If you devour Australian food-industry media, you probably already know that Annie Smithers is one very busy woman.
In addition to running a busy regional restaurant, in the past year Annie has released a new cook book, Annie’s Farmhouse Kitchen, sold her house and is in preparation to teach cooking classes (in France!) – travelling with mentor and good friend Stephanie Alexander AO - later in the year.
Annie, who apprenticed under Alexander from the age of 18, has built a reputation for delighting diners with classic, French ‘farmhouse’ fare inspired by seasonal produce, much of it grown locally in her own garden.
“She loves the craft of cooking. Often, she will bring a full tart to a table so she can experience the pleasure of you looking at it. She has the same sensual appreciation of food that I have: its shape, colour and the story behind it.” Stephanie Alexander
After serving her apprenticeship; working in Melbourne kitchens, Annie moved to the country and now owns and operates her own acclaimed restaurant du Fermier (Of (or from) the Farmer) in Trentham, Victoria.
Her de jour menu is inspired by her own one-acre garden which provides approximately 90% of the food that she serves in her restaurant.
She also hosts regular Masterclasses, her website currently lists 17, including the art of braising, smoking, charcuterie, a four-course Christmas menu and of course her famous preserves.
It is clear from her daily routines and her commitment to sharing, teaching and celebrating food how much Annie enjoys the life she has designed.
While we’ve not yet had the pleasure of attending one of her masterclasses, we love visiting her ‘farmhouse’ and we are thrilled that she was able to make time to to share her world, and her recipes, with us this month.
Hi Annie, can you tell us a little about your background? What lead you to cooking?
I have been cooking for over 33 years now. As a child I was always interested in cooking, as an adolescent I was forever making fancy cakes for my school friends, and when I finished my HSC, I decided to defer my university studies and seek an apprenticeship in cooking. Somehow I never found my way back to study.
What are your career highlights to date?
Owning and independently operating restaurants over the past 12 years is something I'm very proud of. Sometimes I get silly 'fan-girl' moments when I cook for famous people. But overall the highlight is turning up to a fully booked restaurant each week and get the opportunity to make all of those customers happy.
What is your favorite menu item and why?
My favorite menu item is the menu that I cook each week.
Where do you source your produce?
Most of the fruit and vegetables come from my own garden. Meat and poultry come from local and ethical farms.
What feedback do you get from your regular customers?
They love the generosity and honesty of the food I cook.
Do you have a favourite kitchen tool?
My beautiful French cook’s knife.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in the food business?
I’d be raising cashmere goats in Tuscany.
A word to describe Mount Zero Olives
Each month we ask our Mount Zero Hero to add to our Foodie’s bucket list – what would you recommend?
Having just come back from Italy, I’d recommend going to Tuscany and feasting on Salumi. (Salumi are Italian cold cuts predominantly made from pork.)
Do you have any special plans or dream project for 2017?
In September I'm taking my first cooking school in France. We will be stationed at my friend Kate Hill's cooking school in Gascony and I think it's going to be a blast of a week.
We have no doubt! What an amazing week in the making. All the best Annie, thanks for sharing your world and your flavours with Mount Zero this month.
For more information on du Fermier and Annie’s masterclasses please visit: dufermier.com.au
Stephanie Alexander extract from the Good Weekend Two of Us, March 2017