2 minutes with Alice Zaslavsky
Occupation: Edible Adventurer
Lives: Melbourne, VIC
Alice lives with her husband Nick and her part-time Rhodesian Ridgeback fur-child called Leopold Tolstoy. She leads a hectic life as a food writer, author, TV presenter, occasional MC and food educator. I’m in awe that she has to write herself another road-map for life as she worked hard and achieved all her goals already. In my book she has legend status. I spent more than 2 minutes with Alice as she had so much awesome stuff to tell us…
How did you make the career change from middle school teacher to edible adventurer?
The short answer is “I was on a cooking show that you may have heard of”, the slightly longer answer is that I was always an edible adventurer, and I’ll always be a teacher. It’s just that my classroom’s bigger now, and I don’t have to try and sneak food education into lesson plans; I can do it out in the open, and even get paid for it sometimes. I had no expectations when going on MasterChef - I just wanted to learn more about cooking and meet inspiring people. When I left the show, I didn’t want to waste the time and energy I’d expended (about 9 months from audition to finale), or the platform I’d been afforded, so I set out a road-map of ways to convey my message of “food = fun”. I wrote things like “Write a book, host a TV show, have a radio spot, have a magazine column”… never imagining that 4 years in, I could basically put that map in the bin because I’d achieved it all (I won’t, because I’m a hoarder), so now it’s time to write a new road-map, I suppose. Something involving Virtual Reality, probably.
You wrote a clever book for kids about food, that's so much fun it doesn't even seem like they’re learning. Why is children's food education so important to you?
Thank you, Sharlee Gibb. I’m always thrilled to hear “Alice’s Food A-Z” (#shamelessplug) described as “fun”, because it’s basically just a textbook - an alphabetised ingredient reference book for kids. But that’s the great thing about using food as a springboard; it’s a great equaliser, because we’ve all gotta eat, and we’d all prefer for that eating to be delicious. It’s a tremendous medium through which to teach kids about the joy of learning in general - of trying new things, being curious, taking risks (unless they’re “hot or sharp”, that is). Most importantly, understanding where food comes from, the loop from seed to sprout to salad to scraps… It helps create conscientious eaters and conscious consumers, which is critical for the future of our planet.
Among other things you were Food Editor of The Weekly Review, what's involved with being a Food Editor?
Believe it or not, being a “Food Editor” is not about “editing” the food I’m eating. In fact, I think my edible input increased by about five-fold, in order to produce literary output on a weekly basis. My body composition is already at about 80% cheese. I got to ramble on about what I’m up to for the week - a kind of ‘Specs in the City’ vibe. My favourite part was the “Secret Chef” section, where I found out where chefs and foodie types would go for different occasions. It’s a great way of finding out about hidden gems, as well as allowing those in the industry a nifty opportunity to give credit where it’s due. When I was first tapped on the shoulder for the post, I was quite taken aback, to be honest - especially since it’s been the domain of such illustrious names as Dani Valent, John Lethlean and Matt Preston. But it made a lot more sense to me when I realised that my brief would be more “friend in the know, with their mouth to the ground” than traditional food critic. My personal approach was to only write about established places that I’d be willing to take my friends back to. There’re enough critical reviews and “just opened” blasts around without me throwing my hat in the ring; I’ll leave that to my friends at other publications, and happily share their stuff, because we’re all on the same side, trying to give people the best experience of our foodscape.
You have also just wrapped on shooting a new kids TV show. Tell us about that?
Yes! I can’t talk about it too much just yet, but it’s called “Crunch Time” and it combines two of my favourite things: food and hobbies. I get to do a lot more cooking in this one unlike Kitchen Whiz, but also get involved in things like “tabletop luge” and “blindfolded tightrope walking”, so my wardrobe is more “pedal pushers and pineapples” AND I’ve got my glasses back (even though the Coke-bottle lenses wreak havoc with studio lights)! My co-host, Nick Vindin, is a seasoned sports journalist, as well as the host of kids’ gameshow Pyramid, so we bounce off each other like peas and carrots. Watch this space!
You have an impressive 34,000+ followers on Instagram, never mind your Snapchat, Twitter and Facebook fans...what's your tips for having a social media presence?
Be authentic. It’s the same advice I shared with my final Year 8 girls’ homeroom on personalised, laminated keyrings (now that I think about it, I had a lot of spare time in those days…) Dr Seuss says it best: “There is no one alive who is you-er than you”. The best way to build a following is to consider it a community, and provide that community with remarkable and consistent content. What’s more remarkable than your own story? What’s more consistent than just being yourself? If you think of your feed as a portfolio or a resume, is it an accurate reflection of you, or just a “curated” pastiche of what you think people want to see? Life’s too short for monochrome and #fitspo. At the end of the day, when it comes to harnessing social media in a worthwhile way, it’s actually not about followers or likes at all; it’s about engagement and conversation. Are you creating connection, or just seeking validation? Find your voice, your style. Be vulnerable, let people in. If you build it, they will come.
You can follow Alice and her edible adventures on Instagram @aliceinframes