Tessa Brown | Vignerons Schmolzer & Brown

Tessa Brown.jpg

2 minutes with Tessa Brown
Occupation: Winemaker/ Viticulturist
Business: Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown
Lives: Beechworth
Age: 39

www.vsandb.com.au (coming soon)

Vignerons Schmölzer & Brown are new players in the Australian wine industry. Tell us about it.
My partner Jeremy and I had talked about planting a vineyard since 2007. We found land in 2012 and are still in the trenches of establishment, though we’re starting to pay bills a little less late now. Planting a vineyard is far more expensive than you think, even with twenty years of experience. We've planted two hectares at the highest altitude with Chardonnay, Riesling, Nebbiolo and Shiraz.

Why did you want to start your own wine business?
For many of the reasons other people do – artistic freedom, the possibility of doing better financially. At age 33, I was coming up against discrimination: the presumption that I’d have kids soon and move out of wine production into sales and marketing. I fought it for a while but it became untenable, and the land came up at the right time.

How do your wines fit within the greater wine community of Beechworth?
We're a bit different to most Beechworth wine businesses. To balance out the money we sank into planting, we started making wine with purchased fruit, including some from the King and Alpine Valleys. Most Beechworth vignerons are 100% Beechworth fruit. Also, our style is more modern than is typical in Beechworth. We use less new oak and have less time in barrel before bottling, but we do observe other local techniques, like basket pressing, wild yeast, allowing malo to go through in Chardonnay. We fit in but in our own way.

What does a complex issue such as sustainability in the wine industry mean to you:
In the vineyard?
I have this one worked out the most. Grapes in Australia are an introduced species that we plant in a monoculture, on land stolen from First Nations People. Keeping that in mind helps keep things real. We have eighteen hectares of land on our farm, and only a maximum of four that we're likely to plant vines on. When the business can afford it, we plan to integrate a mix of crops, trees and animals to make nutrient cycling effective and functional.

It's a shame life is so short, because I have about 100 years of work to do to get our farm, Thorley, humming as a system. I also hope to get to a point where we start to pay the rent socially. I don't know what shape that will take, but we'll get input from Aboriginal people that leads us in the right direction. Financial, environmental and social sustainability is a lot of balls to keep in the air but it's worth trying for.

In the winery?
Winery operations are a shadow dance to the vineyard's growing season and although the work happens indoors it can’t be separated from the vineyard. We're using fewer cleaning chemicals now, but that means using more water and more power to generate heat, though water is not an issue where we are, with a 1100mm annual rainfall. When we eventually build the winery it will almost certainly be off the grid. Grape marc goes into compost which goes back to the vineyard, so the main waste challenges are packaging. Cardboard can be shredded and composted, but plastic is trickier. I'm interested to see if any leadership emerges with respect to Australia's recycling, other than shipping waste off to a developing country and giving ourselves a pat on the back.

In the bottle?
This is a thornier question. I don't see a short or even medium term solution to taking carbon miles out of our wines. Of course, I do support eating locally-produced food, but I need people in other cities to want to drink our wine. The bottles come from either France or the UAE, so the embodied energy is higher than local bottles, which are sadly less attractive than the imports.

What are your top five tips for someone wanting to embrace a more sustainable lifestyle?

  • ·Don't have more than two kids
  • Vote for policies that move away from fossil fuels
  • Live in smaller spaces and make do with less
  • Research what you consume (but that's hard to do this when you're working two jobs to keep the rent paid and clothes on the kids)
  • Respect that sustainability in Australia and other western nations is linked with class. It’s easier to live with a small footprint if you're well-off and well-educated. If you want to make sustainability possible for everyone, you also need to vote for policies that redistribute wealth

If we were to visit you in Beechworth, where should we eat and drink?
A glass of wine at the Cellar Door Wine Store is a must in the afternoons, followed by a meal at Provenance Restaurant if you're splurging, or The Ox and Hound for a warm, relaxed bistro affair.

Pick one of your wines and your favourite thing to eat with it.
My chef friend, Sally Wright from Tastetrekkers, made us a chestnut congee a few months back that totally blew my hair back. It's a humble dish, but warming and inventive all at once, and was great with a glass of our 2016 Brunnen Pinot Noir.

