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




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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


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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

Ilana Atlas | Oakridge Wines

Ilana Atlas
Occupation: Director of Oakridge Wines, Yarra Valley
Lives: Sydney

Ilana was a guest speaker at our recent event Women of Oakridge. As a corporate lawyer, Ilana has extensive experience in business, holding executive and non-executive positions in a selection of Australia’s most well-known companies. She currently sits on the boards of Coca-Cola Amatil, Australia and New Zealand Banking Group and Westfield Holdings Limited. The following is an excerpt from Ilana's inspiring talk at the event...

We all have war stories and it is fun and therapeutic to share them but what can we do. Here are a few things I have learnt along the way

1.     Celebrate and learn from success. There are incredibly talented women making wine, growing grapes, running wine companies - incredibly talented women chefs, women running brilliant front of house, owning restaurants, incredible women suppliers to restaurants of magnificent produce. Ask them to tell their stories, learn how they did it, how did they manage their kids during vintage, how did they make sure they got paid the same amount as the men and got bonuses when they performed brilliantly, how did they start their restaurant. The constant theme will be bravery, taking calculated risks.

2.     My second thing is to make sure we help each other. To be brave you need a support crew; people you ask and tell, who have shared experiences. The sisterhood is powerful. I have had so many wonderful women in my life, I know how important it is for me to be a wonderful women for others.

3.     And to help be brave you need to be prepared. I look at the prep that our chefs do at Oakridge, or front of house before service - women in food and wine know everything about being prepared. That needs to translate to your career and place in the world. If you want a pay rise you need to put together the reasons and present them so it is obvious. If you want to work more flexibly, you need to build the case and put it so confidently, no-one in their right mind could object. It is all about preparation and planning. That helps make the risks we take more manageable and helps us be more confident.

4.      Enlist the blokes. This is really important. I have spent a lot of the last 40 years talking to other women about equality and opportunity. Surprise, surprise they all agree with me. That feels good, but does not create change. Blokes are 50% of the audience - we need to enlist them to the cause and send them out to convert all the other blokes. They need to be our front line.

5.     Finally and most importantly, whatever it is - enjoy it. If you are not, every minute will be like an hour, every day like a year and you will be crossing the days off your calendar. Love it whatever it is. I listen to Jo Barrett talking about creating a sustainable restaurant, milling her flour, her desert made out of waste and she is rapturous. I wish I had felt that way about the Corporations Law. Passion and joy …. That is what we are after. I thank the women at Oakridge for giving me passion and joy and hope you find a lot of it in the future.



Victoria Sharples | The Wine Station

2 minutes with Victoria Sharples
Occupation: Senior Wine Judge/Owner (& Buyer) The Wine Station/Consultant
Lives: Melbourne, Australia

Victoria Sharples, career spans over two decades, having had a myriad of roles in the international wine industry. First and foremost she works as a Senior Wine Judge to the International Wine Challenge (IWC). She owns the well respected wine distribution company, The Wine Station ( exporting cool climate Victorian wines to United Kingdom, and importing Spanish and French wines into Australia. Currently she is about to embark on a new challenge as Head of Wine Operations at St John Restaurant Group. Recently Victoria visited me in San Sebastian and we discussed her career over a few glasses of albarino at Zelai Txiti.

How many candles were on your last cake? 
There was no cake!

What led you to a career in wine?
I was studying for a PhD which drove me to drink, literally! So an interest in wine was initiated and I cut my teeth at the Melbourne Supper Club and cultivated my interest further in London.

Tell us about your career as an Senior Wine Judge and where has it taken you so far?
Over a decade ago I was invited to judge at the International Wine Challenge in London, and from there my career has seen me travelling internationally three times a year to Europe and the UK and throughout Australia.  As a Senior Judge I have exposure to a significant range of styles and qualities of wines from hundreds of regions across the globe every year. It offers insight into emerging wine regions as well as providing an invaluable snap shot of vintage style and variations of key regions; whether it is 2014 Bordeaux, 2017 Mornington Peninsula Pinot Noir or vintage Champagne. 

As a judge I am surrounded by some of the world’s leading judges, winemakers, journalists; all the various people that make the European wine industry what it is today. One of my interests and something that I am pursuing closely, which my role as a Judge has shown me, is the breadth of fault assessment of wines. For almost a decade I have been given tremendous insights into the level of faults through the IWC.

Why did you create, The Wine Station, your own wine distribution company, importing and exporting?
Two reasons. Firstly having spent seven years working in the most dynamic wine market in the world in the 2000s, I returned home in the hope of continuing working in the wine industry but I was continuously turned down for roles because although I had a wealth of knowledge, I didn’t have a marketing degree. And secondly, I saw that there was a massive opportunity to bring interesting, smaller producers from Spain and France to Australia. And as they say the rest is history. I continued to grow the business and follow my other passion, Victorian small producers, and The Wine Station has enabled me to support these producers something that is usually missing with larger distribution companies.  I love finding new wines and spirits and bringing them into both international and Australian markets.

