• Chef Analiese Gregory relocated to rural Tasmania where she explores, fishes, hunts, forages and cares for the land. (Supplied)Source: Supplied
Family dinners and childhood holidays shaped this Tasmanian chef's food philosophy.
By
Melissa Woodley

18 Nov 2021 - 10:45 AM  UPDATED 18 Nov 2021 - 9:36 AM

--- Explore life at the bottom of the world in Tasmania in A Girl's Guide to Hunting, Fishing and Wild Cooking with Analiese Gregory, 8.30pm Thursdays from 18 November on SBS Food and SBS On Demand. ---

 

Ingredients straight from the source and dishes inspired by nature's bounty are what chef, Analiese Gregory, is all about. Living in the wild landscape of rural Tasmania, Gregory has built a reputation for her talents in foraging, fishing, hunting and fermenting. But to understand what inspired this lifestyle, we must revisit her childhood.

Born in New Zealand to a Chinese-Dutch mother and Welsh father, Gregory grew up eating a "curious mix" of cuisines. 

"Dinner was a very modernish mix of things," Gregory recalls. "Occasionally we'd eat things that normal Kiwis would eat, like roast vegetables. Then other times it would be pan-fried flounder with oyster sauce, or we'd have pork buns after school."

Gregory's mother cooked Cantonese dishes that were predominantly rice based, including congee for breakfast and stir-fries for dinner. Whereas, her father, who was a professional chef, enjoyed experimenting with exotic ingredients and modern techniques. 

"Mealtime was a serious time and we learned about that quite early," Gregory says. "We would lay the table, sit down and all have dinner together. My mum was very hard on table manners, like no elbows on the table and not crossing your chopsticks because it's bad luck in China."

Gregory has carried these superstitions and table manners with her across the globe. After graduating from high school, she moved to London to work for her chef father. This led to stints in some of the world's most acclaimed restaurants, including London's The Ledbury, south France's Bras, and Sydney's Quay

Each experience was pivotal in shaping Gregory's career, but her great aunt's and grandmother's humble kitchens were where this food journey truly began. 

"Every time that my great-aunt Fay looked after me, she always provided a cooking lesson. We would make Chinese pork buns or a steamboat or birds nest soup," Gregory recalls. "She would find a recipe and go through it with me and talk to me about all the different ingredients."

Whereas, her grandmother, Ina, Fay's sister, was more haphazard. "She'd still cook some Cantonese food, but she had a Dutch husband, so it'd be stir-fries, followed by stroopwafels and salted liquorice."

Although Gregory wasn't aware at the time, these kitchen lessons encouraged her to explore her Cantonese heritage. 

"I've learned to become proud of my culture as opposed to thinking it's something that I need to hide or pretend wasn't there,” she says. "I'm pleased now about my knowledge of Cantonese food and that my family exposed me to so many things because it made me more open to different cuisines."

Gregory now enjoys cooking dishes like mapo tofu or winter melon soup, and varies them using recipes that her Chinese elders have passed down.

"I used to feel like restaurant food was one thing and the food I cooked at home was something else, and they were very far apart," she reflects. "It's only been in the last five years that I've been able to bring all the different influences on me closer together and I'm happiest when I manage to combine different things from different cultures into a dish that still feels harmonious."

In 2019, Gregory hung up her chef whites and relocated to rural Tasmanian so that she could spend more time connecting with nature. Each day is an adventure at her Huon Valley hideaway, and she splits her time between exploring, fishing, hunting, foraging and caring for the land. 

"I'm happiest when I manage to combine different things from different cultures into a dish that still feels harmonious."

Revisiting Gregory's youth provides a better understanding of her compulsion to constantly explore. Many of her best childhood memories are of adventures at her family's dairy farm in Matamata, Waikato, in New Zealand.

"I was always out running around the fields, building tree houses, and picking plants," she recalls. "Like, the minute I found out that nasturtiums were edible, I was out making a salad from the nasturtium in the garden."

Learning how to care for plants and animals has helped Gregory thrive on her farm. Her fishing talent is also a product of her youth.

"Once a year in New Zealand, my family would go to Lake Taupō and go trout fishing," she explains. "My parents would try and teach us to fish and then when I got a bit older, I taught myself to smoke fish. So, I would be smoking trout and setting off the fire alarms in our little motel units every year."

As host of SBS Food's A Girl's Guide to Hunting, Fishing, and Wild Cooking, Gregory hopes to encourage Australians to get more in touch with nature and celebrate seasonal eating.

"Those things have enriched my life so I feel like they could also potentially do the same for other people," she says.

Love the story? Follow the author Melissa Woodley here: Instagram @sporkdiaries.

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