Food is my first love. Eating, buying, photographing, reading and writing about food. This love was formed early on, like at lunches cooked every Sunday by my Grandma. Sometimes I was allowed to pick mint which grew just behind the greenhouse for mint sauce to go with roast lamb. Other times I was given the then seemingly huge wooden spoon to stir the bread sauce which went with roast chicken. Also in the garden with my Grandpa, where I helped him dig up potatoes and pick beans, berries, tomatoes and apples. And on family day trips with wonderful picnics and stops at favourite places for peppery pasties, crumbly flapjacks and sky high knickerbocker glories.
Fast forward to university, where I started cooking in earnest. I always made big pots crammed full of wholesome ingredients; soups, pasta sauces, curries and froze them into student size portions. I loved to shop at Roots Fruits and Flowers in Glasgow’s West End, choosing market fresh produce from the burgeoning wooden shelves. And I seized any opportunity to cook for my friends, dinner parties if you will, around student kitchen tables with odd cutlery and dodgy bottles of rose.
Upon graduating, I spent three winters cooking in ski chalets in the French Alps while in the summer I would prepare the freshest game and seafood catering for families in Scotland. At one home near the Isle of Skye, I remember de-bearding mussels collected from the Loch just outside the kitchen window. When it came to cooking the mussels though, the electricity, which was powered by water went off, because leaves were covering the screen protecting the power wheel. I had to finish cooking them on a gas camping ring by candlelight!
When I arrived in Australia in 2005, I was keen to formalise my time as a freelance cook. I gained my chef’s qualification whilst working at the stunning Pilu at Freshwater, and learnt many lessons about kitchen hierarchy and Italian food along the way. Fulfilling the need to branch out independently, in 2008 I opened my own cafe, Jammy Cow, which I successfully ran for five years, inventing the hippie roll and perfecting passionfruit cakes. In 2012 I started Chef by the sea, a boutique catering service on Sydney’s Northern Beaches which allows me to prepare more creative and inspiring food. Chef by the sea is a culmination of everything I have learnt and is what I love to do. To cook for others.
In her own words Clare explains the drive behind Chef by the sea. I love to create and cooking is very much a creative pursuit. To be able to start with a set of materials and end up with a complete dish is something that I find very fulfilling. I also enjoy the nuances that come with cooking, the fact that by altering the quantity of an element in a recipe, increasing or lowering the cooking temperature, a dish can turn out very differently to a previous effort, sometimes for the better, sometimes not. It’s a constant learning process.
“My cooking is relaxed, casual and family centred. I believe food should be served in abundance around a table, or on a simple picnic rug, with family and friends, where people help themselves to what’s on offer. Food seems to have the wonderful ability to set an inviting scene and bring people together, through the common act of eating as well as the conversation that it can incite. More than that though, eating; smelling, tasting, crunching, slurping, savouring, brings joy at the same time as it nourishes and sustains. That is a wonderful combination.
My overriding belief is that food should be made with real ingredients. Sea salt, pasture raised eggs, extra virgin olive oil, sourdough bread, farmers market fruit and vegetables, artisanal cheeses, sustainable seafood, great quality chocolate, well raised meat, local honey, fresh herbs. That, time, patience and love.”