Jimmy's!

AGFG:  … someone once told you is the best?

PETE:  Nicholas Morley, a surfing buddy of mine and his mate Ayu, told me about this amazing dish - Balinese Roasted Chicken.  I thought I'd tried every roast chook recipe there was, so I was blown away when they made this incredibly yummy dish during a surf trip in Bali.  I make it for my family all the time and they love it! 

Pete Evans Recipes to Try

 You are also hosting a dinner at Lake Crackenback in Snowy River NSW on June 29, where Morrocan spiced local rainbow trout is just one delicious menu sample.  As a massive seafood lover and WWF ambassador, what is the main message you share within the Sustainable Seafood campaign? 

PETE:  We're trying to create awareness around mindful consuming by encouraging people to buy and eat responsibly sourced fish seafood, krill and fish oils, which is really simple - just look for the MSC's blue eco label on products and be part of the support team that are making a positive difference to our oceans and our magnificent marine animals.

AGFG:  Being that food and travel are inextricable, a huge part of what you do these days is offer cooking classes as part of resort packages, even hosting your own adventures tours with a culinary element. With regards to your wellness and adventure week on Namotu Island, Fiji coming up in July, what are you most excited about?

PETE:  I’m excited not only for the adventure side of things, but because of the part of my job that I enjoy the most… teaching others my craft and sharing the knowledge that I've acquired so far throughout my career.

We'll focus on making delicious dishes with fresh, local, natural ingredients.  So lots of colourful vegetables, herbs, spices, nuts and plenty of seafood dishes to utilise the amazing Fijian fish.

I'm a huge fan of coconuts, not only for their versatility, but for their countless health benefits as well. I'll be using plenty of coconut oil, water and flesh to enhance many of the meals.  

AGFG:  It seems you’re essentially living the dream in combining your passions within your career and sharing great experiences with others along the way. What keeps you inspired and thriving?

PETE:  Catching waves definitely helps to keep me energised and focused, but also the fact that I don't eat crap food that weighs you down and fogs your brain means that I'm always able to sustain a positive frame of mind.

I live with three amazing girls, my partner Nic and my daughters, Chilli and Indii. They’re all complete breaths of fresh air, so it's nearly impossible to be anything other than inspired and thriving when you're surrounded with such beautiful energy.

AGFG:  What global cuisine are you fixated on right now and any additional worldly destinations in mind where you’ll be further discovering food and surf?

PETE:  I don't have any one fixation; it's always a combination of a few.  The kind Fijian ladies taught me a wonderful fish head curry on Namotu last year, and we've been making it at home, adding a few more ingredients like lemongrass and kaffir lime to give it a bit of an Asian twist.

Nic and I will definitely be following the waves in our spare time; we're both really keen to travel to Tahiti together for the experience of Teahupoo waves and Tahitian cuisine.

AGFG:  Best chilling out at the beach food and wine pairing?

PETE:  Well, it depends on what you've got to work with, but in an ideal world you would've had a successful day on the water and caught yourself a beautiful snapper or two…

In that case I would make a simple Snapper Tartare with Yuzu Dressing for an entree and an Indian-Spiced Barbecue Fish in Banana Leaves served with a deliciously refreshing Asian coleslaw for a main.

Nic and I love to share a glass of red every once and awhile on special occasions and we enjoy the Jacobs Creek Reserve Shiraz lightly chilled.

AGFG:  You continue to cook the best produce and let food flavours speak for themselves, but your career is now health and nutrition focused. What was the catalyst that guided your chef journey in the wellbeing direction?

PETE:  I began researching and educating myself about nutrition and wellness then gradually implemented change into my own and my family’s diet, mostly by cutting out wheat, sugar, dairy and gluten.  We enjoyed the benefits and noticed a huge change in our wellbeing.

We didn't miss any of the unnecessary foods, so it's been an easy progression to carry on with a very simple, natural approach to eating and nourishing ourselves.

'Cook with Love' is published by Murdoch Books and available for purchase through Allen & Unwin. 

