Chef, food writer and owner of Foragers Field Kitchen & Cooking School, Sophie Zalokar (originally from Fremantle) will be mentoring the Southern Forest regional finalist for WA’s Signature Dish to compete in the grand finale on WA Day at the Perth Cultural Centre. WA’s Signature Dish is a competition run by Western Australia’s Department of Agriculture and Food to celebrate and encourage use of local WA produce.
I had the pleasure of meeting Sophie, an avid supporter of WA agriculture and one of three cooks at Taste Great Southern’s event Three Cooks Lunch at Pepper and Salt earlier this year.
Over coffee at The Bay Merchant in Albany, Sophie tells burger boy and I that she has been in Pemberton since 2005. Starting with an existing accommodation business in 2011 then trading as Pemberton Breakaway Cottages.
Sophie wanted to start a culinary tourism business and always dreamed of owning a shop that offers the retail farm experience you read about in English food magazines. Sophie and her husband Chris were planning to renovate their farmhouse to have a restaurant on one side, and farm shop on the other. But in the end, they decided to convert the existing shed to a small restaurant and cooking school. We were impressed to hear that Chris who is a cabinetmaker by trade, built Sophie’s field kitchen and six new self-contained chalets!
I would of loved to have experienced one of Sophie’s cooking classes when we were in Western Australia’s Great Southern. Unfortunately for us, Sophie was in Albany holidaying with her family during our visit.
Sophie can teach up to 8 in her field kitchen and offers three different types of cooking classes:
- Foraging the Southern Forest – a day class where attendees are taken on a bus to visit a local grower/producer before going back to Sophie’s field kitchen to cook up 4 recipes to enjoy for lunch. Sophie explains that, “each cooking class is tailored each day. Recipes are designed around basic cookery skills depending on what the group requires i.e. advanced cooks who want help with pastries or home cooks who want basic skills”.
- Foragers Foundation Workshops – these 2 day workshops focus on fundamental cookery skills and basic food production. Sophie tells us she usually teaches bread making in Winter.
- Cooking Demonstration Classes – these demonstrations include printed recipes, tastings of the dishes presented and an accompanying beverage.
If you are heading to the Great Southern, I’d definitely recommend one of Sophie’s cooking classes, visit Foragers website for more info.
Sophie also tells us about her experience as Maggie Beer’s second apprentice some 25 years ago, long before Maggie’s current fame…
“Maggie is the same today as she was the day I was her apprentice. She is amazingly passionate, one of the best cooks, her food is so delicious to eat, and it was a great [experience].”
“Maggie is self taught, she learnt to cook with intuition, no measurements – never went to trade school, never trained with a classic chef, she cooks with her heart, gusto and energy – [which makes it]difficult to learn the technical aspects of cooking but trade school takes care of that.”
“Maggie loves food as a life thing not a job – as a personal pleasure [which is]very important, as some chefs may cook for a job then eat anything at home.”
Maggie Beer sounds like my Chinese mum who learned to cook after retiring at 50, she doesn’t use measurements so you have to watch and learn. Mum’s first and only recipe I’ve managed to put pen to paper is her special mango pudding recipe which I’m super proud made it to Beaufort Street Festival’s 2013 Recipes & Ramblings Cookbook.
It was a pleasure to meet Sophie and I will have to make sure we get to Foragers next time we’re in the Great Southern. Follow Perth Munchkin, WA’s Signature Dish Southern Forest region’s official food blogger for all the behind-the-scene info re Sophie and her finalist’s journey to dishing up WA’s signature dish.
If you love your local produce, check out my Taste Great Southern posts on foodie cravings: