Matters of Taste has been going for 24 years now. How have you seen food and cooking trends change in this time?
In 1997, Australia had never heard of reality TV. Access to the world wide web was exclusively for big business use and the Women’s Weekly Cookbooks filled everyone’s shelves with great recipes. But there was no teaching about the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of kitchen skills and Perth home cooks were hungry for knowledge. I started the cooking classes at my kitchen bench, demonstrating simple recipes such as Thai and Moroccan cuisine (at that time considered very new and exotic).
Fast forward to today and many ingredients unknown in the 90s, like harissa, pomegranate molasses and wombok, can be readily found in supermarkets. We are unbelievably fortunate and spoilt for choice with an incredible array of quality restaurants and cafes including those that deliver ready-to-eat meals to your door!
Keen cooks in Perth still enjoy creative time in their kitchens, but many of our students don’t cook at home on a regular basis and come to the classes for pure entertainment, the connection and social aspect and to enjoy a great meal they’ve contributed to.
Matters of Taste founder Tracey Cotterell.
How important is using local and seasonal food to you?
When we first started, our by-line was ‘Cooking for Four Seasons’. I wanted to teach the importance of using fresh produce that was at its peak and in plentiful supply, so it was affordable and nutritious. There really was no Western Australian seasonal fresh produce education available to home cooks.
Nowadays, we can make informed decisions about what we buy, where and even how it is grown. Retailers are favouring local produce and educating their customers with in-store information. We are all more aware of food security and the environmental impact of transporting food from far-flung corners of the world.
The pandemic has shown that we need to support WA farmers to ensure we have a consistent food supply into the future. We cannot rely on other states or overseas produce to keep us fed. Using local fresh produce makes so much sense!
What are the changes you have made to your business in the last year?
When the lockdown was announced in Perth in March last year, as a small family-run business we knew we had to move fast to survive. It was essential to consolidate and operate a different model.
Live, in-person cooking classes concluded in December 2020. After 24 years and over 80,000 attendees, with 60+ themed cooking classes developed and hundreds of recipes designed, it was a bittersweet decision.
We expedited our existing plans to deliver Food Tours, Produce Boxes, and online virtual cooking classes via The Cooks Collective – all of which still deliver personalised experiences but can survive in a more uncertain environment. Dealing with COVID has been tough, but with these changes in place, we feel hopeful and inspired for the future.
One of the key trends picked for 2021 is the rise of virtual cooking classes. Tell us about Matter of Taste’s introduction of this new method of teaching through The Cooks Collective?
My dearest wish right from the get-go was to reach as many local home cooks in Perth and country WA as possible. Not everyone could attend the in-person cooking classes at our premises in Mt Pleasant and creating an online resource seemed a natural progression to extend our teaching.
For the past two years, my husband and business partner Anthony has been filming me presenting recipes from our cooking school kitchen. These films form the basis for over 300 videos and 30 cooking class series covering tasty mid-week meals, baking skills, pastry making, sourdough, and many of the world’s cuisines. We include quick videos of both basic techniques and more professional kitchen tips and hacks, so skills can be learnt and built on from a solid foundation. There’s a Food TV section where I have kitchen conversations with food identities and farmers, plus advice and information from a qualified nutritionist. We add to the Collective continually with recent, relevant seasonal cooking information, new recipes and videos for WA home cooks and the subscription gives you access to all of this dynamic and ever-growing content.
Essentially, The Cooks Collective aims to teach the ‘why’ and ‘how’ of cooking, so preparing food becomes easy and pleasurable. Learning to ‘master the kitchen’ is not an overnight achievement, it’s a long-term commitment to your health and wellbeing, physically and mentally with so many rewards. I’m really excited about its development.
Produce boxes took off during the pandemic and have maintained their popularity. What can consumers expect from your produce box options?
In October 2019 we teamed up with Manjimup local, Anthony East to source and distribute produce from WA’s Southern Forests region, direct to the end consumer. We also built relationships with many of the dedicated farmers in his network of suppliers. Regenerative farming is widely practiced in and around Manjimup, making the farmers genuine custodians of their land. All produce from this area tastes so alive, it’s super-fresh often having been picked within 24 hours of distribution, so lasts longer and tastes incredible!
Reducing plastic, and packaging in general, is high on our list of priorities so we sourced especially made wooden crates from locally grown pine, and special thermal covers. The crates are personalised with our customers’ names and are for their exclusive use, with a variety of produce and pickup or delivery options available.
My husband is the mastermind behind this initiative, bringing together environmentally conscious, local foodies who believe in the power of small groups to achieve meaningful change. The produce boxes fit so beautifully within our business and personal values and we are proud to be offering Perth an alternative and very personal way of shopping where everybody wins.
Matter of Taste produce box.
You’re now running food tours as part of your business. What are your favourite foodie destinations in WA and beyond?
It will come as no surprise that the Southern Forests region is the top of my list, but I also love to explore all the food centres on our south coast and the Gascoyne. Being the conduit between city folk and the farming community through our Agri-food tours has brought us so much pleasure.
I’m hoping border closures will be a thing of the past so we can deliver a Food Tour to Tasmania (Hobart, the Huon Valley and Bruny Island) later this year. I love Tassie’s pristine environment and stunning countryside. The community has a real appreciation of local produce, and there’s so many brilliant people doing amazing things with food. This is a popular tour we’ve been running since 2016.
Then in 2022, we’re off for food adventures in London and the Cotswolds…want to come?!
What does the future hold for Matters of Taste?
Although our offer has evolved over the years, we are remaining true to our purpose of making the world seem a little smaller in a meaningful way by connecting people to their food, encouraging enjoyment and pride in what we feed ourselves and our family and creating a deeper appreciation of how lucky we are to live in Western Australia.
I’m a lucky girl to still love what I do, and I look forward to continuing to celebrate local food and cooking for a long time yet!
Visit Matters of Taste https://mattersoftaste.com.au/