Follow Tessa and her life in wine on Instagram @vsandbwines

Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy


Alexx Stuart | Low Tox Life

  Photography by Rob Palmer

Photography by Rob Palmer

2 minutes with Alexx Stuart
Occupation: educator, activist, change agent and now author
Business: Low Tox Life
Lives: Sydney East
Age: 41


What was the food culture of your family growing up and how does that compare with the one you’re creating for your own family now?
I've had a beautifully mixed food culture in my family. We're French/Mauritian on Mum's side and British on Dad's – so everything from French, Indian, Créole, African, British influences through our day-to-day eating. Plus a great whack of convenience-led takeaways, because I was a child of the 80s and that's what we all did. I guess the main difference now is a deeper understanding of where our food comes from. From my work and research I now place a stronger emphasis on produce rather than products.

What were you doing before you pursued your path into Low Tox Life?
I was in two industries before starting Low Tox Life. Firstly, Prestige Beauty and Fragrance and then what I called my quarter life crisis and starting in hospitality with a brief foray into singing in bars and nightclubs (as you do). Over time, I started to piece together why I often felt so dreadful. I felt called to share what I was learning, firstly with friends and family, and then the wider community. I want to share the information about what we put on us, in us as food and what we surround ourselves within our homes.

Where do you get your enthusiasm and energy from?
Helping people live their best lives and leave a healthier planet behind for our kids – that makes it pretty darn easy to wake up every day and be excited.

What are the most rewarding things about what you do?
Seeing people's life-changing comments once they've been through one of our courses; meeting people at talks and workshops, and receiving messages about how one of the podcasts was a game-changer for the health of their child. It honestly blows my mind and I'm so grateful for the beautiful exchange of energy between me and our community. Social media is the absolute last thing I would hand over to someone else in my team. I just love chatting with people, helping them, and working on puzzles together. It's the best!

If we were to visit, what recipe from Low Tox Life book would you prepare for us?
If we were going to have a long lunch, it'd be the Mauritian feast in my book. I love showing off Mauritian food – everyone always loves it. For dessert, we'd wait a couple of hours and then have the spiced fig gingerbread with a cup of Mauritian vanilla tea which always reminds me of my grandmère.

What is your favourite food indulgence?
85% chocolate. Not a day goes by without it.

Who was one of your favourite foodies that you’ve interviewed on your podcast and why
Jude Blereau (read our interview with Jude here). She is a dear friend and the fairy godmother of the whole-food movement here in Australia. Her passion for food and the joy you hear in her voice when she speaks about cooking is enough to carry you into the kitchen to cook for 20.

What is the one message you want the readers of your new book to takeaway from it?
That if you are wanting to make changes, do it at your pace and in your way so that all your changes resonate along the way. I am not your guru. There is no ‘perfect way’ to do a low tox life and if you're feeling overwhelmed or guilty - don't! You can't be hard on yourself for what you didn't know yesterday. Just get excited for what you are going to change from today, now that you know differently.

Alexx’s book is called Low Tox Life: A handbook for a healthy you and a happy planet (Murdoch Books) and is available now, check it out here. You can also follow Alexx on Instagram @lowtoxlife

Interview by Amanda Kennedy. Amanda is an artist currently doing a writing degree. You can find her on Instagram @artbyamandakennedy



Lauren Bonkowski | Two Poles Apart

2 minutes with Lauren Bonkowski
Occupation: graphic designer/art director
Business: Two Poles Apart
Lives: Melbourne
Age: 31


When you were studying Communication Design at Uni, did you know that hospitality brands were going to be your niche?
In hindsight, this is probably where I was always going to end up. I distinctly remember sketching out a ridiculous sunken bar for my dream house at 14. And at 17 I started organising wildly overcomplicated “cocktail parties” ignoring the fact that everyone was perfectly content with grapefruit Cruisers at the time. I think my interest in design for hospitality was a subconscious marriage of the way my family expresses love- through food, with my love of art.

