As we enter the gates of Prahran Market a whole new world opens up in front of our eyes. There is a mixture of vibrant colours and enticing smells that dominate the scenery. Together with the hundreds of shoppers who came to get their good quality fresh produce on Saturday morning.  As we continue our walk further inside towards the demo kitchen we can already hear the enthusiastic and energetic voice of Emma Dean, celebrity chef and Winner of MasterChef Australia in 2013 who is about to cook up a storm for her audience.  She is an ambassador for sustainable cooking; no waste in her kitchen, uses all parts of the ingredients, cooks seasonally and uses local produce. It’s her heritage from childhood.

“I grew up in the country with a little hobby farm. My parents were semi self-sufficient. We grew our own food mum and dad were real hippies they still are. If we wanted to eat something yummy we had to make it because there weren’t any shops around.” That’s where the love of food originates from. You can clearly see her connection with food; how she touches it, how she talks about it and of course the years of cooking since she was a young child. “We were really into baking and doing heaps of stuff with my sisters. We used to go home after school and make a cake and eat it and we loved it. We didn’t have biscuits in packets or anything like that” she recalls.

Living in the farm meant that everything was natural straight from there. She had never had an issue with eating vegetables since she was really engaged in the process of growing food. But as we learnt from Emma good cooking is also in the blood: “My grandmother was a really great cook.”

The decision to become a professional cook was an evolving process for her. Through the encouragement of a lot of friends she went on MasterChef. “I did teeter about it when I was 19 or 20 but I just kind of went down the traditional the more conservative way. Go to uni and get an office job. But I am really glad I have changed path and doing this”. She hasn’t regreted the choice she made. Although she tells me laughing that she misses out on paid holidays and doesn’t have long service leave either. “I love going out about food and what makes people happy everyone needs to eat!”

As she is preparing a carrot leaf pesto she starts to talk about sustainable cooking and sustainable resourcing.  “It is really important if it’s not sustainable it is not right. It’s important to support small local farmers and producers because they often have more sustainable practices.”  Like her grandfather who used to be a small dairy farmer who cared about the land and was pushed out by a big one. She also tells her audience the names of fishes that are the most sustainable ones and sustainably fished. That’s why she chose to cook octopus today.  It smells like heaven in her kitchen. As she comfortably moves around and explains the recipes in details it reveals her devotion and enthusiasm towards this profession.

And what’s important in life for Emma besides cooking is “Having really good friends, good family cherishing and loving those relationships. And just recently I have learnt to accept myself as being enough.  And last but not least to be peaceful with yourself and with others as well especially at Christmas time.”

Words and photos by Szilvia Csanyi Port Phillip Council. 


Those delicious carrot leaf pesto bites

Emma Dean & Tobie Puttock are cooking up a storm

Those delicious carrot leaf pesto bites 


For great recipe ideas or as a wonderful Christmas present you can purchase Emma’s cookbook.

Octopus and red mullet with caramelised radishes, leafs included!