Speaker Profiles 2016

These are the speakers appearing at Food & Words 2016. Could you ask for a nicer, or more talented, bunch? Majorly talented.


David Thompson

Australian chef, author, television executive, restaurateur and top-ranked Asian chef in The World’s 50 Best Restaurants Award, David Thompson is considered by many to be the world’s leading authority on Thai cuisine. David built his international reputation and recognition on the back of the exquisite heritage Thai dining experiences he created in Sydney at Darley Street Thai and Sailor’s Thai. His next move was to London and within six months of opening Nahm he was awarded a Michelin star. He then took Nahm to Bangkok, where again he developed a loyal following, thanks in part to the finest quality Thai ingredients, including many straight from his own farm in Ratchaburi Province outside the Thai capital. In 2015, David opened Long Chim, in Singapore and Perth – and is opening a branch in Sydney in August. The start of his love affair with Thai food is well known; a serendipitous and unexpected detour on a holiday. Inspired, David began to study the language as well as the cuisine, eventually finding his way to recipes in Thai ‘books of the dead’ that became his most valuable resource and inspiration. He’ll be speaking about these books and his collection of them at Food & Words.”


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Fiona Wright

Fiona Wright is a writer, editor and critic from Sydney. Her book of essays, which explores her experiences of anorexia, hunger and identity, Small Acts of Disappearance won the 2016 Kibble Award (it was also shortlisted for The Stella Prize), and her poetry collection Knuckled, won the 2012 Dame Mary Gilmore Award. Fiona has recently completed a PhD at Western Sydney University’s Writing & Society Research Centre. “I write because it helps me to make sense of the world, to examine and order my experiences within it and to find their resonances; without it, I always feel a little lost. And I write because I love to do it – there is nothing that brings me more joy.”

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Paulette Whitney

Paulette Whitney is a horticulturalist with an insatiable curiosity for the edible plants of the world. Based at Neika, 20 minutes south of Hobart, Tasmania, Paulette and her husband Matt Deakin grow produce for local restaurants and their weekly Salamanca Market stall. Hours spent alone outside, tending plants, gives Paulette time to think and, after sharing those thoughts on a blog and an instagram feed for several years (if you haven’t already, go visit her site right away – @provenancegrowers), Paulette bundled up some words, took a deep breath, and sent them to Australian Gourmet Traveller, where she is now a columnist. Two years on and Paulette still pinches herself every time she sees her work in print. “I am grateful that there is curiosity about small-scale food production and for the chance to get those thoughts that germinate in my paddock on to paper,” she says. Paulette has also had pieces published in Lucky Peach and the Hobart Mercury’s Tas Weekend magazine. “The world of food production is so rich and complex that there is no end to the learning and sharing that can be done – from paddock to paper.”


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Richard Cornish

Richard Cornish is a Melbourne-based food writer, author and events host. He’s well known in the food scene as an independent writer and commentator on food issues and an affable and humorous host and presenter. Richard was the acclaimed commentator on the 7 Network series Iron Chef Australia and is a regular contributor to the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age’s Good Food section in which he writes the popular and humourous Brain Food column. He writes a weekly column in Saturday’s The Age called Six Reasons to Visit. He has written four cook books on Spanish cuisine with Spanish-born chef Frank Camorra. He has written another cookbook on Spanish food and one on Mexican food for publisher Gourmet Pilgrim. He is a frequent contributor to Australian Gourmet Traveller. A former comedy writer and TV producer, Richard has found his calling in writing about food, where it comes from, how it is grown and how it’s enjoyed. He is has been employed by top tour company APT to host Captain’s Choice Tours in Europe, is the author of My Year Without Meat and co-hosts the comedic food and wine podcast The Hungry Gentlemen.

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James Viles

Chef and owner of regional NSW restaurant Biota Dining, James Viles has become one of Australia’s most respected young chefs and restaurateurs, for both his commitment to sustainability and his imaginative modern food. The restaurant takes its name from the word Biota (noun), meaning animals and plant life of a particular region. The diverse micro-climate of the Southern Highlands, 800m above sea level, home to dairy and livestock farms, vegetable growers and also plentiful wild ingredients, inspires James’ menu. Biota Dining has become one of the most awarded regional restaurants in NSW; it was named in the Australian Financial Review Top 100 Restaurants list last year and awarded The Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide Regional Restaurant of the Year in 2015 and 2014 and given two chef’s hats. In 2013 James was awarded Electrolux Young Restaurateur of the Year and, in 2015, he published his first book Biota Grow. Gather. Cook. (Murdoch Books).


Laura Dalrymple

Laura Dalrymple

Laura Dalrymple is co-owner of Sydney providore Feather and Bone and the author of a fortnightly newsletter that attempts to provide an unvarnished and truthful picture of the business of sourcing sustainably-produced food. Feather and Bone’s purpose is to foster the extensive food production system and open up the line of sight between grower and consumer by providing transparent and substantiated provenance for everything they sell. After years spent as a graphic designer and project manager, Laura threw caution (and the security of a decent wage) to the wind to join her partner, Grant Hilliard, at Feather and Bone. The newsletter started as a simple list of available products but has gradually morphed into a widely read, fortnightly column of stories, producer and product news and soapbox rants. Laura can also be heard on ABC Radio 702 Weekends with Simon Marnie.