Flavours of Cutler & Co.

Restaurant Review

Extract from 'Flavours of Urban Melbourne'

Cutler & Co. dining room is located in an old metal works factory on Gertrude Street, Fitzroy, an historic, eclectic and vibrant street full of some of Melbourne’s best restaurants and boutique shops. Opened in 2009 by Executive Chef Andrew McConnell, the restaurant reflects his depth of fine dining experience both in Australia and Internationally culminating in a unique balance between elegance and simplicity with a strong focus on organic, local produce.
The contemporary re-design combines high ceilings, raw walls and off beat architectural elements in a modern restaurant landscape, resulting in a dining room that is perfect for an intimate dining experience yet also has the flexibility to cater for exclusive events.
Andrew McConnell says Melbourne is exciting, vibrant and progressive and that the diversity of the people who have chosen to live here enrich the way of life. He also believes that Melbourne’s proximity to fantastic wine and rural regions is an important factor in the success of the restaurant industry. Cutler & Co. embodies the culinary flavours and flair of a fine dining restaurant with service that is informed but not formal, perceptive and relaxed. The guest experience is tailored, with a suggestion of unusual aperitifs, splitting dishes to enable sharing, or a unique wine offering, thanks to award winning sommelier, Liam O’Brien.
Andrew and his head chef, Chris Watson delight in creating clever, unique and seasonal dishes. The restaurant has a close relationship with its suppliers, striving to source interesting local produce of the highest quality. Pork is supplied from Western Plains Pork, cheese from Holy Goat, asparagus from Bridge Farm, heirloom carrots, radishes, and alpine strawberries from the Yarra Valley Gourmet Greenhouse, heirloom tomatoes, turnips, flowers, wild herbs and rhubarb from Glenora Heritage Produce, and Wagyu beef from Sher which is based in Ballan.
Prior to opening Cutler & Co. in 2009, Andrew opened Cumulus Inc. in Flinders Lane in 2008, and restaurant Three, One, Two in Carlton. During this time he was honoured as Chef of the Year by The Age 2007 Good Food Guide. Andrew’s first independent venture was Dining Room 211. Awarded two hats in The Age Good Food Guide in every year of its operation; it was here that he first drew media and industry attention when he shared the 2002 ‘Young Chef of the Year’ prize with his brother Matthew. Cutler & Co. has already received several high accolades in its short history, being awarded Restaurant of the Year from both Australian Gourmet Traveller and The Age Good Food Guide. The wine list was also recently awarded three glasses in the 2012 Fine Wine Partners Australia’s wine list of the year awards.
The dining room is open for dinner seven nights a week and lunch on Fridays and Sundays. An a la carte menu and an impressive degustation menu is available offering signature dishes such as Roasted suckling pig, hay baked carrots and mustard, Raw Hervey Bay scallop, oyster broth & abalone and Chocolate ice cream sandwich, vanilla parfait & salted caramel. Sunday lunch is a more relaxed style of dining with a weekly changing menu of only the finest most seasonal produce.
With refined yet welcoming service and an impressive attention to detail, this stunning venue is a Melbourne must.

A beautifully presented coffee table book, 'Flavours of Urban Melbourne' ($70, Smudge Publishing) is a must-have guide for those visiting the city, and the perfect gift for locals who want to be in the know. 

In 'Flavours of Urban Melbourne' you'll find a selection of delicious recipes with stunning photography. Our AGFG Recipes section includes a few samples which include the following:

Greek grain salad and a stuffed tomato recipe, as well as gingerbread hotcakes and Earl Grey ice cream with chocolate and honey. 

Interview – ‘Lentil’ Vegetarian & Vegan Restaurant Founder

Q&A with Lentil As Anything’s Shanaka Fernando 

By Kelly Korpesio

Within a climate of political unrest and street violence, Shanaka Fernando was educated in an elite Buddhist school rife with racism and inequality.  When he migrated from Sri Lanka to Australia in his early twenties, he arrived with an ideology of kindness embedded within.

