About Sophie Zalokar
I am a chef, food writer and stylist, recipe developer, food educator, regional food and agritourism consultant and destination media personality.
Over the past 30 years I have been engaged across roles in the Food, Hospitality and Culinary Tourism, Agribusiness, Publishing and Media industries with positions across the domestic and international marketplace.
I am a creative, self-motivated, passionate and dedicated hospitality and tourism professional with respected knowledge and industry experience; my work being driven by my love of connecting people with an authentic sense of place through the experience of discovering and eating memorable food while respectfully honouring ethical and sustainable sources.
Here’s how it all happened.
My work as a chef began with a 4 year apprenticeship at the Pheasant Farm Restaurant in the Barossa Valley, South Australia in the mid to late 1980’s with Maggie Beer. A pivotal time in Australian culinary history with one of this country’s most beloved cooks and pioneers in the paddock to plate movement.
My early education in the kitchen was founded on the principles of seasonality and supporting local producers; learning to creatively adapt to the many inherent variables associated with having a direct connection with produce at its seasonal peak.
From the Barossa Valley, I traveled and worked as a chef in a variety of positions internationally including British Columbia, Canada, Alaska, USA the United Kingdom and Germany before arriving in Perth, Western Australia in 1990.
Perth was rapidly evolving out of a dusty salmon-pink fine-dining era into a more casual European bistro, café and pub-based scene where coffee, beer and local wine were becoming unique, artisanal and valued. The Oriel Café was at the centre of this food cultural shift and where I worked as a Sous Chef for 18 months.
After a period of returning to Visual Arts studies at Edith Cowan University I cooked and baked for Kate Lamont at her family’s Swan Valley winery restaurant and at their outpost food and wine store in the heart of Perth’s corporate CBD.
Food Writing, Consulting, Training & Recipe Development
While raising two small children, I began food writing for Homes & Living magazine with a quarterly feature section and The West Australian daily newspaper with a weekly recipe over a 13 year period.
From 2000 to 2004 I was the Food Consultant for the Fremantle Arts Centre, creating the menus, training the café staff and collaborating and presenting a series of food and wine matching events with wine educator Lexie Thompson.
My first book PicNic: Outdoor Feasts in the Australian Landscape was published by Fremantle Press in 2002. It was about how eating in the natural environment is experiencing the deep connection between food, people and place.
My second book, Food of the Southern Forests (UWA Publishing) was published in 2014. Together with the support of the Southern Forests Food Council and photographer Craig Kinder, I had the privilege to write the stories of 40 local producers and develop recipes with their produce.
From 2006 I have been commissioned by several primary produce marketing organisations to develop recipes that educate and promote West Australian fresh produce including: Rural Industries Research & Development Corporation for the Kimberley Boab Grower Group, Fruit West Cooperative Ltd celebrating 40 years of Pink Lady Apples and showcasing the new Bravo™ Apple, WA Potatoes to create a range of recipes offering creative, fresh ideas with this pantry staple and the Southern Forests Food Council as part of their 2019 Retail Marketing Campaign.
Regional Hospitality & Culinary Tourism
At the beginning of 2005, my then husband and I moved our family to a small property on the outskirts of Pemberton, in the heart of WA’s Southern Forests timber and agricultural region. Over several years we built luxury chalet accommodation, planted a heritage vegetable garden and fruit orchard, raised a smallholding of farm animals and developed strong relationships with the local community.
In 2011 we opened Foragers Field Kitchen & Cooking School. Over an 8 year period I taught hands-on cooking workshops and demonstration cooking classes and offered weekly long-table dinner events focusing on the region’s fresh produce and the culinary heritage of the early settlers, which formed the core of my approach to everything offered from my kitchen.
As a regional hospitality and tourism business operator I have been involved in the WA Tourism Famil Program, a member of several business and community focus groups to develop the Shire of Manjimup Tourism Strategy and Local Heritage Strategy and a WA State Tourism Conference Panel Speaker.
From early 2018 to late 2019 I was the Agritourism Coordinator for the Southern Forests Food Council, developing customised Food & Farm Tour experiences for various groups wishing to meet local growers, understand their work and taste fresh produce in its prime at its source. A highlight in this role was developing a Chef’s Food & Farm Tour program for established and emerging West Australian chefs.
Media & Public Speaking
Since 2016 I’ve been regularly popping into the ABC South West and ABC Perth radio studios to chat about seasonal food and over the years been invited to various state, national and international food and writers events to present and participate on speaking panels; an Australian Delegate to Slow Food’s Terra Madre in Turin, Italy in 2008, a West Australian ambassador for Tourism Australia’s Restaurant Australia marketing campaign along with the early years of produce awards judging for the now Delicious Produce Awards.
I have been invited to speak at many food and tourism events including Perth Readers & Writers Festival, Tasting Australia, Gourmet Escape, Taste Great Southern, Critical Horizons Agricultural Conference, FACET Culinary Journeys Conference, Geraldton Big Sky Readers Writers Festival and the Truffle Kerfuffle.
Foragers sold at the end of 2019 and at the beginning of 2020 I left Western Australia to travel solo around the country on my BMW R 1200 GS motorcycle for a period of rest and exploring examples of best-practise regional food and wine experiences; returning to Fremantle in September 2021. I have documented this journey in a series of travel writing posts on this site titled Motorcycle Diaries.
My work as a chef, food educator, food and farm tourism ambassador and destination media personality has been driven by my love of connecting people with an authentic sense of place through the experience of discovering and eating memorable food while respectfully honouring ethical and sustainable sources.
It is through these positions that I have demonstrated proficiencies and developed a wide network to create and maintain effective business relationships, from producers and farmers, tourism agents and distributors, industry bodies and government, through to media, digital influencers, trade, suppliers and customers; out of which my new Food Consultancy + Collaboration practice has developed.
I’m guessing if you’ve got this far down the page you’ll understand this already, but please be respectful. All content and photos on this site are protected by copyright and cannot be used without permission. If you would like to feature any of my recipes, photos or writing on or in any electronic or print publications, personal or commercial, please contact me for rates and permission.