You are in site section: Audio on demand events

Stirring the pot

Women in the business of food

Janet Jeffs
Janet Jeffs. Photo: Chris Pearce.

Women are strongly represented in Australia's food industry as producers, chefs, cookbook authors and creative writers.

Chef Janet Jeffs, novelist Marion Halligan and food historians Adele Wessell and Donna Lee Brien explore women's stories about growing, preparing and savouring food.

Presented in association with Women's History Month on Sunday 6 March 2011.

Presenters and topics

Janet Jeffs, Chef, The Ginger Room and Kitchen Cabinet, Old Parliament House, Canberra

Described as one of the 'giants of the kitchen', along with Gay Bilson, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and Barbara Santich, Janet completed an apprenticeship at Neddy's restaurant in Adelaide with Cheong Liew, and was then Chef at the Pheasant Farm in the Barossa Valley with Maggie Beer. In 1985, she opened her first restaurant, Kilikanoon, in the Clare Valley. In 1995 she moved to Canberra and opened Juniperberry, a small, fine dining restaurant. Juniperberry moved to the National Gallery of Australia in 2000, then in partnership Janet established Ginger Catering at Old Parliament House. The Ginger Room opened in March 2004 and has received many awards. Janet holds 'Talk and Taste events' every month at The Kitchen Cabinet at Old Parliament House.

Janet spoke on 'Being in the business of food'.

Marion Halligan, Novelist and food writer, Canberra

Food, its preparation and consumption, is central to Halligan's vision of domestic life. It is the subject of two of her non-fiction works, Eat My Words (1990) and The Taste of Memory (2004), and features prominently in her fiction. Her novel, The Point (2003) is set in a restaurant by Lake Burley Griffin and has a leading woman chef as its chief character. She has been described by Ramona Koval as 'a great master of writing about food and gardens and the intricacies of the human heart'. At one point she decided to omit all references to food from her fiction but she confessed 'I found I couldn't do it. Quite impossible. The kind of novels I write need food.'

Marion spoke on 'Food and fiction, an inescapable combination'.

Dr Adele Wessell, historian and lecturer, Southern Cross University

Adele has published works on historiography, teaching and community engagement and food history, and published Food History: An Introduction in 2008. Her forthcoming book is entitled First Course: An Introduction to Food History. She was a visiting fellow at the National Museum of Australia in November 2008 and has worked with curator Alison Wishart on one of the books in the Museum's collection, Our Cookery Book, by Flora Pell, which sheds light on changing domestic roles, women's position in Australian society and issues such as citizenship and home.

Adele spoke on 'Food Activism: Women at home, women in dairying'.

Professor Donna Lee Brien, Professor, Creative Industries, Faculty of Arts, Business, Informatics and Education, Central Queensland University

Donna's main areas of recent research are Margaret Fulton and other Australian women food writers and chefs such as Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer and Gay Bilson, and how the massive contributions they have made to changing our lives have only just started to be recognised because food and food magazines have been seen as women's business.

Donna spoke on 'Margaret Fulton, Gay Bilson, Stephanie Alexander, Maggie Beer – how they have changed our lives'.