Twenty-plus years later, Shanaka remains firm in his commitment to seeing the human race not as a competitive breed, rather as human kind. On Australia Day 2007 he was awarded Australian of the Year in Melbourne as a local hero, acknowledging him as the founder of Lentil as Anything (fondly referred to as ‘Lentil’).

Shanaka literally started off Lentil with ‘intent’ while living in a tent.  These days he has a formal roof over is head, yet Shanaka’s open door policy remains even on the home-front.

His Dad role to Grace, age 8, and Spike, 10 months, is of utmost importance, and Shanaka’s own Father in Sri Lanka considers him to be a ‘successful failure’.  Living by an Oscar Wilde creed, ‘Life is too important to be taken seriously’, Shanaka may not be married, own a car, or a house, but he laughs a lot and is constantly surrounding by family, friends and people in the community.

Beyond over a decades worth of Lentil chronology attributing to their social commitment, as further credit to their dogmatic approach, even the Australian Tax Office is on their side – they do not pay GST on donations.

With an annual turnover of over 2 million dollars, Shanaka freely confesses the fact that Lentil carries a $250,000.  Confident in their initiative, he is an open book and notes that the average restaurant enterprise is $100,000 in the hole paying off assets.  

Shanaka’s Vegetarian Lentil Restaurants in Melbourne

Some have referred to him as the ‘Jamie Oliver of Australia’ because of the active philanthropy Shanaka displays within his three Lentil As Anything restaurants:  Abbotsford Convent, Footscray and St. Kilda in Melbourne.  

For those who aren’t already familiar with Lentil, the restaurant group welcomes everyone and the payment system is a wooden box designed for donations, where customers pay what they feel is fair or can afford.

Rallying Forward with Vegetarian Meals and Vegan Food Options 

It was a weekday when we spoke to Shanaka Fernando, and he had just returned from an early morning parachute ride.  Having read his recent biography 'Lentil As anything: Everybody Deserves a Place at the Table', this seemed perfectly in character.  

A non-conformist, global-travelling, humanitarian adventurer, his portfolio of community success continues to expand as his first publication, a cookbook entitled 'Lentil As Anything:  Food, Community, Culture', continues to receive accolades.  At the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, it won the Australian ‘Best Charity & Fundraising Cookbook in the Australian/Pacific region’; and ‘FCC’ is currently shortlisted for the ‘Best in the World’ title, same category - this announcement will be released on 23 Feb, 2013. 

To the bane of his social circle at the cricket club, Shanaka Fernando does not drink alcohol and is strictly vegetarian (he’s ‘trying to give up not drinking’).  Having always been a vegetarian, Shanaka designed his Lentil restaurants on this premise; it just makes sense as it's more affordable, sustainable and healthy.  

AGFG:  You’re not a certified chef, so how much cooking are you responsible for at Lentil?

SHANAKA:  I would hasten to say that the success of Lentil rides on me not cooking.  It took a day in the kitchen at Lentil to realize my kitchen skills were shit.  There have been times when I have had to stopgap measure and jump in the kitchen.  I enjoy taking food to tables rather than the pressure of delivering 150 breakfasts in two hours.  I’m not cut out for that coordinated, hectic work.  

Vegetarian and Vegan Recipe Sensations

AGFG:  Favourite dishes and why?

SHANAKA:  It may seem boring here, but my favourite is the African dahl.  It’s the pride of the subcontinent, but the North Africans have taken it and changed it into something more appealing – I’m not sure the Indians would accept that.  I can eat Chef Ousmane’s version all on its own without any accompaniment, and with the heavy tomato base can be full in a really nice way.  

From the cookbook, Chef Soma’s eggplant curry is a very traditional Sri Lankan dish that takes eggplant and does magical things to it, like Ella Fitzgerald does to a song.  

In the AGFG Recipes section, you will find 3 other samples to try at home from their cookbook, ‘Lentil As Anything:  Food, Community, Culture’:  sheer khurma, shitake stir fry, and okonomiyaki.  

