Working with some top brands and publications, food stylist, recipe writer and photographer Michelle Crawford proudly calls the Huon Valley home. This year she’s curating The Taste of Tasmania Culinary Program, featuring Tassie’s top gastronomy talent.
How did you get into the industry and to where you are today?
I’ve always loved food and been inspired by beautiful produce and the people who grow it. When I moved to Tasmania everyone was so friendly and welcoming, and I meet some brilliant people who I was able to connect and collaborate with. We were all starting out in a sense, rocking up to markets at 6am to peddle our wares, growing food, curing bacon, baking cakes, you had to style and photograph your product to promote it, and work just blossomed from there. So being in the right place at the right time helped, that plus a lot of hard work.
What prompted your move to Tasmania?
We were living in Sydney’s inner west and wanted to quit the rat race for a slower pace of life. Friends living in Hobart invited us down for a weekend back in October 2004, and it was love at first sight. We raced back to Sydney, quit our jobs, packed up the house and six weeks later we were living here.
How has being in Tasmania shaped this latest part of your career?
Enormously! When my children were small I wrote a blog about our life in the Tasmanian countryside called Hugo and Elsa. I was so inspired by the surroundings in the Huon Valley and our new lifestyle. I shared stories about the challenges of growing your own food when you don’t know what you’re doing, the escapades of too many chickens, of badly made jam and the challenges of renovating an old farmhouse with no money, it really struck a chord with a lot of people and eventually led to a book deal with Random House. The stuff of dreams! This opened the door to so many incredible opportunities and I put it all down to living in Tasmania and being inspired by our wonderful lifestyle.
You’re part of the team producing The Taste of Tasmania. Can you tell us about the part of the program you’re putting together?
This year we’re launching the Culinary Program, a full roster of events featuring the stars of the Tasmanian food scene. Hobart is one of the hottest places to eat right now, there’s an energy to our dining scene unmatched by any other city in Australia. And while the Taste Festival has always had a strong tradition of connecting producers, winemakers and producers to the community, audiences are more sophisticated now, wanting to connect with the Tasmanian food story on a deeper level. The Culinary Program gives audiences the chance to get up close with chefs and producers in an intimate setting, from a cheese making workshop with Franklin’s Analiese Gregory, pasta making with Oskar and Federico from Fico, wine blending masterclasses with Jeremy Dineen from Josef Chromy, there’s almost 40 exclusive dining events, workshops and demonstrations. I’m really pleased that not only have we invited some of the leading lights of Tasmania’s culinary story, but also people who work behind the scenes, growers, producers and chefs doing delicious things, that you wouldn’t usually get to hear about.
Which program events are you looking forward to most?
So many! I’ll be at Matt Breen’s Cucina Provera class, Matt has so many authentic Italian dishes in store, you’ll feel like you’re snacking on the streets of Florence. But Dishing Up the Dirt is a favourite, three farmers who are chefs, Stan from Fat Carrot Farm in Oyster Cove, and Mike and Lauren Layfield from Felds Farm in Bagdad, these three grow the produce that you’ll find on the menu at some of Hobart’s finest restaurants, but they are also talented chefs in their own right, often throwing pop up dinners that sell out in minutes. I get so hungry when Mike describes the delicious feasts he cooks with Stan, so I thought the best way to get an invite is to put them in program. Franca Zingler from Port Cygnet Catering is an incredibly talented pastry chef who trained in Germany (Black Forest Cake anyone?) and worked for Adrian Zumbo in Sydney. Her fruity dessert demonstration, using all those luscious Tasmanian summer fruits like cherries, strawberries and raspberries will be another highlight.
You work at Fat Pig Farm near Cygnet with Matthew Evans as a cook and workshop teacher. What do you love about teaching?
It’s sounds cliché, but the connections you make with people. I love to talk about food, it’s my favourite topic ever, so getting to spend the day with people who love to eat, and who almost always have their own remarkable food stories to tell is such a pleasure.
What is your favourite season here?
I think the greatest discovery since moving to Tasmania is noticing the distinct rhythm of the four seasons, and when I first moved here my fave was definitely winter, because I do love hibernating and keeping cosy indoors, never far from a full teapot. But these days, I really love spring, all the flowers, the fresh green colours of the landscape and the birdsong.
And your favourite ingredients to work with?
Anything that’s straight from the garden that’s in season, right now it’s spring greens like asparagus and snow peas along with Meyer lemons and rhubarb. You can keep it simple when you pick produce straight from the garden, I like chargrilling asparagus on the bbq or sauteeing greens with young garlic and deliciously fruity olive oil from a farm down the road. The Meyer lemons are made into a bright tangy curd and the rhubarb goes straight onto rustic tarts served with thick kefir cream.
When in town where do you like to eat and drink?
I adore Ettie’s because I love casual snacky type foods served with a killer wine list, and I’ve shared some wonderful times there with friends. I also love Fico for their sublime pasta, and Templo, because they cook such simple rustic fare using stellar local produce, given a gentle Italian flourish.■