The predecessor of Slow Food, Arcigola, began in Bra, Italy, the hometown of founder Carlo Petrini, who was horrified at seeing McDonalds in the historic centre of Rome. Slow Food International was founded in Paris in 1989. The name is an ironic way of saying no to fast food and means living an unhurried life, beginning at the table. Slow Food believes food, and food production, should be good, clean and fair. More
We love our “democracy sausage”. But in 1989, the Labor Premier of Western Australia, Peter Dowding, was in trouble for giving sausages away free. His free family sausage sizzle, at an Australia Day function attended by Prime Minister Bob Hawke a week before the state election, could have breached the Electoral Act. The Electoral Commission finally decided that “the dissemination of sausages” was not a bribe under the Act. More
The Taste Festival, now known as the Taste of Tasmania, is held on the Hobart Waterfront. It begins after Christmas and runs through until after New Year, with the River Derwent and Hobart’s historic wharves and Salamanca precinct providing the backdrop. The festival coincides with the Sydney to Hobart yacht race and includes wine, beer and food stalls, tours, entertainment and tasting tables.
The new licensing laws allowed cafés in Victoria to serve a glass of wine, a coffee or a complete meal. Caffè e Cucina, founded by Maurice Terzini with the intention of re-creating the cafés of “Milano, Bologna, Firenze & Roma” showed how it should be done. And the Italian speaking waiters were very, very cute.
According to Mode Australia, a now defunct magazine published by Australian Consolidated Press, French fries, fresh crab cakes and mesculun (sic) salads were very ‘hot’ at the end of the ’80s. On the other hand, crocodile steaks, doner kebabs and char-grilled anything were ‘cold’. Mode’s summary of 80s food trends made interesting reading.
The Dogs’ Bar was opened in St Kilda by Donlevy Fitzpatrick, who campaigned for years for more civilised drinking laws. It was Melbourne’s first small bar, in a city that now claims to be the bar capital of the world, and remains popular for its wine by the glass, live music and open fire. More
The sous vide (literally, under vacuum) technique involves cooking food vacuum-sealed in plastic in a water bath at a precisely controlled temperature of between 55 and 90 degrees Celsius. A precursor was Fernand Point’s chicken and truffle sealed in a pig’s bladder, at La Pyramide in France after WWI. The technique was developed in the early ’70s to cook foie gras and was adopted by Tetsuya Wakuda for his famous confit of ocean trout. He installed sous vide equipment in his restaurant at Rozelle in 1989. More
The Heart Foundation’s Pick the Tick food approval program was designed to help Australian shoppers make healthier food choices. Companies paid to have the Heart Foundation Tick endorsement on their products. The program helped to lift awareness of healthy foods in Australian supermarkets and stores, although some of the endorsements proved controversial. More
One of the few Australian restaurants ever to make it into the top ten of Restaurant magazine’s Best Restaurants in the World, Tetsuya’s started in a tiny building in Sydney’s Rozelle. Moving to the city in 2000, it was the Good Food Guide’s Restaurant of the Year in 2007. The fixed price degustation menu combines Australian, Japanese and classic French influences. The Tasmanian Ocean Trout is one of the signature dishes. More
Terry Durack’s essentials for a civilised weekend out of reach of a gourmet food store were: olive oil and balsamic vinegar, walnut oil, sun-dried tomatoes, chèvre, King Island crème fraiche, Parmigiano, limes, basil, lemon grass, chillis, ginger, garlic, anchovies and Maldon Sea Salt. But by the mid-noughties, sun-dried tomatoes were well and truly yesterday’s heroes.
Oxford Professor of Physics, Nicholas Kurti, and French physical chemist and magazine editor, Hervé This, coined the term molecular gastronomy to describe a scientific approach to cooking. American food science writer Harold McGee and English cookery teacher Elizabeth Cawdry Thomas were also involved in conducting early workshops for chefs on the physics and chemistry of cooking. Foams, gels, dirts and ‘caviars’ resulted. More
In the TV series, The Bush Tucker Man, first screened in 1988, Army major Les Hiddins cruised around northern Australia discovering the kakadu plum and waxing lyrical about lemon myrtle, pepper leaf, wattleseed, bush tomatoes and quandongs. ‘Bush tucker’ became a talking point for the first time, but it was up to others to make these foods sound appealing to a wider public. More
Founded by Fred de Luca in Connecticut in 1965, the Subway chain of sandwich shops was soon an expanding franchise operation. The first Australian Subway was a franchise that opened in Perth in 1988. The 1000th store opened in Tarneit, Victoria in February 2007. Australia is among the brand’s largest markets outside North America.