More on Vegetarian Meals and the Meaning of Lentil

AGFG:  You believe that ‘the inherent goodness in everyone is an abundant resource’; however, with a significant number of talented migrant and refugee staff, have you witnessed discouraging displays of racism even with the safety net of your Lentil As Anything restaurants?

SHANAKA:  Over 13 years in business, only a handful of racist incidents at Lentil come to mind.  We feed 2000 people a day and that shows the dominant love side of our business.

There are a lot of challenges because people tend to come from a mentality that encourages judgement and discrimination, thinking they’re being discerning.  There are times of conflict and misunderstanding and yet overall it is a wonderful thing to be a part of.  

One woman came in and didn’t want to be served by Africans.  It’s an unusual thing to say at Lentil because I’m African and so I had a chat with her.  She had never met people from Africa and had a distinctive dislike of people when many factors were different.  Since then the lady has become a volunteer at Lentil and has created a strong rapport with many staff at Lentil.  

AGFG:  As an anti-capitalist running three restaurants, what is the real end game from your point of view?

SHANAKA:  I’m not anti-anything.  I’m pro life in the pro human life sense… pro inclusion and pro diversity and pro ideals that we strive for; that we build our lifestyles in the spirit of our intentions.

I got into the restaurant business because of the food I encountered when I was travelling, especially in the third world where it is not a commodity.  In cultures that live in forests there is a sense of pride and sharing; there still remains the breaking of bread as a gesture of oneness. 

Thinking of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Endgame’… mine is to encourage human beings and every enterprise to take on theses values we are proposing.  The people are the profits, not money, because it is more immediate and more satisfying.

People can gain a sense of community in a place where they didn’t previously have that opportunity. Our focus on materialism and money has really subverted the foundation on which we build.  It is essential that we align our focus on the values that historically have shown us the way.  

AGFG:  Does living in Melbourne correlate to the authentic Lentil experience?

SHANAKA:  Eating in tribal situations I noticed people wanting the person sitting next to them to have the better portion.  It’s a gesture of how we are inherently as people.  I wondered… could I make that happen in Melbourne?

I think that generosity and trust are conducive anywhere where there are human beings - Melbourne is not the only fertile ground.  Every place has the capacity for a strong sense of community.

I’m sure that any place in the world would respond to food being made available without a focus on making money off of it.  The joy in my day is the diversity of people I encounter.  People who I don’t naturally expect to be generous often jump on board with such a strong social enterprise.  

Community Based Lentil As Anything

4th February, 2013

A New Vegetarian Restaurant Model

By Shanaka Fernando

Lentil as Anything began as a hangout for performers and other creative artists. Many would be broke one week, but receive contracts or sell artwork the next. Any payment was a cause for celebration, and provided a chance to pay bills and to stock up on supplies. During the less abundant weeks patrons would be welcome to eat, drink, and find support at Lentil as Anything.

What developed was a sense of ‘Lentil Unity’. In the more abundant weeks patrons would share with fellow artists by paying a little extra, and in so doing a balance and accord was created to offset the leaner times.

And so, the ‘Magic Box’ was born and soon became a symbol of the system of trust that had developed—patrons were free to choose how much they would donate. It was a system that proved to be both fair and sustainable, and one that allowed for everyone, without exclusion, to become part of a community and to share in the same ‘Lentil Credit’.

The Lentil as Anything ideology has sustained for more than a decade, and has grown to include several restaurants across Melbourne that provide fabulous food, employment for staff, education for volunteers, and support to the wider community through services and assistance such as legal advice, training, counselling, housing, fundraising for charities, and catering.

Acceptance has always been at the core of the Lentil philosophy and is what helps it flourish. Acceptance means being all-inclusive—everyone is welcome. And that’s why today anyone of any social standing can be found eating at Lentil as Anything. And the ‘Magic Box’ still finances everything, from the delicious meals made with love, to paying wages, and to funding the community projects.

