This week’s inspirational local in our “People to know” segment, is Australia’s leading Spa Chef, and all round top chick Sammy Gowing. I asked Sammy a few questions to allow you to peer a little further into her amazingly interesting and busy world. Enjoy!
“I’m the daughter of a used car dealer who grew up under restaurant tables during the gastronomic boom in Melbourne of the 1970s. My Dad was a cockney orphan who arrived in Victoria with ten pounds in his pocket. He rose from humble beginnings in 1949 to co-create the largest Holden dealership in Australia – Kevin Dennis Motors. He was a man who once bought more TV advertising on more programs than any person then or since, sponsoring TV shows including The Kevin Dennis Football Show and Kevin Dennis New Faces. He traded out of the car business and upgraded to thoroughbred horses and fine dining restaurants by 1977. My mother Faye was a passionate and creative artist who fled to the Greek Islands in the 1970s to do a “Shirley Valentine” long before it was fashionable. I guess she set a trend for Aussie women going walkabout in the 70s to exotic islands.
I learnt to cook from the age of six, self taught with help from Margaret Fulton’s yellow cookbook and taught by my dad, step mum Jude and maternal grandmother Evie. Since then I have been a passionate cook and began working life in the family restaurant business as soon as I completed my HSC. I did an informal apprenticeship in the bar of our pub in Mount Macedon, and then formally trained on the restaurant floor at Gowings Restaurant, East Melbourne by professional European waiters who taught me all of the elements of fine dining and three hat restaurant service.
By 1990, I was 24 years old and had become one of the youngest female publicans in Australia, by taking charge of the old Grace Darling Hotel in the inner city, once gritty, suburb of Collingwood. Dad died the following year from a long battle with cancer. I was devastated, but fortunately my brother Chris joined me as co-manager not long after and together we proudly created Gowings Grace Darling Hotel – an innovative and multi-award winning, chef hatted, dining and entertainment emporium.
We helped to launch the careers of bands like The Waifs and Leonardo’s Bride, and offered our acoustic stage up to our great friends including Vika and Linda, Nick Barker, Kerri Simpson, Dan Warner, Tracy Kingman, John McAll, supported well-established acts including Relax with Max, Stephen Cummings and Colin Hay.
Since those days – when I was the nicest publican in town and we dished up more fish and chips than Brighton Pier – I have been studying, researching and developing healthier and more holistic alternatives to the Standard Australian Diet (no wonder it’s called SAD) and styling it into my own signature Food Health Wealth brand.”
KP – Claim to fame/day job/hobby/what are you known for?
These days I am probably better known for putting food as medicine on the map in Australia than selling beer. I have spent over fifteen years teaching organic cooking, practicing clinical nutrition, and mentoring young women in wellness. I encourage people worldwide to embrace a happier, healthier approach to life without denying themselves of a good time. It’s my 80/20 rule – and it works a treat!
KP – Is it your passion or just something you do?
Oh, it’s definitely my burning passion.
KP – What is your greatest achievement so far?
Hmmm, let me see…well, I self published my book The Healing Feeling in 2013, that was a bit of a triumph to say the least. More recently, I just completed a Master’s degree in Gastronomic Tourism with Le Cordon Bleu, so that required a few extra brain cells and that I didn’t know existed!
KP – Typical day?
If I am home in Byron, then I go to Wategos or The Wreck for swim on rising most days. Followed by lots of green tea and Skype sessions with mentoring clients. Recipe development, maybe a food shoot or conference event, writing menus and kitchen systems. Yoga and/or the Lighthouse, and lots of good home cooked food.
KP – Favourite inspirational quote?
“The need to thrive is beyond raw food, yoga moves and green smoothies. it is about finding our innate self, our essential nature and allowing all of these aspects to integrate into ourselves.” – That’s my little chestnut.
KP – Science or religion or both?
Science. Quantum physics is my favourite flavour.
KP – How do you give back to your community?
I have been giving back for as long as I can recall. These days it is mostly in free mentoring, business advice, cooking demos for charity and startups, and cultivating interns and sous chefs.
KP – What makes you feel all warm and fuzzy inside?
KP – What is your greatest extravagance?
KP – What is your favourite Travel destination/why?
San Francisco. Some of the greatest restaurants in the world.
I love the food, the people and the way it feels a bit like home.
KP – What is your greatest fear?
Rather large, furry spiders that are the size of the moon.
KP – Favourite superhero?
Max Blake. Super cat. He can heal migraines in a blink of an eye and shape-shift though three dimensions.
KP – You can have 8 people for dinner, living or dead who would they be and why?
- Gai Waterhouse – I have been going to the track since I was a kid and have overwhelming respect for women in racing.
- Uncle Russ – He’s been at my dinner table for decades.
- Keith Richards – He’ll outlive us all, you know, so I wanna know what he really eats.
- Nigella Lawson – Because she’s one of the most intelligent women in food and I love her style.
- Vika Bull – VB is my best mate, we have solved the problems of the Universe at the table.
- My Dad. I miss him.
- Anthony Bourdain – He cooked lunch on my birthday along with 8 other hungry Melbourne Food & Wine Festival fans one year. More please.
- Mrs Beeton – She’d keep us all in line – and our elbows off the table!
KP – What do you value most in your friends?
Commitment, loyalty and humour.
KP – What is your most treasured possession?
KP – If you could choose what to come back as what/who would it be?
It’s fun being me.