Celebrity Chef Interview

While talking and thinking and writing about food is great, it's even better to hear from the long term professionals: CELEBRITY CHEFS!

Please note that this interview is fictious and did not occur in real life.

I've met up with popular female chef Maggie Beer to talk all things food and to find out more about this celebrity chef.

Maggie Beer (nee. Ackermann) was born in Sydney in January 1945. Despite not having any formal training as a chef, Beer has had a triumphant career currently spanning almost five decades. Maggie lives and works in the Barossa Valley,in South Australia, where she and her husband Colin Beer operate a business that produces a range of gourmet foods such as Beer's trademark Pheasant Farm Pate, quince paste, verjuice and gourmet ice creams. She has written and co-written many cookbooks such as Maggie's Harvest and Cooking with Verjuice, has appeared as a guest chef on MasterChef Australia, and was the recipient of the Senior Australian of the Year award in 2010 among other achievements.
Left: Maggie Beer

Above: Maggie Beer products.

Lauren Lancaster: Hi Maggie. It's so great to finally meet you! So we know you are one the most popular female chefs not only in Australia, but also around the world. Where do you think cooking really started for you?

Maggie Beer: Hi! Well, I don't really have to think about this; cooking has been a part of my life since I was born. My parents were in the kitchen and catering industry and I was exposed to good food throughout my childhood. My father was an obsessive cook and was very particular about food hygiene and the way things were made and I think this instilled in me a similar obsessiveness over my cooking [1] (just ask my daughters Saskia and Ellie!). But yes, I started really cooking at a very young age (around 7), oh so long ago *smiles*, thanks to my parents.

LL: How was your childhood different to other children in your time, both in relation to cooking and generally?

MB: In regards to cooking, I was never taught how to cook, I just knew how to [2]. As I said before, my parents really started me off. But I had a pretty hard childhood as my parents went bankrupt and I remember seeing all these unpaid and unopened bills strewn around whenever I went into my fathers study and it was pretty frightening not knowing when we could be thrown out on the streets, but my parents recovered and opened a catering business and I think that entire experience really contributed to my strong work ethic and helped me see that life isn't always easy. 
Another major difference in my childhood was the fact that I actually left school at 14 and then worked in all these little jobs around the world!

LL: Woah! What did you do after that?

MB: In my 20s I worked for a bit as an elevator operator in a department store in New Zealand and travelled a lot: in Libya I worked as an assistant of a senior geophysicist from British Petroleum, I worked as an air hostess for British Airways, and as a cook in a sailing school in Scotland. The sailing school cooking is the only paid training I had as a chef and that was short-lived! I used the whole of their larder for the four-month season in eight weeks because I'm a very generous cook,that's the only way I know how to cook! [3] Of course they didn't appreciate it as much so... *laughs* I bet you can guess what happened next!

LL: Did these places contribute to your love and pursuit of delicious food?

MB: Absolutely. Not only did the places I worked and lived in provide me with exposure to food from around the world, but they also inspired me to make delicious food and showed me that food is something that brings people together and should be treasured!

LL: On the topic of sharing, could you give us a run-down of the Maggie Beer philosophy?

MB: I really believe that little things make a big difference. Seasonal produce, picked at the peak of its ripeness is the basis of everything I do - it's all about the flavour [4]. If I had to simplify it right down to the roots, I would say my philosophy is it's all about the flavour and freshness! I also love food to be a family and friends event, where eating and making delicious food brings everyone closer; I think that is really great, especially as a mother because I can really see that closeness in my family that we all feel when we have a family meal together.

LL: You obviously have strong connections with your family both in cooking and in your everyday life. How have they helped you along your path as a celebrity chef?

MB: My family means the world to me. That and food! Yes, my family and I, namely my husband Colin and our two daughters Saskia and Elli, along with my lovely grandchildren, all work together to make our businesses work together. 

Above: Maggie and Colin Beer with their pheasants

LL: When you say business, you're talking about your restaurant in the Barossa Valley, South Australia, but what do you mean when you say your family supports you in all of this?

