The adversity thrown up by COVID-19 has driven many people in the hospitality industry to innovate in order to survive, including Adelaide chef Emma McCaskill, who will appear at Gather & Graze this weekend.
What Emma McCaskill will be serving up at Gather & Graze
Emma McCaskill found new avenues to reach fans of her food during the coronavirus pandemic.
Formerly head chef at Sparkke at the Whitmore’s restaurant fare, Emma teamed up with fellow chefs Paul Baker and Terry Intarakhamhaeng to launch Chefs on Wheels, a service delivering restaurant-quality, made-to-order meals to homes across Adelaide.
When CityMag called to chat with Emma on a Saturday afternoon, she was busy preparing meals for delivery on Monday.
“Just let me turn this down – I don’t want to burn my pot!” Emma yells, politely, as she answers the phone.
With the pot safely over a low flame, Emma explains Chefs of Wheels was born out of necessity.
“It all came about from the pandemic,” she says.
“I was at Sparkke, and I think it was March when everyone had to go into lockdown, and one of my colleagues Paul Baker said, ‘Look, I want to start up this thing, and I need your help to get it started and it means we can cook from our restaurants while our restaurants are closed.’
“[Then] I decided to leave [the kitchen at] Sparkke and solely focus on Chefs on Wheels… and then we picked up a lot of other chefs from around Adelaide – Brad [Sappenberghs] from Comida, Karena Armstrong from the Salopian Inn, Simon Bryant – so it was a really good way to stay busy even though we were closed.”
Emma draws on her Indian heritage and makes all the Indian dishes available on the Chefs on Wheels website from scratch.
Indian will also be on the menu when Emma takes to the demonstration stage this weekend at Gather & Graze – a more intimate version of the annual CheeseFest event, which this year will be held at a new, temporary home at The Market Shed on Holland.
“Chefs on Wheels has a stall on Saturday and Sunday, and I will be cooking with Paul [Baker] at the stall,” Emma says.
“And on Sunday I will be doing a demo first thing in the morning and will be making Indian doughnuts called gulab jamun… Usually they are made with ricotta and milk powder and they are a kind of doughnut thing soaked in honey. I’m going to make that with Kris Lloyd’s buffalo curd [from Woodside Cheese Wrights].
“I tried it [with buffalo curd] and it’s even better than using ricotta… I’ve got a dinner coming up for Diwali, a week after Gather & Graze, and for dessert it’s traditional to serve gulab jamun, so that’s my thing now, I’m going to use the buffalo curd each time.”
Emma’s tip for Gather & Graze is to arrive with an empty stomach and an open mind.
“I love going there hungry and wandering around and trying everything from each stall,” she says.
“It’s such a good group of people that are a part of it… and it’s going to be the first food festival since COVID, so it will be nice to get out and have some nice food and nice drinks and wander around.”
Gather & Graze runs from Saturday 7 November to Sunday 8 November at The Market Shed on Holland, with two sessions each day.
Tickets for sessions are available here.