The Niewenhuysen Review was a licensing system review commissioned by the Victorian government. It was let by an economist and had broad terms of reference with a focus on deregulation. The new Liquor Control Act 1987 implemented most of the review’s recommendations, relaxing trading hours and removing many restrictions on licensees. The Act was intended to introduce a European-style drinking culture to Victoria and allowed alcohol to be served without food in Victorian restaurants and cafés.
In 1987 Woolworths launched its new tag line – The Fresh Food People. The line was created by advertising agency Leo Burnett, although there seems to be a dispute as to who actually thought of it. The line was eventually used by the Woolworths-owned Safeway chain in Victoria after the account was moved from local agency Mattingly. More
The first serious attempt at commercial snail farming in Australia began in the mid-1980s and by 1987 Sonya Begg of Gunnedah, NSW, was supplying snails to leading hotels and restaurants. Ms Begg received a government grant of $2000 to research the ideal climate for snail farming. Among her early clients was Innovations restaurant in Canberra. More
The ‘80s ‘greed is good’ philosophy came to an abrupt end when the stock markets crashed on Black Monday, 19 October. Many blamed computer trading for the severity of the crash. In Australia the ridiculous lending of the recently deregulated banks had created a property frenzy and surging demand. The crash led to the ‘recession we had to have’ in the early ‘90s and hit top-end restaurants hard. More
In 1987, retail trading hours in Victoria were extended to include Saturday afternoon trading, a move that changed the whole shopping experience. However, it was almost another decade until Sunday trading was introduced. Other states have taken different approaches to extended retail trading hours, with Western Australia remaining the most restrictive. Only the ACT and the Northern Territory have completely deregulated trading hours. More
Social researcher Hugh Mackay turned his attention to food. His 1987 Mackay Report, Food and Social Change, available in the National Library of Australia, categorised major responses to food in the 1980s, a time he dubbed the ‘Age of Anxiety’. Mackay identified Adaptors ( Experimenters, Fast Eaters or Faddists) and Regressors (True Conservatives, Neo-Conservatives and Self-Indulgers / Compensators). He also noted the ubiquity of pasta and Caesar salad. More
Australian wine critic, vigneron and wine judge James Halliday began writing about wine in 1979. In 1986, he produced his first annual guide to Australian wines. Since 2000, this has been called the James Halliday Australian Wine Companion. The book and the associated website cover nearly 3000 wineries, with more than 70,000 wine reviews. Halliday has won numerous awards and was made a Member of the Order of Australia in 2010. More
Peters and Pauls were brands of QUF (formerly Queensland United Foods). The range of ice cream products included : Drumstick, Monaco Bar, Skona, Choc Wedge, Crazy Critters, Billabong, Split, Garfield Hunger-Buster, Hava Heart, Nutty Pop, Eskimo Pie, Wild, Choco Malt, Jelly Tip, Two-in-One, Patch, Twister, Dixie, Icy Pole, Popsicle, Frosty Fruits and Barney Banana. It was the widest range on the market.
Alan Attwood, the Cheap Eats guide’s inaugural editor, writes: ‘Ah, 1986. What a year. Bob Hawke was prime minister of Australia, Allan Border (“Captain Grumpy”) led the Australian cricket team and the likes of Whitney Houston, Madonna and Robert Palmer ruled on radio… Concluding the introduction to the 1986 guide, I wrote: “This may well be a collector’s item — it may not be long before the $12.50 limit is remembered with fond nostalgia. That $12.50 (for two sit-down courses) was our arbitrary target for “cheap”.’ More
The Mindil Beach markets in Darwin were briefly located in the Darwin Mall, but after protests from city traders were moved to the Mindil Beach site. The sunset market currently has around 60 food stalls as well as many arts and crafts stalls and operates on Thursday and Sunday evenings during the dry season (between April and October). The food stalls reflect Darwin’s diverse cultural makeup. More
Bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE) was first identified as a major problem in 1986 and traced to the practice of feeding cattle on animal protein supplements, allowing infected animal products to be ingested. There has never been a case in Australia, which has proved an advantage for our export industry.
