2 minutes with Dani Valent
Occupation: Writer. Eater. Cook
How did you get into food writing?
I was working as a travel guide writer for Lonely Planet when I first started food writing. My first big food writing job was eating my way around Turkey to write a Lonely Planet guide to Turkish food. Much better than the standard LP routine of checking youth hostels for bed bugs!
You are a self-described Thermomix freak, how did you and Thermomix find each other?
I first heard of Thermomix when writing an article about chefs and the gadget that they wanted next. They all said this weird word, 'Thermomix'. I had no idea what they were talking about so I hosted a demo then became slightly besotted. I would call myself an old-school cook - I like cutting and stirring as much as I ever did - but I've been amazed at how Thermomix has expanded my cooking horizons and also added a big branch to my career.
You co-wrote a film that premiered at Sundance, would you give up food for film?
I was really lucky to co-write a feature film that actually got made, and that I'm really proud of. It's called HERE and it's set in Armenia, which is also where we made it. I wrote HERE with Braden King, an American director, and he's the one that actually made it happen and dealt with the endless rolling crises that seem to be what filmmaking is all about. Film isn't my world and you have to really burn with desire to get films up. I do have film projects bubbling away, though, and I am certainly fine with cooking videos (see below!)
Who is your favourite chef you have written about?
That's hard. I was probably most fan-girl-ish about Yotam Ottolenghi - I skipped my daughter's school concert to interview him (bad mother moment). Journalism has changed a lot in the time I've been writing so when I think about my favourite stories, they're the longer ones, the ones you barely get to write anymore, because magazines and newspapers don't have the space for them, and because there's this idea that people have short attention spans. Personally, I think if the story's good, people will read it.
What's cooking for dinner tonight?
Today is a quick one. My 12-year-old daughter is vegetarian and needs a meal to eat at her post-soccer-training sausage sizzle, so I'm packing her up with roasted chickpeas, sweet potato, tomato and broccoli with cauliflower-and-cabbage rice. The rest of us will have the same plus a cheeky chicken schnitzel while she's out of the house.
What do you do now that you could never have imagined?
I started Thermomix Restaurant Club last year, running Thermomix degustations in restaurants around Australia. The chefs I've worked with (Mark Best, Daniel Wilson, George Calombaris, Sean McConnell, among others) developed five-course menus of dishes made in the Thermomix, then served them in their great restaurants. I hosted the evenings and generally made sure everyone had fun. I've reviewed restaurants for 15 years and part of that project is encouraging people out to eat meals, try new things, and have a good time. This is a new and unexpected way to celebrate restaurant culture, and such a direct and engaging way to do it - oh, and an excuse to frock up, too!
You have recently launched www.danivalentcooking.com, what is this new project and where do you find the time?
Dani Valent Cooking is a new website of Thermomix cooking videos and recipes, some of my dishes and some from great chefs and cooks that cross my path. The idea came from teaching cooking classes and seeing people move from 'I can't do that' to 'Yeah, I'm going home to cook!' It's very satisfying and with video I can reach more people in more places, hopefully empowering them to cook, eat and enjoy.
Regarding finding the time, I'm a freelancer and a mum, I work from home and it's a constant juggle. I put everything I need to do on the same list - whether it's developing a recipe for a video, hanging out washing, writing a restaurant review, going for a run or taking the kids bowling. It's all important. I find it more relaxing to let life be a big jumble than to have set hours for certain things. That said, it's easy to get lost in the list. I try to have weekly, monthly, quarterly and annual plans to refer to, to keep me on track and also to help me celebrate things achieved and ticked off. We are all tumbling from one thing to the next so we never feel finished. I do think it's important to acknowledge things that are finished along the way.
You can follow Dani on Instagram @danivalent