Interview with Karen Martini for BHG Live!

For 3 days only, from 3-5 May 2013, enjoy Better Homes and Gardens LIVE at Melbourne Showgrounds, including food demonstrations with Karen Martini.

Click here for your AGFG Member ticket discount.

Interview with Karen Martini for BHG Live!

AGFG: For the past 6 years you've been the resident chef in Australia's longest running lifestyle television series, 'Better Homes and Gardens'. Has TV presenting changed your chef style or opened your eyes to a cooking habit (good or bad) that you hadn't realized before?

KAREN: I suppose it’s opened my mind up to the habits of the home cook - good and bad - such as shortcuts, what they’re likely to carry in their pantry, and what they might want to cook but don’t have the skills for. It’s given me insight into what help people might need, and I try to hone in on those things for the viewers.

AGFG: Better Homes and Gardens LIVE is taking place at Melbourne Showgrounds on 3-5 May 2013. Any hints as to what you and fellow cooking guru, Fast Ed have in store for The Better Cooking Stage?

KAREN: Well I’ll give you the hint that we’re looking forward to doing one show together, and the key ingredients in that show are barley and mussels; they’re a little more unusual, so we’re going to show people how they can cook them at home. In my other classes, we’ll be doing fresh, fabulous food fast.

AGFG: After 15 years in business you decided to sell your one hatted Melbourne Wine Room restaurant, freeing you up to pursue other projects. Are you opening a new restaurant this year and if so, what can you tell us about it at this stage? If not, following the sale of Melbourne Wine room, has there been one particular project you've been focusing on.

KAREN: We’re focusing on a project in the city, top secret! Keep an eye on karenmartini.com or follow me on Twitter @karen_martini for the latest news about the project.

AGFG: What are a few of your autumn and winter feature flavours at mr. wolf? Extraordinary wine match at the moment?

KAREN: As the weather cools the dishes will start to get heavier and fuller flavoured. We can’t wait to get the wild mushrooms in, and the winter braises; there’ll be more starch, more potatoes. People eat more in the colder months, so the starter plates will be more of a focus as well.

mr. wolf is a casual eating house faced with good service, good food, and a good wine list with local and international boutique wines, so there’s always something there that will strike a chord, and you can always find something unusual as well!

AGFG: Renowned for your Tunisian and Italian heritage, incredible food knowledge and overall honest and humble approach to cooking, we're wondering what your key to success is while thriving in what remains a male dominated field?

KAREN: I think that you need to be open to learning constantly and consistently throughout your career. Knowledge drives your passion, and passion helps you stay true to yourself. It’s about being confident, whether it’s a male dominated field or not.

AGFG: By educating us on ingredients, providing techniques, and offering short cuts you are helping us feed our family and friends at home. What are the most important lessons you learned working as a chef, running your restaurant, while raising a family?

KAREN: Listening. Whether it’s to customers, staff, or family members. And then applying this knowledge – this makes you more efficient and aware of people’s needs, whether inspiring, serving in the restaurant or raising a family.

AGFG: With Mother's Day coming up in May, what are the key kitchen tips you picked up from your Mum growing up that you in turn are passing on to your kids?

KAREN: Well, Mum always said you have to have the right equipment to do the job, and that was pretty basic back then; a large pan, a good colander, a baking tray, and chopping board. Having the right tools makes your work in the kitchen easier, so I’m really excited to be launching my own cookware range which, from early May, you can buy nationwide, in-store at Big W.

AGFG: Any recommendations of winter recipes, old favourites we can whip up for Mum this year to say thanks?

KAREN: Ooo yeah – for something a little fancy I’d recommend my pan-seared gnocchi with scallops, mushrooms and lemon; sticky lamb shanks with dried figs and vine leaves for a heartier option; and for dessert, nothing says “thanks Mum” like my decadent Valrhona Manjari chocolate mousse. And, you can find all these recipes on my website.

AGFG: Your TV work now includes judging on MKR, where you're firm yet encouraging. Prior to your simultaneous Executive Chef roles at Melbourne Wine Room and Sydney's Icebergs Dining Room and Bar, who was your main 'firm but encouraging' mentor who helped you thrive?

KAREN: I suppose if I had to choose one it would be my partner, Michael Sapountsis. He is my main mentor on a personal level.

AGFG: How do you remain innovative and what inspires you?

KAREN: I’m constantly reading and love to travel but inspiration can come from something as simple as having a chat with someone over coffee. And then there’s the change of seasons. I love talking with my suppliers; engaging with your butcher, baker, providore and grower ensures the best and most interesting seasonal produce, and there’s no better inspiration than that!

Better Homes and Gardens LIVE: The Ultimate Home & Garden Destination

Whether you’re a renovator, foodie, DIY or craft lover, gardening or interiors addict, you won’t want to miss Better Homes and Gardens LIVE. For 3 days only, from 3-5 May, Melbourne Showgrounds will be the place to go for all the latest advice, tips and products for your home.

Click here for your AGFG Member ticket discount.