Tell us about some of the brands you have worked with?
I’m very lucky that my job allows me to work remotely for clients across Australia. There’s been Pirate Life in SA, Starward Whisky, Maidenii Vermouth, & Melbourne Moonshine here in VIC, Lost Palms Brewery in QLD, Sullivans Cove Distillery & Boekamp Brewery in Tassie, West Winds Gin in WA and a stack of great venues across the country. 

How do you work with hospitality businesses to create their identity?
The biggest part of my job is to help clients break down and vocalise what their often non-visual brain wants. I’ve realised if I skip this part at the beginning, projects take triple the time to finish. When everyone is on the same page aesthetically and thematically I start actually nutting out designs. My job is to create a distinctive visual language that expresses brands’ personalities in an appealing and relevant way.

What's your favourite part of your work?
There are a lot of favourites, but in a very geeky way today I’ve been quite contentedly searching for that perfect font for more hours than I care to admit. One with a character that fits the personality of the brand. Packaging relies on really solid font choices.

You are one-quarter of the Marionette team, can you give us the low down on this fab range of liqueurs?
Consumers are loving Australian Gins and Whiskies, but the liqueur world is still completely dominated by European players. Our aim is to make the most out of Australian produce (which is some of the best in the world) to create local alternatives. We launched with a Dry Cassis (blackcurrants from Richard in Tassie) and an Orange Curacao (thanks to Glenn in Mildura) and we’re gradually picking up steam with 3 more products to come this year. Eternally grateful to the bar community for being so incredibly receptive to and supportive of us. It’s been quite the year! 

Worksmith sounds like the best co-working space ever, what's it all about?
I’ve done the rounds when it comes to co-working spaces and this one is pretty &*#()@ great. At most shared spaces everyone makes attempts to be friendly but when it comes down to it often everyone ends up in their own little stress bubble. At Worksmith I’m surrounded by people in the same world facing the same challenges, and more importantly genuinely celebrating each other's successes. It’s a natural community which is why I think it’s such a great place to be.

See more of Lauren’s work with hospitality brands on Instagram @twopolesapart

Worksmith is a co-working space for the food and beverage industry located on Smith St in Collingwood, check them out on Instagram @worksmith.io




Lauren pic.png

Julia Turshen

2 minutes with Julia Turshen
Occupation: Author, recipe writer
Latest Book: Small Victories (Released September 2016)
City: More like a hamlet in Ulster County, New York (2 hours north of NYC)
Age: 31


You studied poetry in college, how did you transition into recipe development and writing cookbooks?
I’ve always loved to cook and loved food, so I’ve been writing about food since I was really young.  For school reports, I used to write about the food in whatever book we were reading. In college, food came into my poetry so much.  So the transition into writing about food and writing recipes wasn’t really much of a transition, but more of an extension.  I also have this theory that every recipe is a little poem.  You have to be similarly economic with your words and as descriptive as possible without being overly-descriptive.  It’s all about word choice for forward movement.

Small Victories is a bible of instructions and inspirations for the home cook, how did the idea for the book come about?
I can only describe it as a slap-your-forehead, Oprah-esque aha! moment.  I had been thinking about the recipes for so long and then one day thought that identifying the small victories in each one would work well as an organising principle and also a title.  I have always looked for the small victories in every situation, even if it’s just finding a great parking spot.  Identifying them and celebrating them isn’t just a great way to approach life, it’s a wonderful way to become a confident home cook.

Which recipe from the book would you recommend for all home cooks to add to their repertoire?
It’s so hard to choose just one! But I would start with the No-Sweat Vinaigrette, which consists of putting a few things in a jar and then shaking it and then you can dress anything.

What's a normal work day for you involve?
What’s normal?? Every day is different for me, but it usually involves at least a few hours in the kitchen (whether I’m developing or testing recipes, or just making a meal for my wife Grace and myself) and a few hours on my computer either in my home office or at the kitchen table.  I am always writing down notes for recipes and stories and also answering email.  A lot of email. 