Now that Lentil as Anything has come so far, it is even more important, and ever challenging, to keep sight of those early principles and endeavours. Lentil as Anything has helped shape our cultural identity as a community-based, not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on the donations of its patrons and guests. As in those very first days, guests are invited to make an agreement with their conscience,

to take a moment to reflect, taking into consideration how much they enjoyed the food and deciding the extent to which they want to support the philosophy and the work being done, and by so doing, each donation, each thought, brings us closer to the values that Lentil as Anything was founded on.

By supporting Lentil as Anything we become part of a unique social model that is based on values of trust, generosity, and respect. Lentil as Anything is an organisation that gives people the opportunity to eat and to interact regardless of their financial or social situation.

History and vision extract from Lentil As Anything:  Food, Culture & Community, published by Ilura Press rrp $54.00.

Lentil as Anything was the Australian winner for ‘Best Charity & Fundraising Cookbook in the Australian/Pacific region’ in the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards.  It is shortlisted in the same category for ‘Best in the World’.

Recipe Samples from Lentil As Anything:  African dhal, okonomiyaki, and eggplant curry.


Interview - Anna Gare

February 2013

By Kelly Korpesio

Homemade Food Recipes from the Heart 

While in her twenties, Anna Gare kept busy globetrotting with her band The Jam Tarts - the name a dead giveaway of her inner foodie calling.  Becoming pregnant, she returned home to Fremantle WA where she has contentedly remained ever since, with family and long-time friends comfortably situated within a 5km radius.

Flash forward and it followed suit that local publisher, Fremantle Press, took interest in Anna’s work and Homemade came into fruition.  Cooked and photographed in her own kitchen, Anna’s first cookbook is a personal selection of naughty and nice dishes, spontaneously presented in no particular order but well indexed at the back.

You’ll find an artichoke tapenade recipe right beside her husband Luc’s baked beans - a family favourite, though as you can imagine he is rarely required to cook much at all.  “After 8 years, I’ve ruined him,” Anna confesses.  In Homemade you'll also discover chocolate, cardamom and ginger semifreddo dessert just after Gino’s prawn fettuccine; Anna’s been eating this dish at the chef’s own local restaurant since she was a young girl.

Welcome Home - Food Recipes for Love

Flying to Melbourne for TV shoots such as Junior MasterChef and her newest show, The Great Australian Bake Off, Anna’s homemade food recipes have contributed to her fame.  Though Homemade is full of food recipes for every occasion, with Valentine’s Day coming up we spoke to Anna about the pure seduction of silver spoon scallops, chocolate whimsy fully stop, and experiencing self-love with juicy mangoes.

Feel free to check out our AGFG Recipes section for a sample selection of Anna Gare’s recipes from Homemade:


silver spoon scallops
sang choy bow
Texan beef ribs
wok the lobster
chocolate semifreddo


Eat with your Hands & Feel Free to Get Messy

"It’s those little added ingredients that

make a dish naughty and ideal for romance.


AGFG:  You maintain that home cooking is something that responds to what’s in the market, what’s in the fridge and who walks through the door.  When the person who’s walking into your kitchen is the one you love, in your opinion what are tried and true dishes destined to impress?

ANNA:  A man… seafood, depending on the man of course.  You need to know the person before you cook up the potion.  A woman… chocolate.

I would serve my husband ceviche, a white fleshed fish, nicely cubed with limes, coriander, chilli and tequila served either in spoons or shot glasses.  Another way to serve seafood that would blow his mind is as sang choy bow, with the seafood wrapped in lettuce.  It’s those little added ingredients that make a dish naughty and ideal for romance.  

Eating with a knife and fork is not sexy.  My husband always tells me off at restaurants for eating with my hands.  Food is sensual and sexual; it feels good and we need to touch it.  In my home, ‘no manners Tuesday’ is definitely our favourite night.

Desserts are always nice and when you make one it’s like you’ve gone the extra mile for that finishing touch.  Tiny, little balls or light strawberry mousse, fruit with Grand Marnier, or something sweet with rosewater hints.  

