Maggie Beer opens up about her life, as she joins the STM team | Ralph Lauren

Must Read

Maggie Beer’s laughter is ringing down the phone, though I can barely hear her speak.

First, I got put through to Dave the delivery driver, I tell her, then the reception is so bad we’ve decided Beer should sit where she can hear me and I’ll be the one to squash the phone against my ear. “If you don’t mind, if you don’t mind,” she asks, then laughs. “This is very strange.”

For those who have followed Beer’s career through her Barossa Valley Farm Shop, her books, her television shows and her COVID-pick-me-up cooking videos, she is for the next 40 minutes everything you would expect — warm, passionate and full of fun. She would make the ideal companion over tea and scones, as long as she did the baking.

Her down-to-earth nature has made her accessible to a nation that loves her — she is the resilient girl who went to work at age 14 when her family’s business struck trouble, the young woman uncertain of where life might lead, the hard-working mother who built a business empire and worried she wasn’t spending enough time with her family and the parent who grieved the loss of her eldest daughter, Saskia, last year. Saskia was just 46 when she died in her sleep.

Beer shies away from the tag of Australia’s favourite foodie but agrees that people can relate to her. “I’m driven by ingredients, I’m driven by produce, by simplicity, so I think that is accessible for people,” she says.

Renowned Australian cook Maggie Beer.
Camera IconRenowned Australian cook Maggie Beer. Credit: Dragan Radocaj

“If I can do this anyone can. That’s how I want people to think about it. I’m a messer, I’m erratic. I think the lack of formal training is part of it. It works for me, but I’m not saying that it works for everyone.”

Beer inherited much of her love of cooking from her father, Ronald, and her ability to find joy in life from her mother, Doreen.

“I think how lucky I am,” she says. “Lucky that I really did inherit it from my mum. I have a very optimistic nature.

“Can I say I am easily excitable, but only by things that matter to me. You know, I’m not a raving lunatic but I am surrounded by beauty, food and wine, and friends and family.”

She remembers her paternal grandmother and her parents as excellent cooks. “The food was always good even through our hardship,” she says.

“Dad was passionate, a dreamer, and very musical. He had an instinct for food and the keys were simplicity and quality produce.”

In her mum’s cottage garden she learnt about the importance of herbs and spices and flavour.

Though Beer would often cook at home, she would be 34 before she understood food would be her life.

She lost the chance to go to university when she had to find work to help her family after her father’s business got caught in a credit squeeze in 1959.

For the next 10 years she would travel and work as a receptionist, a lift operator, in nursing and as an assistant to a geophysicist in Libya for British Petroleum.

Her life would change again when she met her husband Colin in Mt Buller, Victoria, at age 25. They would marry four months later in January 1970 and settle in Sydney.

In 1973, the couple decided to chase Colin’s dream to return home to his beloved Barossa Valley and farm pheasants. They would also grow vines, plant quince and olive groves, and breed quails on their Nuriootpa property.

Maggie and husband Colin on their wedding day in January 1970
Camera IconMaggie and husband Colin on their wedding day in January 1970 Credit: Maggie Beer/instagram/supplied, Maggie Beer/instagram

Beer had learnt the hard lessons of her early years and nothing went to waste. She conjured pates and terrines, pickled quails eggs and made quince paste.

Surplus Rhine riesling grapes were made into verjuice, the liquid of unripe grapes that gives a sour flavour to food.

In 1979, the couple opened the Farm Shop that remains at the heart of their business today and the acclaimed Pheasant Farm Restaurant, which they closed in 1993. Beer had finally realised her calling.

Her legendary work ethic and sunny disposition became a perfect balance of ingredients.

After the restaurant closed, the couple opened a thriving export kitchen in nearby Tanunda,

Beer found a national audience in television shows such as The Cook and the Chef, The Great Australian Bake Off and MasterChef and her cooking books became consistent bestsellers.

As a guest judge on MasterChef Australia season 5 with George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston
Camera IconAs a guest judge on MasterChef Australia season 5 with George Calombaris, Gary Mehigan and Matt Preston Credit: Supplied/Supplied

She became a great advocate for Australian farmers and cooking with seasonal produce.

Bake Off co-host and old friend Matt Moran has described Beer’s most endearing features as her kindness, her passion for food and her endless resource of energy to share it with others.

The decision to name her Senior Australian of the Year in 2010 amazed Beer but she thought carefully about where she could make the most difference. Speaking to 1000 chief executives of aged care in Hobart later that year made up her mind.

Senior Australian of the Year Maggie Beer poses for a portrait at Parliament House on January 25, 2010 in Canberra.
Camera IconSenior Australian of the Year Maggie Beer poses for a portrait at Parliament House on January 25, 2010 in Canberra. Credit: Stefan Postles/Getty Images, Stefan Postles

She set up the Maggie Beer Foundation in 2014 to help change the quality of food in aged care.

It is a consuming passion.

“If everyone believes in the difference food can make in residential aged care, then we can find the solution because it is an incredibly complex arena,” she says.

Beer, who was 76 last month, has sold out of her company over the past five years but remains a director and brand ambassador of Maggie Beer Holdings.

It has reported strong sales, particularly online, in the past year and the Cooking with Maggie videos have been downloaded from Facebook and Instagram in their millions.

She says she will always be involved with the company but is embracing the opportunity to find joy in different things, though, she laughs, she hasn’t found that mythical life balance.

“As I have got older, I have taken the time to do the things that are important to me,” she says. “Things that get pushed aside when you are working so hard. For me it is about music, reading and singing.”

Her loves are classical and jazz music and she still sings in the choir she joined 15 years ago.

“I think, why didn’t I do it all my life? But you know, that was circumstances. At times you have to have the time to do things.”

She and Colin spent most of the past weekend in their garden. “Let me tell you, it was beautiful, really beautiful,” she says.”

I ask what she would cook if I were to come around for dinner. “Well,” she says emphatically, “perhaps I can tell you what we had last night.” Colin has been taken to lunch by a granddaughter so it was just going to be leftovers tonight.

“I had this big trombone zucchini in the garden and I was talking to my friends and they were talking about (Australian cook) Belinda Jeffery’s zucchini pie. I looked it up and I had some of the ingredients so I thought I would use them as the base. There was zucchini, dill and red onions from the garden.

“I put everything in using her ideas and with some fresh mint from the garden and some tomatoes, that was dinner. It was wonderful.”

Maggie Beer, Australian Cook meets with Prince Charles, Prince of Wales at Seppeltsfield Winery on November 10, 2015 in Barossa Valley, Australia.
Camera IconMaggie Beer, Australian Cook meets with Prince Charles, Prince of Wales at Seppeltsfield Winery on November 10, 2015 in Barossa Valley, Australia. Credit: Daniel Kalisz/Getty Images, Daniel Kalisz

Beer hopes readers of her recipes in STM will take to the kitchen. “They are not complex, they are driven by flavour,” she says.

“They are there to be cooked, not to be looked at. I love sharing what I can impart to people, which is the confidence to have a go.”

Get your copy of STM featuring Maggie Beer’s delicious recipes inside The Sunday Times every weekend.

Source link

Leave A Reply

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Latest News

Proactive Parking Techniques to Deter Repossession

Introduction: In today's challenging economic climate, many individuals face the risk of having their vehicles repossessed due to financial difficulties....

More Articles Like This