Acclaimed Australian chef and restaurateur, Kylie Kwong declared her vision for the 2020s — food as a “force for positive social change”!
A decade ago, she had no Indigenous friends and did not know how to connect. The challenge for her came when world-renowned chef, Rene Redzepi from Copenhagen asked at his keynote speech at Sydney Opera House why he was not seeing native ingredients in the dishes being prepared in the restaurants.
Now what she related at ‘Each for Equal’, International Women’s Day celebration 2020 yesterday (4 March 2020) at Yerrabingin, was a turning point.
She had since met her first Indigenous friend, Aunty Beryl Van Oploo, a Kamilaroi woman. It was Aunty Beryl who introduced her to the traditional way ingredients were used. Kylie learned to adapt native ingredients to her preparation of Cantonese dishes. Aunty Beryl introduced her to Clarence Slockee, a Bundjalung man who is a bush-food horticulturalist, educator and performer. Kylie now works with Clarence and his business partner, Christian Hampson, both directors at the Yerrabingin native rooftop farm at South Eveleigh. Kylie will use a lot of the plants from the rooftop farm at her new eatery which will open soon.
Aunty Beryl Van Oploo celebrating a 21st century fusion of ancient culinary traditions: Aboriginal and Cantonese in collaboration with South Eveleigh Ambassador, Kylie Kwong
Bundjalung man, Clarence Slockee with Kylie Kwong
Kylie’s entry into the food industry began when she worked as an apprentice for celebrity chef, Neil Perry at Rockpool and Wockpool. Prior to working with Neil, she worked for six years in the advertising industry. She later became the Head Chef at Neil Perry’s restaurant and eventually ran her own business, Billy Kwong at Surry Hills and Potts Point for nineteen years. She employed sixteen females and eighteen males from diverse cultures. Her years of experience in the food industry taught her the importance of cultures.
Her next journey in her new eatery will be culture management that will embody the values she believes in: “equality, inclusion, and diversity”. This approach will trickle down with her attention focused on the Head Chef and floor manager to run with these values so the rest of the staff will feel empowered.
Another keynote speaker, the founder of OzHarvest (ozharvest.org), Ronni Kahn AO is taking her company global. She has grown OzHarvest to become Australia’s leading food rescue organisation after the law was changed making it safe for companies to donate surplus food. Her main message yesterday was: leadership today needs to serve. Look after each other. Choose the right people. Prepare nourishing food with love.
Aunty Beryl Van Oploo with OzHarvest founder, Ronni Kahn AO
When journalist, Caroline Baum asked Ronni why she was wearing a spoon earring on one ear, she explained,”There are three things people do when confronted with fire: run away, write an angry letter or, run to find a bucket, a glass or a teaspoon. I want to proclaim the Order of the teaspoon.”
Little things make things grow, that is, even a teaspoon of change makes a whale of a difference.
(L) — Aunty Ali Golding, Kylie Kwong’s mum, and Aunty Beryl Van Oploo: three guests at Yerrabingin making a ‘culturally diverse collective individuality’ fashion statement.