We caught up with one of Australia’s best and most loved cooks and we found out how it all started and what it’s like being Maggie Beer. It will surprise you…

Sixty-three-year-old Maggie Beer is a self-taught chef who honed her skills through a great deal of “trial and error”. After leaving school at the age of 14 when her parents business went bankrupt, Beer went on to try her hand at number of career paths including a lift driver in an Auckland department store, at a sailing school Scotland, a law clerk in Sydney and as an assistant to a geophysicist in Libya.

“None of those experiences were a waste,” she says, when questioned about her colourful background. “All that knowledge is still in my head and I still draw on all of it today when running my business, but I have to say that although I’ve always loved food and cooking I never saw myself in this role or living this life.

“It all started when we came to live in the Barossa Valley in 1973 and bought a vineyard. My husband Colin farmed pheasants and people really didn’t know how to cook them, so I did. I just knew how.”

Beer now devotes her time to the Farmshop in the Barossa Valley, where it all began, and to her Export Kitchen there, which produces her famous range of pates, fruit pastes, jams and sauces and develops her range of deliciously-indulgent ice creams and co-hosting her TV show The Cook and The Chef. Beer is set to make a return to Brisbane in November for the Good Food & Wine Show as part of the event’s Celebrity Theatre attraction.

“The best part of these events is getting to directly meet my clients and people always have a lot of questions for me,” she says.

Family and food have always gone hand-in-hand for the mother of two, who enjoys cooking with her two daughters Saskia and Ellie and names Christmas as her favourite time of year to cook.

“I always cook a goose for Christmas Day lunch, that’s our tradition,” she says. “My next book is also all about the season and will be out at the end of the year, it’s called Maggie’s Christmas.”

Beer is also passionate about passing on her self-taught skills. “When it comes to reality TV shows, I think it’s a good thing anytime people are talking about food. My advice to aspiring chefs is to work as a dish hand in a kitchen. You see everything in that role and it’s the best way to really decide if that’s the life for you,” she says.

And a tip for the home cook? “The one item I always recommend keeping on hand for cooking is verjuice; it brightens the food without disrupting the taste. I always have it in my kitchen,” she says.

To win one of four copies of Maggie’s new cooking book Maggie’s Christmas, visit our WIN page now!