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Ewan McEoin

Ewan McEoin is the senior curator of Contemporary Design and Architecture at the National Gallery of Victoria. In 2010, after leading the Asia Pacific Design Triennial in Brisbane, Ewan saw that independent food production and access was a pivotal future issue for Australia. Using his design skills to research and reveal the people, places and ideas at the heart of Australia’s growing food movement – where transparency, sustainability and community are key – he released the Field Guide to Victorian Produce, and since then has worked with a range of collaborators to profile more than 1000 Australian growers and producers through Field Guides to NSW and Tasmania and on the website. Other recent publications include Under the Edge, a monograph on the architecture of 2015 AIA gold medalist Peter Stutchbury, and a guidebook on Melbourne street art. Ewan was the long standing Editor of (inside) Australia Design Review; and independently published the best-selling Melbourne and Sydney Design Guides from 2008 to 2010. Food & Words is proud to be launching Ewan’s new book The Field Guide to Australian Produce (Thames & Hudson)
at the event launch on 9 September.


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Georgina Reid

Georgina Reid is a Sydney-based writer, landscape designer, and founder and editor of The Planthunter online magazine. Wandering across the cultural landscape, secateurs in hand, The Planthunter explores the endlessly interesting connections between people and plants, including the edible kind. It’s beautiful, irreverent and celebratory, and there’s nothing else like it. Growing up on a farm in the central west of NSW, Georgina spent her childhood traipsing around a large country garden behind her horticulturalist mother; helping plant, dig, sow, and harvest. She was born with green blood, though it took her some time to take her plant love seriously. Following a degree in journalism she decided to change tack and return to plants. Sparks flew, and she knew she was on the right path. Before launching online in 2013, Georgina worked as a landscape designer for a decade. Georgina is also a regular contributor to The Design Files and Belle, runs workshops, occasionally designs gardens, and speaks at various events when asked nicely. When she’s not writing, thinking, and talking about plants she’s eating them – her other passion.


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John Susman

John Susman is Australia’s Mr Seafood. He has owned and operated seafood catching, processing, distribution, retail and restaurant businesses throughout Australia, marketed Australian seafood around the globe and consulted to the seafood industry and government agencies in his career. John operates specialist seafood consultancy Fishtales and is the head judge of the Royal Agricultural Society of New South Wales Aquaculture competition. He has been inducted into the Fairfax Hall of (food) Fame and been the recipient of both the Delicious Providor of the Year award in 2013 and Maggie Beer Award for Commitment to the Food Industry. John’s seafood bible, Australian Fish & Seafood Cookbook (Murdoch Books) is to be released in October.


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Dr Alana Mann

Dr Alana Mann is a senior lecturer and degree director in the Department of Media and Communications, Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences at the University of Sydney. Her book on international food sovereignty campaigns, Global Activism in Food Politics: Power Shift, was published in 2014. Alana is a member of the University of Sydney Environment Institute (SEI) project node ‘Food, People and the Planet’ and the global food security and nutrition node within the Charles Perkins Centre. She sits on the executive committee of the Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance (AFSA), an organisation dedicated to creating a more ecologically sound and fairer food system for all Australians.

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Simon Rickard

Simon Rickard is a passionate gardener and plantsman. He was head gardener at the Diggers Club until 2009, before collaborating with restaurateur Annie Smithers in establishing her kitchen garden. Simon runs his own garden design business, as well as working as a garden communicator, writing books, giving workshops and leading international garden tours for Botanica World Discoveries. Somehow, Simon still finds time for a parallel career in early music, playing principal baroque bassoon with Pinchgut Opera, the Australian Haydn Ensemble, and his renaissance curtal consort, Unholy Rackett.


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Pennie Scott

How does language influence beliefs and behaviours? Pennie Scott has used her Masters of Applied Science research in this area to help revitalise regional communities and create secure food networks that connect farmers with eaters. In 2010 she was commissioned by the Rural Industries and Development Corporation to investigate Australia’s capacity to feed itself in the event of a pandemic, natural hazard or terrorist activity. She staunchly believes we need to have more people growing food, and to involve food producers in food policy decisions. As well as being a proud small-hold farmer of free-range pigs, Pennie is currently Adjunct Research Fellow at the Institute of Land, Water and Society at Charles Sturt University.


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David Gillespie

David Gillespie stopped eating sugar and his experience led to the publication of his first book, Sweet Poison (Penguin), in 2008. Drawing on skills from his former life as a corporate lawyer, David examined widely held beliefs about sugar and challenged the research and evidence they were founded on. His next book, Toxic Oil (Penguin) focused on the widespread use of vegetable oils in the modern diet, again shattering long-held understandings. David believes in the power of books as a form of communication in this digital age because they represent one of the last remaining forms of mass media that are not influenced by advertising. He also believes that eating healthily doesn’t mean going without, so his latest book, Eat Real Food, provides recipes without sugar or vegetable oils.