INTERVIEW WITH KATE FLOWER
Kate enjoying a Champagne at La Lune Restaurant
East Fremantle, wearing the Grace Silk skirt and a
American Vintage Knit
I wish I had a dollar (or more!) for every time I asked my family "What do you want for dinner tonight?" I have four people in my family and four differing palates (which seem to change weekly!) so it's never an easy fix. The easiest family member to cook for is my dog. She never complains and eats everything I put in front of her. I love my dog. If you're like me, then you need Kate Flower Food in your life! Seriously, this is one amazing home-grown cook who knows the food industry back to front and is so passionate about what she does. So much so that her kitchen is also her office and her workspace to create incredible recipes that you won't find anywhere else. Kate is also a fierce advocate for locally-grown produce. Through her beautiful "A Local Table" cook books, I've discovered so many local products and brands. And trust me when I say, once you've tried local, you'll never go back! Meet Kate Flower, one of Australia's most talented food creators.
Kate outside her home in East Fremantle
Kate, you have such a vast amount of experience in the food industry. You've been a Restaurant Manager, Events Manager, Cook, Caterer, Business Manager, Food Writer and Wine Salesperson. You're now a well-renowned recipe developer and food stylist. With such a varied career, what made you settle on these two areas?
During my school years, I really enjoyed creative pursuits and ended up at John Curtin College of the Arts in the Theatre Arts program. As life took hold, being a creative professionally didn't feel like a viable option. Working in the food industry certainly has its creative components, but I also spent much of my time managing people, events and businesses. After having children, the hospitality hours just weren't going to work and I knew I needed to pivot if I wanted to stay in the food industry. I truly couldn't imagine working in any other industry. I took this as an opportunity to reignite my creative spark and started working with food brands developing recipes and styled images to showcase their products. It's been a slow and steady growth for me as I've balanced (or not) having three kids and a career, but I feel like I'm exactly where I should be. I love letting my creative mind come alive as I work on creating recipes or pull together a style for my next food shoot. No two days look the same in my industry and I'm always working with a variety of talented creatives on projects for various brands. I have an inquisitive mind, so I enjoy the ever-changing roll call of brands, creatives and projects.
You are an absolute champion of West Australian produce as evidenced in your beautiful annual cook book " A Local Table". What do you look for when deciding to include a product in your repertoire?
A book of over 60 recipes showcasing locally sourced produce for the people of Western Australia.
@georginabarkerphotography - seared scallops from local, sustainable fishery @northernstaroceanproducts.
I love discovering makers, growers and producers who have as much passion for what they do as I have for my business. When you meet someone who is totally focused on producing the best product they can, it's a real thrill (food nerd!). I'm lucky enough to rub shoulders with some truly inspiring food producers and brands of all sizes. An outstanding product usually starts with great farming, so it's important that a business can communicate why they grow the way they do, or why they choose to buy from the farmer they choose to work with. I like to understand provenance and the values behind the brand "Tell me your story. I'm all yours." I'm a real wholefood cook and I enjoy simple food and the better quality ingredients you start with, the less work you need to do in the kitchen. A Local Table is filled with my favourite local producers. On that note, make sure you use our fabulous local producers because without our support, we will lose them and end up at the mercy of big business which won't be great for our food chain, nutrition or for WA. We are so lucky to have access to great quality food in this state and should not take it for granted! Hit up the many Farmers Markets, look out for the Buy West Eat Best green logo and ask questions about what you buy from the butcher and fishmonger. Make the effort to keep food miles down and the fresh factor up!
How much travel do you do with your work? Do you visit the brands you use in your recipes?
I wish I had the time! On my to do list is "Create a series where I visit some of my favourite brands where they live and work and share their grass roots stories". However, finding the time is a challenge. If anyone out there would like to help a food nerd to live her best life and share stories of local food heroes, please get in touch!
With so much of your work revolving around food and cooking, do you ever get to dinner time and just cook eggs on toast or have a bowl of cereal?(I may or may not be guilty of doing exactly this...!)
The short answer is YES! But we often have heaps of bits and pieces left over from shoots which I feel compelled to use and not waste. I've become a master of creating the mash up dish! Throw an egg, rice or pasta at me and I'll hit the fridge and pull something together to make best use of the leftovers. Great ways to use up leftovers are soups, fritattas, fried rice (ish) dishes and "Australian" pasta dishes that would appall the Italians who serve up the most refined pasta dishes. Us Aussies don't mind throwing the kitchen sink in our pastas. In our house you will always find eggs, yoghurt, milk, cheese, basmati rice, good bread and pasta. From here, the world is your oyster. I have a pretty well-stocked spice draw as well which helps when you want to add some quick flavour.
