A Cooking Class with Indigenous Chef Mark Olive and Tourism Australia

I haven’t travelled internationally in so long, I almost forgot how much fun it is to attend media events as a travel writer! These are basically get-togethers with other journalists, bloggers and PR representatives to learn about (and sometimes get invited to visit!) different destinations.

My first media event in nearby two years(!!) was a cooking demonstration via Zoom with Indigenous Chef Mark Olive and Tourism Australia. I felt comfortable going to the cooking school in-person because guests were required to be double vaccinated.

We met at the classy and spacious Dirty Apron on Beatty Street on the outskirts of Gastown. We received a welcome glass of prosecco and a basket of goodies to take home—white truffle oil, fleur de sel salt, and fig and orange marmalade.

After brief introductions with the other freelance writers and attendees, we started cooking! In the kitchen, a giant projector screen was set up so we could (struggle to) hear Mark Olive as he gave quick instructions. I felt like I was in a digital version of Hell’s Kitchen (aka my DREAM), albeit with a kind, cheerful, good-humoured Chef, not an angry Gordon Ramsay.

We received portioned fruits and vegetables, spices, and a plastic package of kangaroo mince. According to Tourism Australia, “Kangaroo meat is a highly sustainable and popular meat protein native to Australia.” I tried kangaroo jerky 11 years ago when I first visited Oz, so I had no real qualms with eating kangaroo—to me, it was similar to having a deer burger or bison steak in Canada. While I prefer hunted and sustainable meat, I know I couldn’t hunt one myself. (I cried the last time I caught a fish.)

Thank goodness my cooking partner knew what she was doing over the stove, because between trying to watch the video, read the recipe on the wall, and chop up all my ingredients, I was a little lost. I squirted olive oil into a searing hot pan on a gas range, tossed in my unevenly chopped vegetables, threw rigid pasta into bowling water, and took a swig of my prosecco. Look at me! I’m COOKING!

Next came the ground kangaroo. It looked similar to ground beef. Our dish was a Kangaroo Bolognese using bush tomato chutney, ground tomato powder, onions, celery, carrots, and fresh herbs.

And honestly? It turned out fabulous. The meat wasn’t gamey or dry like I’d expected. The spices balanced out the acidic tomatoes. I nodded along while other food writers talked. I was just happy to be included.

The real joy of the night came in the form of conversations. That’s one of the amazing things food can do—bring people from different walks of life together. I met new friends and connected with others whom I’d only met over email. Along with a delicious glass of Australian red wine—Wynns Coonawarra Estate’s Cabernet Shiraz Merlot—we closed out a fantastic media event.

Now I’ve just got to figure out how to get back to Australia

Happy travels!

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