Rockin’ Women Wednesdays – Melissa Leong
It’s been a while since I gatecrashed a party. It’s been even longer since I crashed a fantastic one. In fact, it was the best party I have been to all year. I was in Sydney to say a few words about Clean Eating for the Talking Food stage at Fine Food Australia. Our Byron crew were there too including Brookfarm and Sample Food Festival‘s Remy, so I knew it would be fun, but when they all said they were going to the launch of The Great Australian Cookbook and our other local mates Clayton Donovan and Sarah Swan from 100 Mile Table would also be there, I was olive-green! “Come!” they said, but my boarding school manners prohibited me from saying yes, until I realised that I would be kicking around Kings Cross on my Pat. So I swallowed my pride and busted out to a fab restaurant called 4fourteen.
I tiptoed in amongst the speeches much to my delight I saw a dear old friend of Gowings Restaurant, Peter Russell-Clarke. Oh the fun we had! Even my beloved friend Chef Brigitte Hafner from Fitzroy’s Gertrude Street Enoteca – my ol’ hood – was there! Best of all, I introduced myself to one of the hosts, freelance food writer, recipe editor and chef wrangler Melissa Leong and apologised for gatecrashing, to which she replied that she followed me on InstaSam and of course, I was more than welcome. Don’t you just love that?!
The Great Australian Cookbook
The Great Australian Cookbook features 100 Australian cooks, chefs, bakers and producers including Charmaine Solomon, Peter Russell-Clarke, Neil Perry, Adriano Zumbo, Margaret Fulton and more and in it, they were asked “what do you cook for those you love?” The answers (recipes, of course), along with beautiful documented photos of these magical people in their most treasured places and spaces, is documented between covers adorned with artist Reg Mombassa’s iconic artwork style.
Here’s co-editor Melissa’s story. A no-nonsense girl after my own heart, especially when it comes to food trends and authentic Australian cooking. Bravo!
When it comes to the Australian food industry, chances are that Melissa Leong has written about it, broadcast it, promoted it, been friends with it, or initiated a Twitter fight about it at some point. Starting out as a freelance food writer, she took a quick 5 year detour into restaurant PR consulting (focusing on brand management, social media strategy and trouble making). She returned to what she knows and loves best; writing, radio broadcasting, television presenting and generally shouting from the rooftops about what makes the Australian food scene so great.
As a freelance food writer, she specialises in cookbooks, recipe editing and chef wrangling, and has most recently had a hand in bringing to life books for chefs Colin Fassnidge (Four Kitchens) Dan Hong, Sydney pub group Drink’n’Dine‘s This Could Get Messy, to be released in November 2015).
It doesn’t just stop there folks, this one’s not one for pigeonholing. Working with Sydney based photographer Caroline McCredie the pair operate as a photography/stylist team, producing high calibre food photography for commercial and editorial work for best in category produce brands, producers and restaurants.
A few questions for Melissa.
SG – What’s your survival food when you’re on tour, travelling or working late in your business?
When I’m travelling, which is often, I usually carry around a little zip lock bag with some unsalted, dry roasted almonds in my bag. It sounds like a total grandma move, but when you’re stuck on a plane or car and the options are dire (or nonexistent), a handful of nuts can keep you going. Notice how I didn’t use the word ‘activated’…Wouldn’t want that!
SG –What’s your healthy go-to comfort food – either at home or in a restaurant?
Tom yum soup. It’s warming, spicy, fragrant and nourishing. There are plenty of brands that make a respectable paste these days, so it’s the simplest and quickest thing in the world to make a soup with the paste, a little water or stock, some fish sauce, lime juice and a little sugar. I’ll throw in some rice vermicelli (a pantry staple) while the soup is boiling and then pour the lot over a some raw, finely sliced greens (cavolo nero, silverbeet, zucchini, broccoli or cabbage are good), mushrooms, and whatever leftover cooked vegetables I might have in my fridge. Top it with some poached chicken, coriander and spring onions and you have nourishment in a bowl.
SG –Do you have a secret remedy that keeps either your voice / mind / body in shape?
When I’m really stressed, like many people I have huge trouble sleeping. A friend told me about a meditation app called Buddhify, which really helps. They’re super quick and decidedly non hippy guided meditations that help you find a bit of calm when you need it and there’s one for almost every situation you might need a little zen. And if all else fails, there are two other options: excessive amounts of exercise to burn off nervous energy…or wine.
SG – What’s the most obscure rider or patron’s request you’ve ever heard?
I guess this doesn’t really apply as a writer but I did once have a sponsor dictate very specifically how they’d like me to write a piece on a famous chef I was profiling, so that it included references to the product in question as many times as possible. Er…yeah. Didn’t happen.
SG – Who would you most like to have dinner with? Dead or alive and why?
I don’t really mind who, so long as the conversation is smart, challenging, surprising, funny and the energy’s good. And it goes without saying that the food and wine must be really, truly and properly splendid (no foams, soils, or skid marks, please).
SG – What is your can’t live without kitchen gadget?
There’s a particular knife in my kitchen I use every day for almost everything.
SG – Which ingredient makes you the happiest?
Intelligence. One can always do with more.
Fooderati’s Fast Breakfast Smoothie Bowl
½ cup frozen mixed berries
100ml almond milk (unsweetened)
2tsp rolled oats
1tsp chia seeds
1tsp maca powder
1tsp acai powder
1tsp whey protein powder
2-3 drops vanilla extract
1 pinch cinnamon
1 pinch salt
- Throw everything in a blender. Blitz.
- Pour into a bowl and top with your favourite fruit, nuts and other good things.*I like any combination of sliced banana, toasted coconut, passionfruit, mango, goji berries, toasted almonds or chef Tom Walton’s Dux Nutt’s The Crumble (a crunchy cacao, buckwheat crumbly goodness)