Your kitchen is my DREAM kitchen! How much input did you have in the design and layout?
I had total input in the kitchen design. Hubby used to be a cabinet maker and we had a cabinet maker build the kitchen so I had good advice from both of them regarding drawer and cupboard layout. I had great support from Hart & Co. Appliances with my appliances which needed to come in on budget and deliver great results. With the design, I needed to make sure the kitchen was easy to use and worked well for filming. So, I face forward to cook at the island bench and the ovens are above bench height and behind me. It's actually really social because I can have people over and work in the kitchen without my back to them. The colour was all me. I'm totally besotted with the colour green as you can see by my eucalypt cabinets. They beautifully offset the White Marri benchtop (a single piece of timber from a fallen tree in Denmark).
Wooden spoons for stirring in non-stick cookware. Whisk for all my one-bowl baking needs. Lemon juicer from Avanti. Plating tongs for finishing touches when styling. Measuring cups, spoons and my Kitchen Aid scales for precise measurements when doing recipe development.
I do a lot more entertaining than I am entertained. People do always say they are worried about having me over, but please do! Because I'd be happy with an egg on toast if someone else was doing it! I actually have lots of friends who cook beautifully and share my love of great food which is lovely. I'm always up for a 'bring a dish' gathering. I had 20+ for Easter at mine recently but I only cooked the protein and had guests bring salads which worked so well. I do find people are doing more eating out and less entertaining in the home which is a bit of a shame. I have fond childhood memories of stealing the leftover after-dinner mints from the table the morning after Mum and Dad had thrown a dinner party.
Family of course! I also have an assistant recipe developer who I lean on for feedback and my neighbours are often called on to give me their thoughts.
Where did your passion for all things food come from?
To be honest, I have no idea what set me on the foodie path. We were a real meat and three veg family so not much inspiration there. I would have to say that once I started working in hospitality at 17, I was always drawn to the kitchen and what was going on in there. Travel also sparked my interest in food from country to country. My husband Jamie and I travelled by van from Seattle down to the border of Costa Rica and I was always on the lookout for great street food and trying the local cuisine. Whenever we travel, that is always my focus.
My recipe development draws inspiration from everywhere. I work from food memories, use Pinterest, recipe books and online food mags to come up with a list of ideas to consider, then I settle on a suite of ideas to showcase the versatility of a product and refine them from there.
Is there a restaurant you haven't been to yet but would love to dine in?
Sooooo many restaurants! Fremantle has been going through a real renaissance so I'm lucky to have fabulous dining on my doorstep. In Freo, Manuka Woodfired is still on my list. It's been around a long time and still gets rave reviews. Further afield, I'd like to head up river on my brother's boat and brunch at Peninsula Farm Cafe in Maylands. You can literally pull up and wander in. I'd also like to head to Fleur at The Royal to find out what the hype is all about.
What do you like to do when you're not working/ in your down time?
Exercise at the gym or walking is a big must for me. I love to eat out when time and budget allows and browsing gourmet food stores is always a pleasure to me. I'm also trying to learn to chill more and just potter about rather than being on the run all the time, so achieving things in the garden or around the house is a lovely pastime. We have three teenage kids so their needs often dictate how our weeks will look. I'm a fan of a good game of Sequence or Scrabble and a champers with my local buddies.
Kate choosing her favourite wine @lalunefremantle
Does your family share your love of food and cooking?
No!! I keep waiting for someone to pop up and start taking more interest but all my girls want to cook are mug cakes they have seen on TikTok and my son is all about protein-dense food and just getting as much food in as possible! There are no refined palates showing up yet. My husband will eat anything and while he loves it when I throw a great meal in front of him, he is also pretty easy to please. One day, when the kids leave home, they will realise what they had!!
Do you have a favourite go-to meal?
It has to be a fritatta. Healthy, great for loading with veggies and lots of protein from eggs. I love a rustic dish and fritatta ticks all my boxes. I have also been doing a lot of yoghurt-marinated chicken. It's just a few spices and aromatics in a bowl with yoghurt, fold in chicken thighs and allow to sit for a few hours. Then BBQ, grill in the oven or pan fry and serve with rice and salad. Easy and delicious! There is a great recipe for the marinade in A Local Table
What is on the horizon for Kate Flower Food?
My business services are evolving. While I offer styling, recipe development, creative direction, food consulting and a shoot location, since producing two cook books, I seem to be moving towards the management of larger projects. I'm currently producing the first magazine for the Western Rock Lobster Council which aims to connect the public with an understanding of the local lobster industry; where to purchase lobster, how to handle and then enjoy eating them in a variety of ways and also the sustainable practices the industry adheres to. It's a real deep dive into one local product and it needs to be easily received by the general public. I'm loving the challenge.