Healthy food doesn’t have to be boring! Emma Schwartzkoff has travelled the world learning about different cuisines, and in her role as a dietitian, she’s identified some “at risk” groups in our community who may feel they don’t have the time, the funds, or the skills to produce nutritious meals. Emma aims to bridge this gap with her cooking classes … welcome to The Tucker Table!
Hi Emma. What led you to call Port Macquarie “home”?
I moved here from Sydney with my partner, Andriy, in 2013 for work. I was (and still am) working as a dietitian for Healthier You Dietetics, and Andriy was working as a GP at Greenmeadows Medical Centre. After two years, we started to get itchy feet and decided to travel the world. After travelling for nine months, we decided that nowhere in the world was quite as great as Port Macquarie. So, here we are again.
What’s your cooking/foodie background?
I’ve always loved food. Mum and Dad have some brilliant home videos of me grunting with glee when they first introduced me to solids! My love of eating definitely preceded my love of cooking. Initially, I just cooked for the final product but as I cooked more and more, I started to realise that the cooking process was just as enjoyable as the eating process.
My love of food led me to study dietetics, where I met lots of other foodies who inspired me to learn more about food and cooking. As a dietitian, you’re always sharing meal ideas and recipes with patients. I’ve designed menus for nursing homes and women’s shelters, and the first cooking classes I ever ran were in Kings Cross in Sydney, which was quite a different demographic to here in Port.
These days whenever we travel, we ensure that we do a cooking class in every country. I’ve done cooking classes in Sri Lanka, India, Nepal, Turkey, Ukraine, Greece, Italy, Thailand, Cambodia and Laos. It never gets old!
Tell us how your business, “The Tucker Table”, was born …
The Tucker Table provides Australian Cooking Classes and Healthy Eating Cooking Classes. I first had the idea when we were travelling. People kept asking me, “What is Australian cuisine?” and saying, “Australia doesn’t really have a food culture”. It made me sad, because I think Australia has the best food culture in the world. It’s complex and diverse, which is why people don’t understand it.
Our food culture is shaped by our fantastic weather, that allows us to eat outdoors. We love outdoor brunch and barbecues at home or at the beach. Our food culture is also shaped by our multiculturalism – we have huge influence from South East Asia, as well as the Mediterranean and the Middle East. On top of this, we have our gorgeous local produce.
Initially, I was just running the Australian inspired cooking classes, but then I realised how much my patients could benefit from them. As a dietitian, we’re always telling people what to eat but if they don’t know how to prepare it, then they’re never going to implement it. My healthy eating classes aim to build on that knowledge and help people put it into practice.
What’s your business’ ethos or mission?
Healthy eating doesn’t have to be boring! I want to inspire people to get in the kitchen and to learn to prepare nutritious and delicious food. I want people to cook a variety of food in a variety of ways. This is the key to healthy eating. If you like everything, then you’ll eat everything. If you only like Maccas, then you’ll only eat Maccas.
Briefly describe some of the different types of classes you offer…
Our Healthy Eating Classes include an Empty Nesters series, which aims to inspire people who are cooking for one or two. We also run classes for diabetics, which teaches people to incorporate small quantities of quality carbohydrates into their diet. We also run classes for people with cardiac problems such as high cholesterol and high blood pressure. These classes focus on menu modification, specifically increasing fibre and reducing saturated fats and salt in common, household dishes.
We have classes for young people moving out of home, where we teach quick, easy, budget meals, classes for people struggling to eat enough vegetables and classes for all those busy people who need 15 minute meal ideas.
In our Australian Cooking Classes, people can choose between the bush tucker, Aussie barbie or seafood menus.
What are a few of the dates for upcoming classes?
4th April – Diabetic Diners
11th April – New School Leavers 1
18th April – New School Leavers 2
2nd May – Cardiac Cooks
16th May – Quick and Easy
23rd May – Veg it Up.
You’ve just missed our Empty Nesters series, but we will be starting this again in June (dates to be released on our website.)
We don’t have a set schedule for our Australian cooking classes. We run them based on demand on Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. Class size is two – six people.
What do participants need to wear/bring to your classes?
They don’t need to bring anything; just an empty belly. Participants should wear comfortable clothes and shoes (ideally closed shoes, in case they drop a knife).
Typically, what types of individuals do you find struggle most with healthy cooking – and how can you help?
All my classes are designed to target specific groups who are “at risk” of poor nutrition. I find that the Empty Nesters generally possess the cooking skills, but lack the motivation to cook for one or two after a lifetime of cooking for a whole family.
The school leavers are an especially high risk group. They often have very limited cooking skills, minimal time and a very tight budget, which makes healthy eating difficult. I also find that full-time workers often struggle to cook nutritious meals, simply because they are time poor.
Each class aims to tackle the barriers for each demographic. We try to re-inspire the Empty Nesters and teach them how to minimise waste and washing. We want to teach basic cooking skills to young people and provide busy people with quick and easy ideas.
Where can we find out more about you and your classes?
You can visit our website:
www.thetuckertable.com or contact me directly via firstname.lastname@example.org
We also have a Facebook page:
https://www.facebook.com/thetuckertable and instagram account @thetuckertable.
Interview by Jo Robinson.