With a long career cooking and running restaurants, accommodation, rearing three children and publishing cookbooks, Ellie Emmett looks back at the tough times, and what lies ahead. For her, it’s all about being organised. A kids’ cookbook? What a great idea!
“I didn’t have a glamorous start to cooking, cooking the family meals was a necessity in a single parent family with mum working full time, and by the time I got into grade 9, I had 2 wonderful home economics teachers who got me excited about cooking.
Straight out of grade 10, I completed a pre employment course at Drysdale and then went on to a traineeship and then an apprenticeship. Next up were food and beverage service courses as well as bread making and pastry cooking. I loved the study.
But the period when I owned and operated my own restaurant was the hardest part of my career. I had the restaurant “The Mussel Boys” on the Tasman Peninsula for 7 years, mostly lunch and dinner 7 days a week. It was seasonal, so hard to find staff and then keep them or get them back when we were busy again. I also built and operated four luxury tourism accommodation units. I ran the restaurant and accommodation for nearly 2 years with a baby, and then decided that having kids and running a restaurant and accommodation business was not for me. Too hard.
In saying that, when I had my 2nd child and was running a 4-unit accommodation holiday complex I would have people say, “Gee it’s hard the jump from 1 child to 2,” and I’d say, “Nope not hard, not as hard as one child and a restaurant!”
When I had my 3rd child I’d have people say, “Gee it’s hard that jump from 2 kids to 3,” and I would say, “Nope, not hard. Not as hard as one baby and a restaurant!”
When my 3rd child Oscar was only a few months old, as well as running the busy 4-unit tourist accommodation I taught myself photography and published my first book, The Real food for Kids Cookbook. This book I made with recipes collated and tested, while I was facilitating a “Launch into Learning” cooking program for children and their parents at the local primary school. I had volunteered to cook a healthy lunch program. Last year I went back to TAFE full time to complete a diploma in Visual Arts – photography and I published my second book, the multi-award winning Seafood Everyday.
Aside from owning my own restaurant, the best chef’s job I ever had was a Chef de Partie on Bedarra Island, amazing. Creating innovative menus daily for up to 15 couples paying a fortune to stay there. Living and working on the Island was an incredible experience. Seeing the poly boxes of all the exotic food you could imagine arriving on the barge was like a weekly Christmas. But it did also make me appreciate the freshness of the food that we can source here in Tassie. I loved being the head chef at T42 – it was an extremely busy restaurant bar, breakfast, lunch and dinner 7 days a week. The Christmas/New Year period was ridiculous. A small kitchen that was designed for a bar had morphed into a restaurant, that could only fit 4 staff at a time, and we were cooking up to 200 meals a service plus prepping for the next service!
Now that my career has moved into book publishing and photography, my cooking style is ‘simple, healthy home cooking’. My website and the books that I write are all about encouraging people to cook more – that cooking and meal planning actually is easy. I don’t believe we need all that processed food that marketing has convinced us “we need” to save time. Cooking is not really that time consuming when you’re organised. “
Ellie Emmett loves her kids, and still manages a frantically busy life with cooking, writing, photography, publishing, and raising 3 small children. It reminds me of that American movie with Sarah Jessica Parker, who somebody said reminded them of an “anorexic horse”… The movie was “I don’t know how she does it”, which is facile really, and stupid. We all know – by working bloody hard and being organised. It’s not rocket science, is it?
Find her books @ www.eloiseemmett.com and watch out for her pop up collaborations and book launches. I’m sure there’s much more to come.