Sydney seems to have become the summer residence of world "art de vivre", and this is in no small part due to the influence of the former food stylist turned queen of lifestyle magazines. Meet the icon and the city-sanctuary that have been integral to each other 's success.
Donna Hay, former food stylist turned queen of lifestyle magazines and renowned author…
SYDNEY IS A EUROPEAN CAPITAL ON THE OTHER SIDE OF THE WORLD. IT’S THE PERFECT BLEND OF OLD AND NEW WORLD, A TASTE OF THE WEST IN THE FAR EAST, THE CLOUDS OF EUROPE HOVERING OVER OCEANIA. But it’s so much more than an Anglo-Saxon outpost transplanted to the other side of the world, halfway between the East Indies and the South Pole. Tourists’ memories of Australia are often limited to surfing, kangaroos, Uluru (the sacred rock of the Aboriginals), and the artistic flair of the continent’s Aboriginal people. But beyond the ‘brand image’ is a country whose resources go way beyond a few tourist trinkets. Australia’s prime asset is its way of life which is cultivated in various different areas: interior design, fashion, travel, food and cooking utensils – all extensively covered in lifestyle magazines. For all of this, the tone is set by the “Donna Hay Magazine” which is to the Aussie way of life what “Vogue Italia” is to the fashion world. The success of lifestyle writing in Australia is undoubtedly because there is a certain reality behind the journalistic creativity. Although the press is a smokescreen, there is no smoke without fire, as they say. The glossy pages are bursting with images of a new, warm Europe that makes the old continent seem somewhat faded and temperate. Has the warm climate been the catalyst for taking the very British culture of well-being and relaxation out from the comfy indoors to flourish in the great outdoors?
THE AUSTRALIAN LIFESTYLE “Sydney is an easy place to live, a place where you have to work hard, but where you are rewarded with plenty of entertainment,” says Donna Hay, founder and Editor-in- Chief of her eponymous magazine. “There are very few places in the world where you can leave the office and five minutes later, cleanse your mind on the beach of your dreams, surfing a big wave.” Sydney is a cultural crossroads, where the whole of Eurasia comes in search of an Australian lifestyle, a stylish daily way of living. This way of life draws elegance from its British heritage. English is after all, the language of tact and good taste. On top of that, however, you get a strange blend of origins that seems more like a solution than a compound – especially when it comes to food culture. Australia makes the most of its distance to get perspective and clarity on the major culinary styles. Fusion can be dragged into confusion if everything is viewed from too close-up. A healthy sense of perspective is needed to take everything in and make sense of it.
"In culinary photography, as in the fashion world, context is everything."
SYDNEY IS AN ATMOSPHERE With pioneering enthusiasm, everyone is invited to contribute their know-how for the furtherance of the common good, just as the Afghan cameleers once played a role in taming the Outback with their dromedaries. Like many recent societies, Sydney is an atmosphere, a climate distilled into a culture. It mixes and matches the best of all worlds, with a refreshingly opportunistic beauty. Why can you find better Italian food here than in Italy, better Chinese cuisine than in China? The further a culinary culture is taken from the separatist tendencies of its homeland, the more it tends to focus, work out its repertoire and find meaning in its key features. Most of the restaurants that Donna Hay recommends are concepts or interpretations, rather than places where a strict cultural “identity” is projected. This type of cuisine is not about collecting old recipes like in a museum where, out of context, even the greatest masterpieces fade like dying stars. Instead it has thrived in creating a new synthetic genre. It imitates nations who have long been studied by outsiders, countries like England, Italy or France, whose posture is shaped by the need to create a meaningful place in the world. This food is honest, serious and based on good work that is well done. Its consumers are liberal-minded, critical foodlovers; demanding but not obsessively analytical, for over-analysis only leads to dull results.
A LOVE OF COLOUR Donna, former food stylist turned magazine queen and renowned author, tends to focus on colour just as much as flavour. “Sydney has perfect light, pure and clear in the summer, consistent in the winter. Our recipes are shot in natural light, with the aim of striking the right balance with seasonal tones. Colour coordination is so fundamental for me that we draw up a restricted palette for each issue of the magazine. In culinary photography, as in the fashion world, context is everything.” Anglo-Saxon people have a feel for colour, with their beautifully painted houses, unlike the touchedup efforts in France or Italian-style daubing. Donna Hay’s universe is styled around a blue so pale it verges on white. This is the famous Donna Blue, which forms the basis of her range of signature kitchen utensils and accessories. Her products, such as this splendid blue-tinted steel food processor, are available the world over, and can also be found in the pretty little Donna Hay General Store in the attractive suburb of Woollahra.
SUCCESS STORY IN 5 DATES
1997 : First recipe book (around twenty other books have since been published, translated into seven languages and selling over 4 million copies).
2001 : First issue of "Donna Hay Magazine".
2005 : First cooking utensils stocked at David Jones.
2009 : Opens a shop in the Sydney suburb of Woollahra.
2011 : "Fast, Fresh, Simple" and “A Cook’s Guide" books released. Tenth anniversary of “Donna Hay Magazine".
Text : Julien Bouré, Photography : Jean-Claude Amiel