What do you think the wine world will be talking about next?
Probably the most pressing matters is the affect of climate change on vineyards & varietals planted. BUT If you want to talk more about trends, the popularity of extended skin contact wines, with little or no sulfur. Obviously this is the current trend in both Melbourne and London. But I believe (and hope) there will be a shift back to more traditional styles. We know that some customers will be curious or more likely encouraged by enthusiastic wine staff to try the latest funkiest style; I have seen first hand that the confronting nature of these styles wines results in a downturn in sales, with customers actually just wanting a good glass of wine that they can enjoy rather than something that is a trend & not always particularly delicious.  It is easy for wine professionals to become carried away with what’s new and different for different’s sake, rather than the audience for whom they are selecting.

Given the the industry changed since you started? What do you see as the key changes? Give me two.
Price. Simple as that. When I established The Wine Station in 2007, trade customers were willing to pay $20 LUC for a wine to pour by the glass (& charge $15). Now customers are hesitant to spend more than $12 a bottle (& still charge $15 for the glass). 

Also, everyone who likes wine thinks they can write a wine list - that it is easy, but actually its more than just about hype and label or using one or two suppliers and letting them direct the list, a good list is about balance and matching the cuisine & occasion & that means tasting the wines with the dishes which sadly does not happen as often as it could.

Here we are at Zelai Txiti, we’ve ordered Lubina (Sea bass), what are you matching it with from your Victorian cool climate wine company?
Great fresh fish! Keeping things local I have selected the Terras Gauda O Rosal. This is also a wine I am proud to have introduced to the Australian market nearly 10 years ago.  Looking at a Victorian alternative I would be drinking Anthony Brain’s Livewire Jolt Sauvignon Blanc from Geelong. This is a fume style and has wonderful texture while maintaining lovely brightness.  Like many in the trade, I tend to avoid sauvignon blanc but this is just a wonderful, easy delicious wine that brings a smile to my face!  Good wines need not be expensive!!

You can follow Victoria on Instagram @thewinestation

Hannah Green | Etta

2 minutes with Hannah Green
Occupation: restaurateur and sommelier
Restaurant: Etta
Age: 30
Lives: Melbourne

You have opened Etta this week, with partners Hayden McMillan and Dominique Fourie McMillan, tell us what the restaurant is all about?
We ultimately wanted to create a place for the neighbourhood to use as they saw fit. You can come in, have a really beautiful glass of wine at the bar, or you can have a beer from the tap, or you can come and experience dinner in the dining room.

The way we have structured the menu is pretty much the way we like to eat. Lots of the things to share with really beautiful proteins. At the moment, the flounder is gorgeous and what I want to eat for dinner every day. In saying this if you come in and don’t know what to choose from, you can trust us completely and let us feed you.

We have all worked in the industry for a while, with careers across a pretty wide range of restaurants and we just wanted a place where you can come and feel totally comfortable with every aspect. The food, the room, the service and the beverage offering.

What has been the biggest challenge in opening a restaurant?
I would have to say the actual build. I know everyone told us that it would be hard, but it was REALLY hard! Definitely a massive life lesson! I think it was the fact that it is an area that we had no experience in what so ever and you had to trust the people around you who you engaged to do the works. And like anything in the world, there are people who are amazing at their job and there are people who may not be. I think the biggest lesson I learnt was to trust my gut.

What led you to a career in hospitality? Have you always wanted to open your own place?
I kind of fell into it. I was in Perth having a year off from going to uni and took on a traineeship at really terrible pub, but realised I really enjoyed it and wanted to get more serious about it, so I moved to Melbourne. I pestered and pestered Jayden at 312 to give me a job and he finally gave in and the rest is history really. Here I am 11 years later.

I think opening my own place was something I always wanted. I grew up in a family business with my dad and uncles running a motor and smash repairs business. Although I did see the hard work that they put in, it was something that we always talked about and the personal satisfaction you get out of it being yours. I’m so lucky to have had them as constant guiding hand over this process.

You are leading the wine program at Etta, what can we expect to see on the list?
We have a pretty small list at Etta, well small in comparison to what I have worked with in the past. So this means that everything has to be there for a reason. Style, varietal, price point but above all it has to be delicious. I guess it is a mix of artisan domestic and international producers, with a few interesting numbers in there too.

We are working with quite a few local winemakers.  We actually have a wine that we have made with Dom Valentine from Valentine wine which I’m pretty excited about. It is a blanc de blanc from the Yarra that has been ageing on lees for 6 years (which is pretty rare for a local sparkling) and then we have played around the dosage levels.

Melbourne restaurants that you frequent (when you're not at Etta)?
Great question! I think Rockpool has been up there for me for years! Simply because you can go and have a burger in the bar and a beautiful glass of wine or the full shabang. I love Tipo 00 and French Saloon. I often start at Kirks and head either upstairs or just down the road.

Merricote is also up for me. They only problem is now I’m open the same days at them!!! There are so many that I could go on for ages, although Embla, Town Mouse, IDES are also. Brae is still hands down the best meal I’ve had in this country and I love what Dan, Jules and the gang are doing out there.

You can follow what Hannah and the team are doing at Etta on Instagram @etta_dining