Margaret Fulton’s Asian cookbook the ‘Encyclopedia of Asian and Oriental Cookery’ encouraged families to pick up the chopsticks and try something new. Asian vegetables became mainstream, with Pak Choy and Bok Choy joining beans, cauliflower, zucchini and broccoli on the supermarket shelves. By 2011, one survey showed 66% of Australian children could use chopsticks. More
The federal Fringe Benefits Tax (FBT) was introduced on 1 July 1986. FBT was payable on restaurant meals, which were redefined as a fringe benefit for employees rather than a legitimate cost of doing business. According to Restaurant and Catering Australia, this had an immediate and dramatic effect on business entertaining, particularly the business lunch, and had many restaurants struggling. More
The term functional foods was first used in Japan to refer to foods with added ingredients that claim to provide a health benefit to consumers beyond the benefits provided by ordinary foods themselves. Examples include probiotic yogurts, cholesterol-lowering spreads and foods with added nutrients, such as omega-3 fatty acids. Such products have also been referred to as “nutraceuticals” or “designer foods.” The Japanese government instituted an approval system for functional foods in 1991. More
By 1985, American-owned Safeway chain operated 126 supermarkets across Victoria, New South Wales, and Queensland. Woolworths acquired the chain, which put their share of the grocery market above Coles and increased the dominance of the “big two” in the market. The Safeway brand continued to be used for all Victorian stores until 2008, after which it was gradually phased out. The last Safeway store, in Wodonga, closed its doors in 2017. More
While pizza delivery started in Brisbane as early as 1978, the first service set up for meal delivery from restaurants was Suppertime, launched in Sydney in 1985. Suppertime was a courier service for higher-end restaurants and, according to Smart Company, mostly operated in Sydney’s affluent eastern suburbs. It expanded to Melbourne in 2015 after being acquired by the German-owned Foodora. More
The first documented appearance of Australia’s most popular coffee order was at Moors Espresso Bar in Sydney’s Chinatown in 1985. The proprietor, Alan Preston, hailed from North Queensland, where Italian café owners had long been offering white coffee in three variations – cappuccino, flat or Vienna. Preston coined the abbreviation “Flat White” when he opened Moors, his first café in Sydney. More
Sizzler was an American idea – the first one was opened in 1958 in California by Del and Helen Johnson. The first Sizzler in Australia opened in the Brisbane suburb of Annerley in 1985 (and it’s still there). Sizzler restaurants, offering steaks and an all-you-can-eat buffet, then proliferated all over Australia. There was even one in Darwin. After their ’90s heyday their popularity began to decline and by 2017 only 16 remained. By 2020 there were only nine and the COVID-19 pandemic proved to be their death knell. In October of that year, the owners, Collins Foods, announced that all would be closed by November.
Sydney’s first community garden, Glovers Community Garden, was created on 600 square metres of north facing, sloping land when the Rozelle Community Centre obtained use of the patch from the local hospital. The hospital also funded the chainlink fence surrounding the garden and provided water. The hospital has gone but the garden persists. More
Sydney Morning Herald writer, David Dale, nominated Sticky Date Pudding as the signature dish of 1984. The invention of the dish, known in the UK as Sticky Toffee Pudding, is generally attributed to Francis Coulson of the Sharrow Bay Country House Hotel in England’s Lake District in 1960, although this has been challenged by writers from Scotland and Yorkshire. More
Retail trading hours were extended to allow all stores in New South Wales to trade on Saturday afternoons. This largely benefited the major stores and big supermarket chains, as small retailers were already deregulated. Progress towards deregulated retail trading hours has varied from state to state, with Western Australia remaining the most regulated.
