Jennifer is an extremely passionate and driven Gen Yer with business
ventures in the marketing, publishing and food industries. She is the
editor of food blog, JENIUS: the spectacular
culinary adventures of a Sydney Gen-Y.
She is a freelance food writer for such publications as The Coffee Guide; a freelance food and travel photographer, with her work featuring in National Geographic Traveler; a self-published author; and the founder of the I Ate My Way Through series. She also runs her own full service boutique food and hospitality marketing agency, Word Of The Mouth.
How has your cultural heritage influenced you and your cooking?
I was born and bred in Australia, but both my parents grew up in southern Vietnam with a Teochew (Chinese) heritage. I’ve been fed odd cuts of meat and strange vegetables since I was a kid but it wasn’t until much later in my primary school years did I start to look for English translations of what these dishes and ingredients really were. I’m afraid I’m not that adventurous in the kitchen when it comes to cooking things like offal but I do love putting a creative twist on traditional Vietnamese and Chinese dishes or using herbs and spices in a new way. I am currently obsessed with the rice paddy herb which has a gorgeous citrusy zing to it.
What have you learned about food from your family?
I’ve learned that food brings people together. There’s nothing better than having eight people in the kitchen putting together a magnificent feast for a Sunday brunch.
What family recipe do you most like to cook?
That would be pho – a Vietnamese beef noodle soup consisting of a stunning broth, fragrant with star anise, cloves, ginger and cinnamon. It needs to be boiled for hours but the results are always worthwhile. It is the ultimate comfort food.
How much do you think multicultural cuisines have influenced the Australian food scene?
We are so lucky to have cuisines from the world available at our doorsteps. I think Australians are now more educated about all the different flavours and ingredients and we generally have a more appreciative palate.
What cuisine do you most like to cook?
I don’t think I stick to a single cuisine much! I like to incorporate Thai herbs and spices with Italian classics, like by adding kaffir lime leaves into a ragu; or I’d do modern Japanese and grill miso paste with whatever was in the fridge.
What makes this cuisine special?
Learning about the basic ingredients which make up each cuisine makes each culture special. I try to share this passion by educating and inspiring people via my I Ate My Way Through series.
What is your secret food shame?
I hate to say it, but I’ve been known to eat almost all of a 10 pack of KFC Wicked Wings. I simply adore the crispy crust and the slight kick of spices.
What ingredient you can you not live without?
Murray River salt flakes! The delicate peachy coral colour is so pretty and a sprinkle of it is like edible magic fairy dust!
What is your favourite recipe:
Mini-pavlovas. You can prepare them in advance and if you screw up, they could always be smashed up and served as Eton mess. I’m a lover of easy peasy recipes 'cause there’s nothing worst than stressing so much over a dish that you don’t end up enjoying the company of whoever you’re trying to impress!
I’m a carb queen. Feed me roast potatoes and I’ll be happy.
For an easy weeknight dinner?
An udon noodle soup with seasonal vegetables.
What chef inspired you in your youth?
Iain Hewitson! I loved his carefree philosophy and he made cooking look simple and fun.
Tell us about your favourite food event in Australia.
I was recently at the Lovedale Long Lunch which is a progressive-style lunch where you wine and dine your way around different wineries in Lovedale (in the Hunter region). It is the perfect excuse to gather your family and friends for an indulgent weekend getaway, plus it celebrates the superb quality of local food and wine.
What is your favourite cook book, food show and cooking utensil?
At the moment, I’m heading back to basics with Bill Granger’s cook book, Holiday. And because I work from home, I get to occasionally enjoy afternoon TV. I particularly like the ingenuity of chefs in Ready, Steady, Cook. My favourite cooking utensil/gadget would be the Japanese Benriner Turning Slicer. I use it to make ribbons of cucumber which I toss in a sesame and soy vinaigrette, or I’d make angel-hair carrot strands to accompany some kingfish sashimi or sometimes I’d thinly slice potato, beetroot or sweet potato and deep-fry them into crunchy gourmet chips.
What is your favourite restaurant in your area?
You might notice from my blog that I can be a bit of a geek – I love creating lists. I like to organise data in an insightful way. Besides from managing both the Top 100 Aussie Food Twitterers list and the Top 50 Aussie Food Blogs lists, I also put together 'Top 10 list of the best I’ve eaten in 2009’ last year. Based on the list, I have two local favourites. The first is Dong Ba in Bankstown where you can slurp up a bowl of bun bo hue (Vietnamese spicy beef noodle soup) for only $7; the second is Ocean Foods in Drummoyne, which I go to for fabulous seafood.
What advice would you give fellow foodies?
I’ve just been nominated for Cosmopolitan Magazine’s Fun Fearless Female Woman Of The Year award! I’m so thrilled and honoured to be placed beside so many inspirational women, and as the only food blogger in the blogger category, I’d love your support! Please vote for me too!