Q&A with new Kitchen Garden Foundation CEO

Thursday, November 8, 2018

The Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation would like to introduce our new CEO, Josephene Duffy.

Josephene stepped into the CEO role in September, but she has been working with the Foundation and deeply involved in everything kitchen garden program since 2008.

We asked Josephene to share a bit about what she does and who she is …

When did you start working at the Foundation?

I was recruited on a three-month contract back in April 2008 to work on the Foundation’s communications pieces, like the website and newsletter. This turned into an ongoing position. I’ve since looked after a range of functions at the Foundation from editing to marketing, partnerships and program development. A valuable role was Knowledge Broker, really concentrating on gathering, shaping and sharing knowledge – and I still practise many elements of that.

This current role is an incredible honour as I love everything about what we do.

What does your current role involve?

I believe in the kitchen garden program with every fibre of my being, and feel it’s my role to champion our work. By ‘our’ I mean what the team here at the Foundation does every day. I also mean the on-the-ground work of every learning centre, school and community wanting to improve their children’s relationship with food. Everyone involved works extremely hard to make positive change and deserves to be supported. So, I’m spending a lot of time looking at how to share the beauty and power of this program – and to make sure everyone knows about it.

I’m also proud beyond words to lead a team of diverse, passionate and often hilarious individuals (we take fun very seriously at the Foundation).

Why do you think it’s important for children to learn to grow and cook food at their school or centre?

We know what the facts are: one in four Australian children is overweight or obese, and these children are likely to become obese adults. Then there’s the associated costs of this burden of disease – billions are estimated. The program shows children and their families how to delight in, share and celebrate great food. Many children simply don’t get that experience at home.

The longest and most structured intervention children and families will participate in is the education system. Experiencing pleasurable food education at their centre and school means children will see it as equally important as everything else they learn, and gain more from their education than we could ever have hoped for. The program has so many benefits including opening up to children and their communities what they could do and what they have to offer the world.

First cookbook?

This will sound like apple-polishing but my first ‘real’ cookbook was Stephanie’s The Cook’s Companion. I’m serious – a very good old friend who had trained as a chef had been raving about this tome – ‘the only cookbook I’d ever need’ – but at the time I was a hungry student and the $75 price tag was unfathomable. Then I won a Readings book voucher for being a nerdy student and made a considered decision not to spend it on school texts. One of the best decisions I ever made. I bought my child a copy when they were moving out of home for university and was able to ask Stephanie to sign it – the legacy lives on!

Who nurtured your love of cooking?

My friends. I didn’t experience a great food culture at home or at school. I was lucky to fall in with a series of friends who basically built their lives around eating – and who taught me how to make something delicious out of almost nothing. It’s now much more than ‘cooking’ for me, it’s life. And I don’t have any friends who aren’t interested in sharing great food.

Where does your love of gardening come from?

Food – I love gardening because you get food from it. That’s sort of a joke … but really, walking through a buzzing garden that looks great, smells great and feels great, harvesting fresh lettuce and dill and lemons and beans (how great are broad beans?), and bringing them in to create something delicious with a bit of garlic – what’s better?

Favourite meal to cook at home?

My youngest child really likes making salad dressings so that’s a favourite because we get to experiment with lots of oils, vinegars, herbs and mustards, and leaves and seeds, making it all up as we go. And if I could spend an entire day every week making a laksa from scratch, I would.

Favourite vegetable to grow at home?

Globe artichokes! They manage to thrive in our yard and are so beautiful, and have something intriguingly prehistoric about them. Not to be confused with Jerusalem artichokes, which are hideous.

Favourite book?

I’ll have five, thanks. Wuthering Heights is the most perfect novel written in English ever. Douglas Adams wrote the future in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, which has the best jokes. F Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night – a hundred times better than The Great Gatsby – is sad and indulgent and wonderful. There is nothing crazier than John Barth’s Giles Goat Boy, which reminds me of Lear. And Middlemarch tells the truth, so let’s call the author by her real name: Mary Anne Evans. Now that you ask, I’ll take six – Patrick White’s complete works.

 You can follow Josephene on Twitter @JosepheneDuffy



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