The Old Ballarat Brewery in Victoria and the Sail and Anchor Pub Brewery in Western Australia were the first to challenge the dominance of the big brewers. The Sail and Anchor team then opened the Matilda Bay Brewing Company in 1985. Starting with its own pub in Freemantle, the company went on to produce the popular Redback wheat beer in 1987. It gained a national market. The boutique brewers were subsequently acquired by the Fosters Group.>>A Short History of Craft Beer More
The first Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide, edited by Leo Schofield, David Dale and Jenna Price, began with The Abbey in Glebe and ended with Zorba the Buddha in Darlinghurst. It included a vegetarian restaurant run by the Rajneeshis, or Orange People, where, so the Guide stated, “the staff are also very nice to children”. The only two restaurants to earn three hats were Berowra Waters Inn and Peter Doyle’s Reflections. More
The first Symposium of Australian Gastronomy was held in Adelaide, convened by Michael Symons, Gay Bilson and Graham Pont. It was attended by the premier Don Dunstan, food historian Barbara Santich and other food luminaries. Sub-titled The Upstart Cuisine, the symposium took an academic approach to the topic, but is generally agreed to have done “nothing but good for Australian food and cooking” (Stephen Downes: Advanced Australian Fare).
Described by Iain Hewitson as “the last BYO in Melbourne”, Fleurie, in a Toorak side street, offered superb food, attentive staff and a great dining experience. The menu was fixed price, and the offerings were generous. My most memorable dish was Peach Melba – a perfectly poached white peach with intense raspberry coulis and house-made icecream. Simple but ambrosial.
Opening towards the end of 1983, Torremolinos restaurant in Sydney claimed to be the only restaurant in Australia serving tapas. This was despite a restaurant called Tapas which was operating in Bondi by 1980. There had been Spanish restaurants in Australia since the 1850s, but it wasn’t until the 1980s that we heard the word tapas applied to those small individual dishes. More
The now-defunct Precision Fry Foods Pty Ltd claimed to have invented Australia’s first hot chip machine. It operated in Robe, South Australia, with the brand name Mr French Fry. However, I am informed by a former employee of Streets Ice Cream that there was a hot chip machine in their staff canteen from at least 1980. More
In 1983, Jean Jacques Lale-Demoz opened his seafood restaurant in North Melbourne. The fine diner was in the vanguard of a trend towards seafood dining in the 1980s. In 1986 the restaurant re-located to a refurbished bathing pavilion at St Kilda beach. At the more casual end of the dining scale, Iain Hewitson opened his Last Aussie Fishcaf in South Melbourne in 1987. The same year, in Sydney, the famous Doyle family of Watson’s Bay opened their new fish restaurant at Circular Quay.
The first Australian Domino’s store opened in Springwood, Queensland. Unlike the rival Pizza Hut, they offered home-delivered pizza. However, they were not the first to do so, having been pre-empted by Silvio’s Dial-a-Pizza and the Pizza Oven Family Restaurants, also in Brisbane.
Denny’s restaurants were another example of an American chain that tried to expand into Australia, but without success. The Australian franchise was owned by Ansett and the first Denny’s opened in the Melbourne suburb of Nunawading in 1982. In 1989 all the sites were sold to the English brewing company, Whitbread, and converted into The Keg steak and seafood restaurants.
The Australian Association of Food Professionals Inc (AAFP) is an association of food professionals who have expertise in diverse food-related areas such as journalism, production, marketing, public relations, food science, nutrition, education, recipe development, food styling and catering. It was originally established as the Food Media Club.
The Food Media Club was officially launched at the Sydney Opera House on 24 May 1982. It was an initiative by Courtney Clark, and the first elected president was the famous television cook Bernard King.
In 2010, Business World Australia wrote of the Association:
This association boasts some of the most distinguished members of the food community. Not only does membership allow for the interconnection of various outlets, but the semi-annual “Australian Food Media Awards” event, dubbed the “Oscars of the food industry” have become a focal point of the media. Here awards are given out for excellence in food writing and reporting. From best cookbook of the year to best communicator about food, the awards range in depth and scope and reach over 20 different categories. The Awards are judged by industry specialists, and began in 1995.
The Australian awards were superseded by the World Food Media Awards associated with Tasting Australia, which began in Adelaide in 1997, something that appears to have been overlooked by Business World. The members of the Food Media Club voted in 2009 to change the organisation’s name to the Australian Association of Food Professionals. Food historian Michael Symons implied in 2014 that the Association was held in some scorn by “serious food journalists” who scoffed at it for being the “PR and Nutritionists Club”.