MB: When Colin and I opened the Pheasant Farm Restaurant in our lovely home the Barossa Valley in 1978 (see how old I am! *smiles*), I remember Sassy doing the dishes when she was 8 years old [5]! We closed that restaurant in 1993 mostly because of Colin. He could see that it was killing me because it was so busy and he just said 'ok, let's just stop.' And I was so grateful for that. It really was the right thing to do and I think that if he hadn't been there I would have worked myself to death because I just push and push myself and can't stop something that I am really into. Saskia and Elli also help out at the Farm Shop and they run the adjoining Function Centre there, which is so nice as I can spend time with my girls and make food all at the same time.

LL: Wow! So, could you tell us more about your multiple restaurants and businesses over the years?

MB: Yes, as I mentioned before, my husband and I have really had quite a journey with restaurants and businesses that has not always been a breeze. My career has certainly not been an easy journey but I have loved every part of it and I think that's really important and even the difficult times help you realise that it is all part of the important journey of life and it really has been exciting so far [6]. Colin and I started on January the 19th, 1979, which was when we opened the Barossa Pheasant Farm, but we had been working from '73 setting it all up and breeding the pheasants and when we opened the Pheasant Farm Restaurant, I really had no business plan for the future  We actually ran at a loss for 11 years, as I was just not making economically sensible decisions but the vineyards kept us going. We closed the restaurant in 1993 as I mentioned before and we set up the Farm Shop which sells lots of our signature dishes and produce. In between closing the Pheasant Farm Restaurant and opening the Farm Shop, I was a partner at the Charlick's Feed Store restaurant in Ebenezer Place in Adelaide, but my real love is for the Barossa and my Farm Shop and Function Centre.

Above: Maggie's Barossa Valley Farm Shop

LL: What do you offer at your Farm Shop?

MB: My Farm Shop, well I shouldn't say mine as it is just as much Colins (*whispers*: he's the brains and the finance and I'm the brawn and the cooking! *laughs*) offers the freshest produce and lots of my signature dishes and product range. These are my signature Pheasant Farm pheasant pate, which was the first product that started us off 20 years ago (see that, all you young people!) and remains my favourite of our pate range, the delicious quince paste, which goes beautifully with cheese or in a lamb glaze, verjuice, which is juice made from unfermented grapes, and our range of ice creams and other fresh and marinated products. 

LL: Those products sound delicious! What separates your Farm Shop from other fresh produce Australian restaurants?

MB: Well, we are the only fresh produce restaurant and shop that allows customers to try just about everything in our shop. I think that that not only gives customers a chance to eat great food, but also brings them closer to being part of our Farm Shop family. Our kitchen facility is also amazing but we wouldn't be where we are without all our amazing 110 person staff. We have everyone on board and all our staff are an integral part of the Farm Shop business. We have quality assurers, a micro biologist, cooks and many other great people who I love to work with. 

LL: You told us at the start of the interview that you are an obsessive cook thanks to your father. Do you think this affects the atmosphere in the Farm Shop?

MB: *laughs* yes! I'm a control freak, and that can be a hard personality trait to work with, as many of my staff and family agree! But the atmosphere at the Farm Shop is friendly and I believe in welcoming all our diners into a comfortable atmosphere that doesn't scream COMMERCIAL GAIN! I mean, I don't even allow lunch bookings at the Farm Shop because I want all my customers to feel the hospitality that I strive for at the Shop, no matter how busy we are. I try not to let my control freak tendencies get out of hand as that can affect everyone around me for the worst, even the customers! I just like perfect food and I hope my staff and the customers see that and appreciate that I just need that perfection in my core.

LL: Well, it sounds like I definitely need to come down to South Australia to dine at your restaurant! But the Farm Shop hasn't been your only achievement! Would you mind telling us a bit about your other endeavours?

MB: Well, there's a fine line between telling and boasting! But yes, I take pleasure in doing many things, both involving cooking and outside of my career. I have written some cookbooks, Maggie's Harvest, Maggie's Farm, Cooking with Verjuice... Oh gracious, I can't even remember the names of them all! Let's see, oh yes, Maggie's Kitchen, Maggie's Orchard (can you see a trend in how I like to name my cookbooks! *laughs*) and of course you probably know about the cookbook I co-wrote with Stephanie Alexander - Stephanie Alexander & Maggie Beer's Tuscan Cookbook! I think there are a few more but I can't remember them!

