Richard Barassi shares his experience of food intolerances and Travelling around the Victorian countryside for his new show The Intolerant Cooks.
Though I’ve always been excited at the challenge of creating exciting vegan and vegetarian dishes like my kale and pear salad with chickpea ‘croutons’ or my oven baked tofu nuggets and chips, I have to admit that creating intolerant-friendly recipes is a whole new kettle of fish. That’s why I’m so excited about The Intolerant Cooks which premieres on 7TWO on 4 July at 2.30pm. The Intolerant Cooks promises not to be just any ordinary cooking show. Instead it responds to growing food intolerances in Australia with fresh entertainment and gorgeous food ideas for so many Australians struggling to find great food due to eating limitations. It’s not about what you can’t eat, but rather what you can eat.
Series one follows the adventures of comedian and radio host Tracy Bartram, and self-confessed super-foodie Richard Barassi [son of AFL Legend Ron Barassi] as they explore regional Victoria in search of great produce. Each week you can join Tracy and Richard as they drive around in their Fiat 500 visiting rustic orchards across the Yarra Valley, olive plantations in Woodend, wineries and rhubarb farms in Nagambie, and organic vegetable farms across the Peninsula. With the beautiful ingredients they find, they will share their favourite full-flavoured, nutrient rich dishes for those of us with food sensitivities and intolerances.
What The Food? It may surprise you to hear that over 40 per-cent of all Australians experience a food intolerance of some kind. That’s over 8-million people who are affected by intolerances such as lactose and gluten.
I spoke with Richard about his experience with food intolerances and the exciting journey of filming The Intolerant Cooks. Check out our discussion below:
Could you tell me about the food intolerances you’ve come across in your life and how you’ve worked around them?
I grew up with food being a central focus in our family. My grandparents had a delicatessen on Sydney Road, Brunswick. Creating their own meats, hocks and foodstuffs. They had two huge vegetable patches in their backyard. Things were picked and cooked in rapid succession leading to a wide appreciation of fresh produce is beginning of great recipes and great food.
My mother drove us off to pick fruit of all kinds for bottling and for making jam. She cooked us many things that were considered “gourmet” in their day. We tasted everything and ate so diversely, which led me to be the adventurous eater that I am today.
So given that, I never really wanted to find out why my health was so lacking. But there comes a time when your general wellbeing takes precedence and so I began to investigate what was happening. In 2009, I discovered I was lactose intolerant, had an allergy to eggs and a sensitivity to wheat. The “golden trifecta!” It must have been all those party pies at the footy club when Dad was coaching North Melbourne!
It’s a slow road through the beginning of diagnosis. It can be quite traumatic. You have to change your approach to the way you eat. In my case completely clean out the kitchen and basically start again. I think being organised and understanding that your food issues can lead you to understanding so much more about the food we eat, and, finally living a healthier life.
tell be about the journey of filming The Intolerant Cooks?
My journey started the day I walked out of a doctor’s appointment. I remember thinking, “Great! What am I going to cook now?” I drove straight a bookstore and started to look through the cookbooks relating to food intolerances and thought, “I’m in trouble here.” Walking out I decided to write a cookbook based on my own experiences and cooking recipes based around my new-found food intolerances. Fast-forward and it evolved into The Intolerant Cooks
To have met someone like Tracy Bartram who’s passion for pure food is laced with a genuine love of great food was a bit of a dream really. We balance each other out. She is seriously hilarious. A funny lady buoyed in a sea of sustainability.
Were there any particular places that you visited or people who you met that stand out in particular?
There were so many highlights shooting across country Victoria in Season one. Nagambie [featured in Episode One] was simply fantastic. A magical day among the rhubarb crowns and late season vines, cooking up an earthy spiced rhubarb torte and wonderful slow-cooked chicken and vino moments. It adds a layer when you get to experience the landscape that the food was grown in, then to give that food a little respect. It set the tone for the rest of the Series.
What do you like to cook and where do you source your ingredients?
I have always cooked very simply, letting the original ingredients shine through. Less is more when it comes to cooking. Quality will make the whole experience taste that little bit better. Fish and a well-placed BBQ are my backstops. Vegetables and legumes cooked well, and dressed with citrus, good salt, pepper and the best olive oil you can afford will always win the day. If you’re intolerant, you have to be willing to eat with bravado and that will lead you to cooking with confidence.
What do you cook for your friends?
The recipe I cook most for my friends is one that I can cook the day before!
Then quickly finish with a couple of delicious salads, both adding complexity to the dish and ease in preparation. The food is secondary to the gathering of friends or family.
What would you say to people who are affected by food intolerances?
If you think you need to get reading glasses, you definitely do now! Everything on the label is such fine print. If you can’t see it you never really know what you’re actually eating. So investigate. Read the label and learn about you and your gut.
Get organised and don’t be that person who goes to a café and presents as a problem. At The Intolerant Cooks, we are about cooking what you can eat, not what you can’t eat. We hope to educate our TV friends that having intolerances and sensitivities is actually an opportunity to eat well, cook great food and share it with people who in the past you might not have been able to. It’s about bloody living!
Happy Cooking and Keep Smiling,