As someone who’s infamous for going through phases of eating only one food at a time and then never being able to eat them again—ah sushi, how I miss you—and as someone who finds constant, blatant, viewer-assaulting advertising masquerading as entertainment—ala Masterchef—equally as difficult to stomach, I’m afraid the fascination with the celebrity chef and the suburban wannabe chef has largely passed me by.
Couple that with a sizeable concern about the ethics and environmental impact of our food choices and food production practices and I’m, well, perhaps not cooking shows’ and cookbooks’ target market.
How I recently signed up to go see chef turned author turned presenter Kylie Kwong (about whom I had only the vaguest of notions) speak about her new book, It Tastes Better, I’ll never know. But I’m very glad I did—it turns out that Kwong is not your ordinary celebrity chef and her and my thinking are quite closely aligned.
Ahead of the it’s-cool-to-be-seen-to-be-green fad, Kwong, who trained with Rockpool’s Neil Perry before opening her own restaurant with Bill Granger, implemented some seriously, not-just-for-show green measures way back in 2004.
Among its thumbs-up practices, her restaurant uses only sustainable, locally sourced, fresh, seasonal produce and serves filtered tap water instead of the bottled variety. In fact, the restaurant’s so groundbreaking and green it was awarded The Sydney Morning Herald’s inaugural Sustainability Award in 2009.
Kwong possesses the energy of someone who’s living their dream. She’s passionate, she’s compelling, and she’s incredibly, infectiously funny. It Tastes Better is the print realisation and recognition of her beliefs. It’s also a tribute, if you like, to the producers who provide food for her restaurant and their willingness to stick to their principles and pursue their dreams when there are other more efficient but ultimately ethically or environmentally unsound production alternatives. In this tome, Kwong pairs over 100 salivation-worthy recipes with stories of, and interviews with, the producers themselves.
Then there are the spectacular, hearty, textured photographs. The book is good enough to eat, and the rich images and text give me hope that we’re starting to move in the right direction for food production. It helps that we’re being led by someone as knowledgeable, down to earth, committed, and downright likeable as Kwong.
Will I be buying a copy of It Tastes Better? Yep. Will I be visiting her restaurant next time I’m in Sydney. Of course. Any chef/author/presenter who can almost turn a non-foodie environmentalist like me into a foodie must be very, very good at her job. The food might taste better, but the philosophies and practices behind it also sit better with me.