LL: Well I have here that you wrote those that you mentioned just then and also Maggie's Table, Lantern Cooking Classics and Maggie's Verjuice Cookbook.

MB: Oh of course! Lantern Cooking Classics, Maggie's Table and the Verjuice Cookbook! Thanks for reminding me! Cookbooks have taken up a lot of my time and I really enjoy writing them as I can share lots of my little tips and secrets on the freshest ingredients and the best ways to cook a meal with my readers and fellow cooks!
In other areas, I co-hosted a show on ABC1 from 2005 to 2009 called The Cook and The Chef (I'm the cook!) with Simon Bryant, who was head chef at The Hilton, Adelaide at the time but isn't any more. That was quite popular around Australia which I think is great as we televised all this good food and encouraged our viewers to cook with the freshest ingredients and produce to create delicious food for themselves and others! I also appeared on MasterChef Australia a few times and it was lovely to see all these aspiring chefs on the show eager to cook great food. 

LL: I understand that you also do work with aged care communities and charities such as HammondCare? Could you tell us more about that?

MB: One of my current projects is working with aged care facilities and elderly people with degenerative  brain diseases such as Alzheimers to help improve the food in aged care. It is a great project and involves so many amazing people; I'm just a cog in the works! I recently launched a cookbook called Don't Give Me an Egg That Bounces: 118 cracking recipes for people with Alzheimers with HammondCare, which is written for Alzheimers patients and carers, dementure patients, families and aged care communities, so that even though they may face challenges when it comes to making and eating food, they can still produce food that looks and tastes beautiful. I think that making food that is really delicious is enough to make someone really happy and I want this feeling of happiness with good food to be extended to aged care facilities and elderly people as they deserve it and being happy makes them more comfortable.

Maggie at the launch of Don't Give Me Eggs That Bounce
Something that has made this easier is the fact that I won Senior Australian of the Year in 2010 and this allowed me to have more power to lobby for the issue of food in aged care. It's a great project and I am thrilled to be behind it all the way!

LL: That sounds very impressive. I, and I'm sure my readers will agree, think that it is this sort of community awareness and selflessness that has earned you the love of countless Australians and people worldwide. How do you think all you actions have contributed to your immense popularity?

MB: Oh thank you, that's so nice. Me, popular? *laughs* To be honest, I think that deep down, all cooks and aspiring cooks love the look, feel, taste and overall happiness of fresh produce. I can empathise with them and my cookbooks and the Farm Shop all encourage the use of fresh produce for the best flavours and make it easier for busy people to make fresh, delicious food in their homes. My produce and style of cooking, which is fresh and simple, is also great for many different types of people, whether they be in a large family, or a couple or a person who has never cooked in their life as I like to think that I have something in my cookbooks or brain for everyone to enjoy.
Working with the aged care communities has allowed me to go many places to raise awareness of the issue of food in aged care and I think that I indirectly also promote my cooking! I have also had the opportunity to speak at many for festivals about fresh produce and other topics in the food industry which has meant more people see who I am and like my philosophy, I suppose!  I also have lots of friends and family and people who I trust who support me and effectively spread the word about my produce and cookbooks and everything really!

LL: I absolutely agree. So, any plans for the future? I know you claim not to be a very forward thinking person, but where do you see yourself sometime from now?

MB: *laughs heartily* I can't think forward to save my life! No, that's an over exaggeration, but I am so happy where I am. Everything about my life right now is so great and I wouldn't change a thing. I can actually see myself working at the Farm Shop until the day I die because I love it; I love making food, I love spreading my love of freshness and flavour to others and I love just being in my kitchen, totally comfortable with everything around me.
I also love all the work I am doing with aged care food and I would love to continue this until we achieve what we are pushing for. 
So yes, everything is great and I just want to keep doing what I am doing!

LL: Well, Maggie, it was so great to chat with you today and I hope that you will continue to produce and do all the amazing things you do now and it was really a pleasure to meet you. I'll be certain to drop into the Farm Shop soon!

MB: Thanks, Lauren. It was great to be here! I'll see you at the shop sometime soon!

Lauren Lancaster is editor of Panna Cotta Warriors, an emagazine for Australian foodies. This interview will appear in our November online magazine that is emailed out to our subscribers. 