As of 2017, The Association’s Patron was Margaret Fulton OAM, its President was Kate McGhie (Award-winning international food writer, presenter and judge) and its Vice President was Stewart White (agency principal, senior public relations consultant and editor.) As of 2020, no updates had been made to this information, although Margaret Fulton died in 2019.
Prior to 1982, yoghurt was consumed mainly by recent immigrants and health fanatics. It was largely sold by health food stores and viewed as a bit weird. Yoplait Yogurt was the largest selling brand in France and was licensed in Australia by Plumrose. It was launched with a range of fruit flavours, using the line “It’s French for yogurt” and revolutionised the yoghurt market in Australia. More
The first edition of One Continuous Picnic: A History of Australian Eating propounded the idea that Australian cuisine developed from the need for portable food during early colonial days. Symons was among the first to bring an academic approach to the subject of food in Australia. An updated edition was published in 2007. More
Coles began to trial the scanning of barcodes at checkouts. The first supermarket to use scanning in Australia was SIMs supermarket in Footscray, Melbourne and in 1990 Franklins became the first chain to use scanners in all its stores. Other chains followed soon afterwards. More
The first Donut King outlet opened in March 1981, in the Eastgate Shopping Centre in Bondi, Sydney. It was operated by the Papoulious family, selling primarily donuts and coffee. A new partner, Murray d’Almeida, joined the business two years later. He subsequently bought out the family and founded Retail Food Group which now manages the franchise operation in Australia and internationally. More
Christmas in July is not a wholly Australian tradition. But in Australia it seems to have its origins in the Blue Mountains, NSW. The story goes that a group of Irish travellers staying at the Mountain Heritage Guesthouse convinced their host, Gary Crockett, that the snowy weather made it feel like Christmas. Accordingly, he produced a Christmas dinner with all the trimmings, initiating a tradition that is now known in the mountains as Yulefest. More
Although the term foodie, for someone who is keenly interested in all things food, was first used by Gael Greene of New York magazine in 1980, it is often attributed to Paul Levy and Ann Barr who used it in the title of their 1984 book The Official Foodie Handbook. It seems the term was coined independently on either side of the Atlantic. More
Whether you call it a parma or a parmi, Chicken Parmigiana is now an Aussie pub staple. It’s impossible to say exactly when it arrived in Australia, but it was featuring on the menu of the Pimlico restaurant in Kew by 1980. Whether it was accompanied by the traditional chips and salad is not known. More
By the 1980s, tastes were changing. Kraft launched feta cheese, a satay sauce range and olives, as well as a range of low fat products. The Kraft brand had been around in Australia since 1926 and was originally associated with bland processed cheddar cheese, either in blocks or slices. The range diversified, and by 2017, two thirds of Australian homes had a Kraft product in the cupboard or the fridge. More
The Australian Women’s Weekly Children’s Birthday Cake Book has become the bible for achievement-oriented mums who want to make that birthday party special. First published in 1980, it has gone through many subsequent editions. By 2011 it had sold more than a million copies and the decision was made to print a Vintage Edition. The book was written by Pamela Clark and Maryanne Blacker. More
Even when it became legal to sell kangaroo meat in South Australia this local game was slow to find its way onto menus. In 1993-4, because of the constitution’s guarantee of freedom of trade between the Australian States, it became legal to sell kangaroo meat for human consumption throughout Australia. Many conservationists still oppose its use. More
The Age already had a popular food section, which prompted the publication of the Guide. It was first edited by Claude Forell. There were just over 400 eating establishments mentioned in the first edition of The Age Good Food Guide, including pubs, wine bars, gourmet take-aways, cheap and cheerfuls and late-night cafés. More
Literally ‘drink tea’, yum cha became popular in Australia in the early 1980s, first taking hold in the Chinatown establishments in Sydney and Melbourne. The Cantonese tradition seems to have come to Australia via Hong Kong. For most Australians, it’s more about the food (choosing from many small dishes that are presented on a tray or trolley) than about the tea itself. More
With the White Australia policy firmly in the past new Asian food choices emerged on the restaurant scene. The arrival of refugees from Vietnam saw Vietnamese restaurants opening in Melbourne and Sydney. Although the first Japanese restaurant in Australia opened as early as 1953, it wasn’t until the mid ‘80s that Japanese food became mainstream. More