If I’ve had a big day, I’ll hop in the bath and eat a mango; it’s enjoyable and messy and delightful.  A whole mango in the bath is decadent. 

AGFG:  In conclusion to Homemade you acknowledge the many levels of support your husband Luc offers, including his "endless love and willingness to taste, eat, and criticise your food when instructed". What part has food played in your romance? 

ANNA:  I love romance and food.  There’s nothing worse than a stodgy meal and a mini-series followed by apple pie and ice cream.  Sexy food is light, healthy, fresh and flavoursome. 

We were friends for years when I first met my husband, Luc.  He was on-site at a disorganized cooking show and my session didn't end up happening.  With scallops to spare, I asked if he’d like to try some…  When I handed him the tapas for a taste, his eyes lit up as they would in an animation.  He looked goofy and dough eyed – I knew something was there. 

Scallops have to be one of the most romantic pieces of seafood; they’re a trouser arouser, a light dish to keep the energy up.  Combine that with a glass of confidence, such as champers, and you’ll wind down for a first date or if you’re already together, relax into the mood and remember why you’re married in the first place.

Luc always gives me flowers and I don’t give him anything, but I do cook a beautiful meal - the best way to anyone’s heart.  Certain foods are aphrodisiacs and there is a science to it.  With oysters, for example, there are those aphrodisiacal aspects and then there’s the whole you are what you eat adage to be considered.

We spent a lot of time in America and picked up recipes along the way, developing dishes together as in our big Texan beef ribs.  We make that recipe in the backyard pizza oven, shutting the door to smoke it, which people go crazy for.

Our tendency is to go through phases with food based on what’s in season.  But basically I cook whatever we crave lying in bed in the morning.  When I was catering, I noticed on TV that Jamie Oliver cooks like we do with big handfuls of ingredients and using lots of fresh herbs.

I relate to food by balancing flavours; sweet, salty, acidic, and olive oil to tone things down because at times we opt for mellowness.  Maggie Beer’s verjuice is just fantastic; it synchronizes tastes for a four part harmony on the palate.

When you listen to music, a good musician knows when something’s missing in the song; the whole equation comes as second nature, and the same goes for a good cook.  We pick out the part that’s missing.  We taste something and know if it needs mids, if it’s too sharp, or requires salt to bring out the flavours. 

AGFG:  Your 2011 Logie Award nominated TV show, playfully entitled Quickies in the Kitchen, evokes an idea of home cooking success on a few key levels.  You’ve developed amazing rapport amongst mini foodies in your role on Junior MasterChef and you’ve returned to the screen with Channel 9’s new competition show, The Great Australian Bake Off.  Growing up with a huge fruit bowl on the table, you were forced to make your own sweets based on your parents’ no rubbish food policy and your foodie fame has spun since the early years.  What have you learned from cookery television work?

ANNA:  I thought I was a pretty good cook at the age of 8 but have stopped bragging since Junior MasterChef.  These kids are driven by their passion to cook and succeed and the adult MasterChef contestants seem to crack more under pressure – more to lose I guess.

I’ve learnt that kids under pressure in a healthy, fun and competitive environment put aside their fears, stretch their boundaries and produce amazing dishes beyond their normal capabilities.

I’m close to my heart in the kitchen and with The Great Australian Bake Off these people are not trying to be acclaimed chefs they’re just really into baking.  It’s about cooking from your heart, wanting to make pastry and share it.  It’s really humble; these bakers are not on the show because they want’ to win, they’re there because love feeding people and are passionate about pastries.

Homemade is published by Fremantle Press, rrp $49.95.  Perfect for love month, you’ll discover racy recipes such as puttancesca ‘whore’s style’ pasta, artichoke tapenade, naughty potatoes, avocado carpaccio with seared scallops, plus raspberry, rose and vodka jellies for dessert. 