NB: The numbers in brackets next to sentences denote what Maggie Beer said in real interviews and are referenced in the bibliography.



[1]: http://www.thebottomlinetv.com.au/interview/maggie-beer-interview/ TIME 6:05-6:10

[2]:http://www.thebottomlinetv.com.au/interview/maggie-beer-interview/ TIME 6:32 - 6:35

[3]:http://www.smh.com.au/news/planning/profile-maggie-beer/2008/01/28/1201369044061.html PARAGRAPH 5

[4]:http://www.maggiebeer.com.au/kitchen-diary/category/maggies-philosophy SENTENCE 1

[5]: Adapted from a statement by Elli Beer in paragraph 2 in http://www.barbarasweeney.com.au/Links/people_beer%20girls.pdf

[6]:https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoW4DqsruNA TIME 0:39-1:00


Law, Benjamin (November 2010). When I Was 20-something: Maggie Beer (interview). Benjamin Law's website. Available at: http://benjamin-law.com/when-i-was-20-something-maggie-beer-interview/ (Accessed 2 November 2014)

Penguin Books Australia (2013). Maggie Beer. Penguin Books Australia. Available at:http://www.penguin.com.au/contributors/129/maggie-beer (Accessed 2 November 2014)

Schmidt, Lucinda (30 January 2008). Profile - Maggie Beer. Sydney Morning Herald Online. Available at: http://www.smh.com.au/news/planning/profile-maggie-beer/2008/01/28/1201369044061.html (Accessed 2 November 2014)

Sweeney, Barbara (December 2009). Sister Act - Elli and Saskia Beer. Country Style via Barbara Sweeney website. Available at: http://www.barbarasweeney.com.au/Links/people_beer%20girls.pdf (Accessed 2 November 2014)

Unknown (2014). Food Heroes: Maggie Beer. Barossa Online. Available at: http://www.barossa.com/food/our-food-heroes/food-heroes-maggie-beer (Accessed 2 November 2014)

Unknown (2014). MAGGIE BEER. Maggie Beer's website. Available at: http://www.maggiebeer.com.au (Accessed 1 November 2014)

Unknown (August 2014). Maggie Beer. Wikipedia, the free encyclopaedia. Available at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Maggie_Beer (Accessed 1 November 2014)

Unknown (2014). Maggie Beer launches dementia care cookbook. HammondCare. Available at:http://www.hammond.com.au/news/maggie-beer-launches-dementia-care-cookbook (Accessed 2 November 2014)

Unknown (13 March 2012). Maggie's Kitchen Diary - Maggie's Philosophy - Little Things Make a Big Difference. Maggie Beer website. Available at: http://www.maggiebeer.com.au/kitchen-diary/category/maggies-philosophy (Accessed 1 November 2014)


Alex Malley on THE BOTTOM LINE (2012). Maggie Beer: Feature Interview. THE BOTTOM LINE. [Online Video]. Available at:http://www.thebottomlinetv.com.au/interview/maggie-beer-interview/ (Accessed 30 October 2014)

NVI Finders (15 September 2013). Hard work is where success comes from - Maggie Beer. NVI Finders on Youtube. [Online Video]. Available at: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OoW4DqsruNA. (Accessed 2 November 2014)


Maggie Beer profile: http://www.peterberry.com.au/page/testimonial_maggie_beer.html via Google Images - search term 'maggie beer'

Maggie Beer products: http://www.goodfood.com.au/good-food/cook/the-label-makers-20130429-2inzb.html via Google Images - search term 'maggie beer products'

Maggie and Colin Beer:http://www.abc.net.au/tv/cookandchef/txt/s1923502.htm via Google Images - search term 'maggie and colin beer'

Maggie's Barossa Valley Farm Shop: http://www.flickr.com/photos/adonline/8460334134/?rb=1 via Google Images - search term 'the farm shop maggie beer'

Maggie at the launch of Don't Give Me Eggs That Bounce: http://www.hammond.com.au/news/maggie-beer-launches-dementia-care-cookbook

Please note that this interview is hypothetical and did not occur in real life. It is for a school assignment! Hope you enjoyed reading it :)

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