• Rayleen Brown Kungkas Can Cook on Master Chef June 2021 (Master Chef instagram)Source: Master Chef instagram
Bush foods expert Rayleen Brown has been showcasing her culinary skills across the country for decades, and this week she brought culture, knowledge and native ingredients to the Masterchef table.
Jennetta Quinn-Bates

3 Jul 2021 - 10:10 AM  UPDATED 3 Jul 2021 - 10:10 AM

A well-known and loved Mparntwe (Alice Springs) based bush foods business has lit up televisions across the country this week.

Kungkas (Pitjatjantjara - young women) Can Cook, the brainchild of Ngangiwumirr and Eastern Arrernte woman Rayleen Brown, has been serving the finest foods from the bush to the plate for more than two decades, and now she has shown her craft at the Masterchef table.

Over the years many have prompted Ms Brown to try out for the smash-hit cooking show - she admits she was "too shame", and was also nervous when the producers of the Channel 10 series first reached out.

“I called them back and they said, look Rayleen, it's really laid back, we’ll look after you! Really we just want to talk to you about something you’ve been doing for a long time, we want to use your bush foods in our segment,” she said.

“So I thought, what a great opportunity to showcase our beautiful wild-harvested bush foods from the centre here. 

“It was really really exciting. A bit scary. I’d never been on a big set like that before and they had so many people running around everywhere. Even got makeup and wardrobe and all that sort of stuff. It was such a wonderful experience.”

Appearing as a guest chef at the Simpsons Gap location, Ms Brown brought a range of native ingredients for the contestants to weave into their dishes, including warrigal greens, old man saltbush, wattleseeds, native lemongrass, central Desert limes, bush tomatoes and quandongs.

"They're an ancient, ancient fruit [quandong]. The seeds of these, a plant has actually been found with dinosaur bones," she said on the program.

Passing on the Knowledge

Ms Brown has mostly moved away from large-scale catering and now spends a lot of time mentoring the younger generation.

She reiterated the importance of the older generations passing their knowledge onto youth and enriching them with those stories and cultural connections.

“I feel like we really need to be teaching our young ones and getting them re-engaged with our bush food because that's what helped our mob to be able to walk on Country and keep them strong,” she said.

She made a point to acknowledge the women who have been harvesting bush foods since time immemorial.

“There wouldn't be an industry without these wonderful hard-working women that have been doing this work for such a long time. They are the knowledge holders and we wouldn't have an industry without the knowledge holders,” she said.

Ms Brown hopes her time in the spotlight on the top-rating show can assist in getting more bush food profits back to the community and she reminded mob to do their research on the businesses they consume from.

“Try to make sure you're supporting an Indigenous business. It’s (bush foods) a multi-million dollar business now," she said.

"We Aboriginal people only represent about 3% of that whole industry and this has all been built on Indigenous knowledge.” 

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