Julie Goodwin – Cook, author, wife and mother

Gather is the title of Masterchef winner, Julie Goodwin’s latest book. It’s also what she does naturally, as she combines her many roles with friends, family and colleagues in her quest to cook, live and love well.

I chose not to stay at university to finish my Bachelor of Education, opting instead to go into youth work, conducting environment, peace and justice workshops in high schools and retreats all over the place. When Mick and I got married, I became a senior youth worker at Karilong Detention Centre on the Central Coast. I worked there until I became pregnant and then had three boys in rapid succession. Meanwhile Mick and I had established an IT business together.

I’m a cook, not a chef. When we first got married, our mortgage was hefty so the only way we could eat good food was if I created it. I had always loved to cook and still do, but had no formal cooking lessons. I learnt the basics from my mum and all the rest has been just self-taught. I have been learning and trialling recipes pretty well every day for 20 years.

To be honest my ‘celebrity’ status has changed our family life much less than you might expect. The boys are aware when we go to the supermarket we might have to stop and chat to a few extra people, but they accept this now as part of the ‘new normal’. But the suddenness of celebrity, for me, has meant highs and lows and criticism from people I’ve not met. I’ve simply had to learn to cope.

An article about my weight and health is one such example. I would normally let it pass me by, but I felt that these people were profoundly unqualified to make these judgments. I wrote a response on my website, titled, The broader view of broader people. I’m pleased to say that it’s received massive support.

I’m so impressed with how my husband Mick has taken everything in his stride after being thrust into the limelight. He has borne it all with good grace and good humour. Things were pretty nuts after Masterchef. It felt as though it would all fizzle out, if I didn’t take every opportunity. But after a few months I realised that if I was careful and worked hard at the right things, I would end up with a sustainable career.

Mick and I talked it through and we came up with criteria for decision-making regarding the opportunities that were being offered. Basically, if something was good for our family, aligned with our personal goals and felt like the right thing to do, then it was worth pursuing. In other words, if it suited our values, it would be okay.

When Poh and I were selected as contestants for Masterchef wewere required to sign a contract with a management company. When that contact expired I was more than happy to renew. It must be going well as it’s more than three years now and I still have a career. A lot of ex-Masterchef contestants, including Poh, have carved a new life out of their time on the show.

I am not a role model for weight watchers. I don’t represent weight loss or food allergies or any other food-specific cause. Every individual needs to take a good, hard look at his or her own lives. It’s all about understanding what you need. Simply understanding what you put into your body is a good start. When I cook a cake, for instance, I know the exact amount of butter and sugar I am consuming. If you buy a cake from a store or make it from a packet, you don’t know.

The most precious part of my day is when we sit down with family and friends for dinner. The TV goes off and we talk. But every now and again we have a Sunday night special where we sit with meals on our laps and watch the finale of a show we have enjoyed.

I don’t really have a favourite cuisine. I just love discovering new things. to cook. I’m more of a savoury than a sweet cook. Recently I’ve enjoyed exploring Lebanese recipes, but I also love all types of Asian food, particularly Indian and also classic Australian fare. I went to Italy last year and enjoyed learning to make gnocchi which was as light as a feather.

When I first use a new recipe, I like to follow the instructions of the masters. I enjoy learning how to do it properly and only then will I experiment to see how it can be cut down to a simple recipe with accessible ingredients and methods. And this is what I hope I share with my readers and viewers.

To those people who tell me that they can’t cook at all, I suggest they grab one of my books, start at the beginning, step through recipe by recipe, and then it will work.

My current projects include a monthly column for the Australian Women’s Weekly, a segment on the Today Show and the final editing of my new book, Gather, which is due out in April. I really enjoy writing and developing recipes for my own website and my promotional work for Glad and Blanco. And then there is a charity element, which involves creating recipes for charity cookbooks and the occasional cooking demonstration.

Our children are now 14, 15 and 16 and are selfsufficient when it comes to taking the bus to and from school, but I do like to be home every night if I can.

When I won Masterchef I said I wanted to establish a small restaurant on the Central Coast where we live. But right now I look at our three teenage boys hurtling toward adulthood and want to be there with them while they need me. So the restaurant might be a semi-retirement dream for Mick and I further down the track. At the moment if I had a restaurant I could share my food with, maybe, 50 people a day. Right now between the Weekly and the Today show I am actually sharing my cooking with many, many thousands of readers and viewers.

Is retirement a useful concept? For some it is. I know a man who says he’ll never retire, as he would be too bored. Yet others can’t wait to retire to try out a whole raft of new things. It really depends upon how you view retirement – whether you see it as evidence of becoming redundant or whether you see it as a life of purpose in store for you, a new way to open the door to wonderful possibilities.

There are still plenty of challenges in store for me. I’d like to write different types of books – perhaps a novel. I thoroughly enjoy my time on TV and am very open to more of that. But I’m also really loving every minute of life as it is now which basically means never knowing what’s around the next corner.

I stay healthy by leading a very active life. I’m on my feet for most of the day, every day. I eat good food, and have an exercise regime which includes a family personal trainer once a week. Laughing, being surrounded by people who love you, sunshine, lots of water, maintaining mental health and having a purpose are all core ingredients.

This is a reflection of the way

I was raised. My mum would often grab me and say, “Look at the colour of the sky. Don’t we live in a great country?” And other uplifting things like that. And that is what I try to teach my kids. We took them to India to try to give them a sense of how fortunate they really are. I really want my children to have that understanding.

If I could legislate one thing in Australia tomorrow – I simply wouldn’t do it! I believe in more education, rather than more legislation. More common sense and less lawmaking.

If there was just one food left in my life, what would it be? Oh dear, that’s difficult. I don’t suppose I can say wine, can I (laughing)? Okay, let’s say a pork belly. But seriously, I’m very interested in budgetarian food – food we can afford to make and eat!

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Julie’s books are Our Family Table and The Heart of the Home available now from booksellers and online retailers and her latest book, Gather, is due out in March 2013.

Julie’s website is: www.juliegoodwin.com.au

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