Interview – Andy Allen

January 2013


By Kelly Korpesio


Lands MasterChef 2012 by

Choosing to Learn 

Electrician turned cookbook author?  Part of the MasterChef prize package is creating your own cookbook and Andy Allen released The Next Element late last year, under a publisher pressure cooker deadline to meet the 2012 Christmas rush.

Unbeknownst to Andy, there was a new form of MasterChef on the rise, which may explain the unprecedented time crunch imposed on the sparky turned writer.

On the whole MasterChef 2012 experience Andy Allen asserts that the way to winning was choosing to learn.  He took it in stride and soaked it all in along the way, proving to himself, Australia and the world that anyone can definitely learn how to cook.

Akin to his tone in The Next Element, our interview with Andy about Australia’s most famous television competition and his new book was straight forward yet relaxed.

AGFG:  You became MasterChef 2012 by fighting to push the limits in the kitchen.  Your new book The Next Element shows that your cooking knows no bounds, even at home.  What’s been your greatest achievement throughout the MasterChef experience?

ANDY:  I was fortunate to play basketball at a high level and you don’t make those teams if you’re not competitive.  On MasterChef I was competitive with myself, not so much with the other contestants.


One of the biggest achievements of my life is finishing The Next Element.  The publisher said “Andy you have 6 weeks to write a book…we need the recipes.”  It was maybe even more of an achievement than winning MasterChef because there was no coaching at all.


AGFG:  On MasterChef, under the mentorship of Mark Best (Marque Restaurant, Surry Hills), you released a 3 hatted status signature dish of confit of ocean trout.  What type of food will we find in The Next Element?

The food in my book is really basic because I didn’t want to put hard dishes in.  The first chapter is midweek meals for the family and the second is for friends, barbecuing when boys come around.

The third and last chapter is a ‘New Direction’, with more advanced food and some dishes from MasterChef.  Braised beef shin with pomme puree, bone marrow & vegetables and the $20, 000 fish pies are in there – the MasterChef dish that raised money for charity.  This last chapter was by far the easiest to write.

AGFG:  How was the cookbook writing experience for you?

ANDY:  Until I had to write a cookbook, I had never measured things up and it was hard to know how much to put into my dishes.  So I took an educated guess and then tested it out.  Also, I experimented with some new stuff I hadn’t even cooked before.  

But I don’t have much of a sweet tooth and had to incorporate a few of those, so Chloe came in on that side.  We’re friends from the show and do a lot of pop up restaurants together so she was more than happy to get in there and share.

AGFG:  There’s rumour of you and your MasterChef mate, Benny, going into the restaurant business in Mexico. What’s the real story here?

ANDY:  One day we would like to open a restaurant and really get our hands dirty, but right now we’re nowhere near opening one.  It’s a lot of work getting into the kitchen, working out the business side of things, and running a service. 

Being a sparky, we read a few books but we don’t write them.  But with the deadline in place I wrote The Next Element in 6 or 7 weeks, which is unheard of for MasterChef - New Holland was really cracking the whip.

At one stage I was literally freaking out – I’m 24 years old and haven’t been cooking all that long.  Ben helped and we broke it down into recipes and then it came down to the writing.  I’ve given him a bit of a sum for his helping hand and you’ll find a number of his Mexican recipes in the book.

Ben and I are actually heading toMexico- it is definitely going to happen - and there’s a TV show in the works.

AGFG:  You maintain a basic philosophy about food - simple but not predictable.  What surprises are in store for fans within The Next Element?

Simple is my main food philosophy… and tasty.  It needs to taste like you’ve been preparing for hours on end. 

I like to be part of the party so I designed meals that you can do before the party starts.  I’m really big on barbecues and gatherings on the weekend. 

I don’t believe in fame and am still the same person no matter what’s happened over the past 20 months.  It’s all been a massive whirlwind but I don’t call it ‘fame’.  I feel like life is different and I have a lot more mates but I’m still the exact same person.

The Next Element is 100% Andy Allen, winner of MasterChef 2012.  Being the social kind of guy that he is, he’s also included a number of delicious recipes from his talented friends, published by New Holland, rrp $45.00.