What cookbooks are on the shelf in your kitchen?
I actually don’t keep cookbooks in my kitchen, I keep them in my home office and by the bed.  I’ve always read cookbooks at night, ever since I was little.  I find them so relaxing! And I’m always consulting them while I’m writing…way more than when I’m cooking.  Anyway, I have so many! Two of my old favourites are Lee Bailey’s Country Weekends and Edna Lewis’ The Taste of Country Cooking.  A new favourite is Vivian Howard’s Deep Run Roots (it’s almost out!).

24 hours in NYC, where should we go?
Breakfast at Eisenberg’s in the Flatiron, lunch at Via Carota in Greenwich Village, and dinner at Tanoreen in Bay Ridge, Brooklyn.  If you have time, wait in line for a slice of pizza at DiFara’s. 

Follow Julia on Instagram @turshen


Julia Turshen[7].jpg

Ella Mittas | Ela Melbourne

2 minutes with Ella Mittas
words by Ali Webb
Occupation: chef
Age: 26
Lives: Melbourne

The Greek side of my family all really love food. I’ve been surrounded by it since I was a child. Everyone in my family cooks a lot; we have dinner together once a week with my grandparents, cousins and parents.

I studied Creative Writing and finished my degree doing journalistic work for a range of magazines but I wasn’t writing about anything that I really cared about. I was bored and I have way too much energy to be bored, so my dad suggested I do a cooking course to burn some energy.

That’s when I became obsessed with cooking. I’m a very obsessive person and I am known to put all of my energy into the one thing. When I started cooking, I was consumed by it.

Family and the feeling of generosity is the baseline to my cooking. It creates an atmosphere. My family love watching me cook, helping to create this warm and inviting environment.

My dad was the main cook in my family. In a Greek family it is traditional for the men to do all the barbeque meats and the women to do all the salads and vegetables. But my dad, he has always done all the cooking and he loves it. He really researches his food. Since I was little we have been going to the market every Saturday, looking out for exciting ingredients.

It’s harder to be a chef when you are female. A kitchen is a space I’ve never really felt comfortable in, which is why I work for myself now. It’s a very competitive industry and it can be hard to get a compliment on your cooking. I’m a very sensitive person and I believe that aggression and cooking beautiful food just doesn’t match. Cooking comes from the soul and the best part about it is you get to be really creative.

I have just finished a month-long pop up at Gertrude Street Enoteca, where my cooking career actually started. I worked alongside the renowned Tansy Good and it was all women in the kitchen. We changed dishes everyday which made the work fun and physical and also challenging.

My style is a mixture of old and new school. I cook a lot of traditional Greek food, but it’s not based on technique. All of my food is really easy to cook. I haven’t had a great deal of training, just small stints in kitchens where I have worked a year with someone and then six months with someone else. Not the traditional four years under the same roof as a lot of chefs do.

I was in Istanbul for twelve months and then Israel for six weeks, working in kitchens. I’m very persistent and if there’s a place where I want to work, I simply contact them and if I don’t hear back, I contact them again. I asked Annie Smithers for a job for two years until she finally gave me one! If you are passionate enough and try hard enough, people will have you come and work for them. Kitchens have such a high turnover, there’s always work.

I learnt so much in Istanbul, it was hard but so worth it. In Israel I worked with the owner of Miznon in Telaviv. It was incredibly inspiring. I really admire the work of Annie Smithers, Yotam Ottolenghi – whom I worked with for a short period - and Olia Hercules, who is a food writer and chef.  She studied international relations before becoming a chef and her recipes are so well researched that I admire the way she does her whole job. She cooks but she cares so much about it.

If I were to cook one dish for my closest friends it would be Fava –  yellow split peas with onions, carrots, capers and pickled onions. It’s something I always have on the menu – it’s so simple and tasty! It’s total comfort food.

What’s Next? I’m going to focus on events and collaborations. I’d like to collaborate with an artist or work with foraging. I want to do a few research projects and put on events. I love information and finding out as much as possible about something, anything. I won’t be sitting still, that’s for sure!

You can find out about Ella’s next project on Instagram @ellamittas @ela_melbourne

Our interviewer Ali Webb is a publicist, copywriter, content creator and excellent human, you can find her @houseofwebb


 Photo by Lazlo Evenhuis

Photo by Lazlo Evenhuis