BeanScene Magazine

Anna Gare: A life of food and coffee

From the April 2011 issue.
Anna Gare: A life of food and coffee

Anna Gare has been cooking since she was old enough to reach a benchtop. She also discovered coffee at a very young age, having learned to sneak a sip from her mum’s cup when she wasn’t looking.

T he girl from Western Australia may be more familiar to audiences as a judge on “Junior MasterChef” or as part of the top rating “The Best In Australia” food programme, but at 32, her star still has a long way to rise from an already impressive resume.

Food and references to it have played an enormous part in Anna’s life. From creating a fundraising canteen while still at school to forming the highly successful all-girl rock group, The Jam Tarts, at the tender age of 12, Anna has managed to combine some full-on creative talents. While the rock and roll lifestyle has given way to a full-time career in the food industry, plus a husband and two children, Anna has also passionately lent her talents to Oxfam’s Fairtrade coffee campaign.

Another of Anna’s creations, Deluxe Catering, is one of Perth’s most successful catering companies. With all of that on her plate, as well as the television cooking shows and charity work, it is little wonder that Anna resorts to coffee to not only wake her up in the morning, but because “it stimulates my brain and is also a great excuse for taking a morning and afternoon break.” But, she insists that her coffee comes from an ethical source.

Anna grew up in Fremantle and started cooking very young because her parents didn’t buy pre-made food such as biscuits, cakes, sugary cereals or cordials. “I had a sweet tooth, so I made my own.” She also attended an alternative school in Fremantle where classes were not compulsory. “I spent a lot of time making up plays, learning how to sew, baking bread, cookies and cakes and growing sprouts. Well, it was the 1970s!” Anna says.

When a fundraiser was required, Anna and a friend turned the school’s art area into a café on Wednesdays. For $1 you could have three courses – soup, “cold chicken from Woollies,” alfalfa salad and jelly. Even the local businesses dropped by for the $1 deal. Anna’s family was also a musical one and as the youngest of four, she started watching her siblings playing at music gigs. She formed her own band, The Jam Tarts, with two friends, Jodie Bell and Lucy Lehmann and her sister, Sophie, at 12 and they hit the busking trail. Mum, Kate, was the manager.

Anna GareThe band proved a hit and became a sought after touring and recording group in Australia and went on to perform live on NBC’s “Today Show” and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. “We toured a lot interstate and overseas. It was a great vehicle for seeing different parts of the world,” Anna says. To supplement that lifestyle, Anna worked in restaurants and cafes around Australia. After 10 years though she opted for a change and at 25 had the first of her two children. Her partner is former Australian NBA player, Luc Longley. Sister, Sophie, married English comedian, Ben Elton.

Anna formed the Deluxe Catering Company instead and continued to operate it until 2007. She also began working on television, starting with the ABC’s “Consuming Passions,” as presenter, Ian Parmenter’s assistant. She was the one who actually did “prepare the dish that he had prepared earlier.” She was also involved in the recipe development and food styling for the accompanying book. That rock lifestyle cropped up again though when she was inducted into the Western Australian Music Industry Hall of Fame in 2004.

No stranger to public appearances, Anna had taken to the small screen like a duck to water and was given her own cooking segment on the “Perth at Five” chat show, with guest spots and segments on other shows. In 2007, she co-starred with chefs, Ben O’Donoghue and Darren Simpson, on “The Best In Australia.” That show was filmed in her parents’  home – a converted church in Fremantle. A second series was completed last year. Anna was invited to audition for “MasterChef Australia,” but says she pulled out of the process to spend more time with her family rather than be in Sydney where it was to be filmed. But, she appeared as an additional judge on the first series of “Junior MasterChef.”

Anna saw the progression into television as natural and logical. Both her music and cooking, she says, are creative. “I always used to work in cafes and restaurants to support my rock and roll lifestyle. So, performing on TV, combined with cooking just made sense.” And, she is passionate about using the medium to educate people about good food. “If we can educate our kids about where food comes from and how to grow and cook it, we will have a much brighter and healthier future.”

Anna has now taken on the role of a “Taste Champion” with Oxfam’s fair organic coffee range. She says that people have become more aware of where their coffee comes from and how it tastes, so the demand for coffee that is both ethical and delicious has grown. Anna sees the role of Fairtrade coffee as a move that should encourage other producers to become accountable. It is also a vehicle to educate coffee buyers. She became involved with Oxfam, she says, “because I love coffee and I respect the primary producers of coffee.”

So, what are Anna’s future plans? “To write cookbooks and enthuse people to make the most of food on a creative, indulgent and everyday level,” she says. Anna’s upcoming book, “Homemade: Simply Delicious Food,” published by Fremantle Press, will be available in bookstores in September.

Oxfam fair coffee is available at Oxfam shops and selected supermarkets. For more information on Anna’s upcoming book

Bonus Features

Anna Gare Coffee CakeOxfam coffee cake
A stunning, simple dessert cake

180 g butter
180 g caster sugar
3 eggs, lightly beaten
250 g self-raising flour
1/4 cup milk
plain flour for dusting cake tin
400 mL whipped cream, for topping
cocoa or grated chocolate for decorating

½ cup caster sugar
2/3 cup water
1/3 cup brandy
1 1/4 cups Oxfam coffee

Preheat the oven to 180˚C.

Cream the butter and sugar, using electric beaters, until the mixture is light and fluffy.

Add the eggs one at a time while continuing to beat the mixture.

Fold in the flour and milk using a spoon until the ingredients are well combined.

Lightly grease an 18 cm ring mould cake tin with butter and dust it lightly with flour.

Pour the cake mixture into the tin and bake the cake in the oven, centre shelf, for about 30 minutes, until golden on top. Test it by poking a skewer into the middle: if it comes out clean, the cake is cooked.

Remove the cake from the oven and let it cool in the tin.

To make syrup: Heat the sugar and water in a saucepan until the sugar dissolves and the liquid becomes syrupy. Remove syrup from the heat. Stir in the coffee and brandy. Let the syrup cool.

Turn the cake out to make sure that it releases easily, and then return it to the tin.

Drench the cake in syrup and put it in the fridge for at least two hours. It will take a few hours for the cake to soak up all the syrup. I prefer to leave it overnight.

To serve, tip the cake out of the tin, upside down, top it with whipped cream and dust it with cocoa or grated chocolate.

From Homemade by Anna Gare, published by Fremantle Press. Copyright 2011.

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