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Beautiful food isn't fancy or expensive but simple, fresh and produced in a way that benefits both consumers and the planet, according to Australian celebrity chef Kylie Kwong.
Her latest book, Kylie Kwong: It Tastes Better, chronicles her journey around Australia meeting the people behind the sustainable food she uses at home and in her Sydney restaurant, Billy Kwong.
"The big picture for me is how can I help combat climate change? I truly believe that climate change is the most pressing topic of the 21st Century," Kwong says.
Her book is a celebration of the farmers and growers that put food on our tables and includes more than 100 new recipes based on her favourite sustainable produce.
"Their naturally grown produce, that has been grown with lots of love and respect and care for the plants, environment and animals, actually tastes better," she says.
"Not just because it is not filled with chemicals and artificial pesticides, but because of all the pure intention, focus and motivation that goes behind this produce."
Kwong says her appreciation of fresh, naturally grown food was passed on to her by her mother, who also taught her to value food producers.
"As a restaurateur I know I am only as good as the food I can put on my plates," Kwong says.
"In our modern society, for far too long, food has just been a commodity.
"It is about time we started valuing our food again."
There is one thing we should keep in mind when doing the shopping, Kwong says.
"What we put in our shopping basket directly affects our health, our family's health and the environment's health," she says.
"Do we care about our family? Yes, we do, so let's feed them the most natural food."
Kwong is realistic when it comes to the budget needed to buy purely organic food but says that buying good food doesn't have to break the bank.
"I am not suggesting that we all need to go out and fill up our baskets with organic and biodynamic because I know for some people that is very difficult according to our budget," she says.
"All I am suggesting, first and foremost, is to at least buy locally grown (Australian) produce.
"Shop with awareness, not just blindly grab things off the supermarket shelf."
Shopping in season will also save you dollars, Kwong says.
"Not only is the (produce) at its peak ... but it's cheaper because it is in abundance."
When it comes to fresh food, Australia really is the lucky country, Kwong says.
"Our seafood is second to none, our pristine waterways and our beautiful grass-fed beef and beautiful free-range chickens ... there is no excuse (not to) buy fresh, buy local," she says.
"Shop at your local farmer's market as much as possible."
Kwong's Surry Hills restaurant was the first in NSW to become carbon neutral and all her dishes are made exclusively with Australian produce.
"My greatest passion is to offer food that is alive and has vitality. At the end of the day it makes us think better, we feel better and we sleep better," she says.
KYLIE KWONG'S TOP TIPS:
- Only eat animals that have been fed well and have had a good life themselves.
- If you can't imagine a product in its raw state then you probably shouldn't be eating it.
- Don't eat products with more than five ingredients in them.
- If you don't understand the words on the label then you probably shouldn't be eating it.
- Begin with buying locally grown Australian produce, even supermarkets, stock a huge range of seasonal Australian produce.
- Keep it simple, fresh and natural.