With The Cook's Companion front and centre in half a million kitchens, Stephanie Alexander is the very definition of a household name. Each day thousands turn to her 'food bible' for the most reliable recipes and advice. But before Stephanie Alexander penned a word for the emerging food media, let alone for The Cook's Companion, she had spent decades avidly documenting food experiences.
Shaped by her mother's dedication to good food and her father's love of reading, she trained as a librarian and all the while observed, assessed and re-created the dishes she loved. Her monthly university allowance rarely lasted more than a week – all spent on pan-fried flounder and chestnut Mont Blanc.
She was seduced over pain Poîlane while working as an au pair in Paris, and later over ackee and saltfish in London. In 1966, with no formal culinary training and a newborn baby, but brimming with confidence and sheer determination, she opened Jamaica House with her first husband. The personal toll was great and it was many years until she emerged on the restaurant scene again.
Stephanie's Restaurant would become part of Melbourne food folklore, permanently raising the bar for restaurant dining in Australia. At the time of its opening, in 1976, a salad to most people meant iceberg lettuce, no-one had heard of goat's cheese and ginger came in a tin. Over the next twenty-one years, in her quest for the sort of produce she had enjoyed while living and travelling in Europe, Stephanie championed small local suppliers or grew it herself.
Her indefatigable determination and single-minded vision have influenced – and sometimes intimidated – a generation of chefs, cooks and diners. And now her Kitchen Garden Foundation is inspiring tens of thousands of primary school children across Australia to grow and cook their own food.
A Cook's Life is a very personal account of one woman's uncompromising commitment to good food, and of how it shaped her life and changed the eating habits of a nation.