By Grant J Everett
“Fast Ed” Halmagyi, one of Australia’s best-loved TV chefs and food authors, dropped into Flourish Australia’s Figtree Conference Centre on the 5th of June to cook up a storm. He has cooked for some of the biggest celebrities on the planet, and now he was going to whip up something special for our conference centre assistants: a banquet of traditional dishes from his ancestral homeland of Hungary. Those of us who knew about Fast Ed’s upcoming visit in advance had to keep things under wraps for several months, which wasn’t always easy! On top of serving an awesome feast, Fast Ed was happy to share some of the tips that have helped him become one of the most successful chefs in Australia. It isn’t every day that you get expert-level advice just handed to you, is it?
Fast Ed’s style is all about showing the average home cook how to create restaurant-style cuisine in their own kitchen. He has a passion for encouraging people to be more adventurous with their recipes, and to have a passion for flavour. It’s in Ed’s passion for bakery that you’ll find his philosophy of food: cookery is a process of transformation where simple yet perfect flavours become unforgettable meals.
Fast Ed’s visit was actually a prize that Figtree had won in a competition called “A Taste of Harmony”, an initiative that has been encouraging workplaces across the country to celebrate cultural diversity and form closer bonds through the medium of sharing food. We are no strangers to inclusion: one of the key precepts of Flourish Australia is promoting diversity in the workplace in all its forms. Ed also serves as the Ambassador of A Taste of Harmony, so he’s enthusiastic about their work.
“Food brings people together and gives us a chance to open up and connect,” Ed commented. “As an ambassador for A Taste of Harmony, which is about sitting down with workmates to share a meal and talk about our cultural backgrounds, I’ve learnt that everyone has a story.”
“This was a tremendous morale boost for everyone involved with the Figtree Conference Centre,” said Manager Sue O’Rourke. “Figtree Conference Centre is an amazing venue for meetings and events. But our social purpose is to provide employment and training to people with lived experience of mental health issues, people who might struggle to get a foothold in the open employment market. You can’t put a value on the significance of someone as recognised and respected as Fast Ed coming in and teaching us so much.”
Like all of the conference centre assistants, Liza Henry felt inspired.
“It was such a buzz having Ed in our own kitchen and showing us his tricks,” Liz said. “He was so encouraging and interested in what we do, not just on the catering front but also the social diversity and inclusion front, which is what we’re all about. We learnt so much in the time that Ed was here and have all gained so much from the experience.”
And it seemed that Ed got a lot out of the event, too.
“I was really humbled to spend time with staff at the Figtree Conference Centre and hear some of the inspiring stories about the important work they do. What a passionate group of people!”
Ed’s visit also happened to fall on Figtree Conference Centre’s 5th birthday, so being able to celebrate how this business has grown and thrived at the same time was a real bonus.
Fast Ed, from all of us at Flourish Australia and the Figtree Conference Centre, thank you so much for coming out to share your passion for food with us. We found your visit truly inspiring, and were excited to have an opportunity for autographs and celebrity snaps! Thanks Fast Ed for your tips, tricks and Hungarian banquet, and a huge thank you to A Taste of Harmony for making such a great experience possible.
Panorama magazine spoke to LINDA EVERETT, one of Figtree’s Conference Centre Assistants, about how she found Fast Ed’s visit.
PANORAMA: Hey Linda. Just wanted to ask you about when Fast Ed came to cook for you guys at Figtree. What did Fast Ed do on the day, exactly?
LINDA: He came to Figtree to cook a lunch for us, from his homeland in Hungary. He showed us how to cook it, and he also asked us questions about hospitality, and shared some of his wisdom about cooking. We could even take home a few doggy bags of what he cooked!
And I understand that you were able to answer a few of Fast Ed’s own questions. Can you tell us about that?
He asked what is the special French name for having everything ready, and I said “mise en place”, and he asked me what it translated to, and I said “everything in its place”.
And why was Ed at Figtree?
Figtree won a competition through Harmony Day competition called “A Taste of Harmony” to have Fast Ed visit our kitchen.
And I understand Ed pulled up in his own van and carried his own equipment and ingredients in.
He did. Flourish Australia provided a photographer, a video camera operator to record it.
And what was Ed like? Was he down to earth, was he friendly?
It was quite surreal. He was charismatic and caught our attention easily, and it was really awesome having him there. Ed was a real character. He was positive, enthusiastic, friendly, down-to-earth and professional.
Did he tell any stories that stayed with you?
He told us how he writes books, and he’s written about eight books so far, and that was pretty cool.
You’ve always been a fan of Fast Ed, haven’t you?
I have! Fast Ed was in my Certificate III TAFE course as a part of the theory work. He was the one who ran the theory work on the computer when we went online to do our theory work.
So in a way, Fast Ed was one of your TAFE teachers…
Yes, in a way…
Do you think all the Figtree workers had a good time when Ed came in?
Oh, definitely. People got one-on-one photos with him, we took lots of pictures. And afterwards he sent us a letter saying “to all the staff at Figtree, cook with passion and eat with love – Fast Ed”.
About Fast Ed
While Fast Ed is probably best known for teaching Australians about achievable, time-conscious, family-friendly cooking on the Logie-winning Better Homes And Gardens, he has also hosted the Discover Tasmania travel show for the last three years, is the star of his own afternoon cooking show called Fast Ed’s Fast Food, and has appeared on numerous other television shows. He’s no stranger to the airways, either, regularly guest-starring on ABC Radio 702 and Better Homes And Gardens Radio.
Fast Ed is a prolific food author, sharing his best tips and tricks for creating great meals in his best-selling books, his most recent one being Kitchen 52: Delicious Reasons to Cook Every Week of the Year. They are all available in book stores and online. Fast Ed also writes an entertaining, easy-to-read weekly syndicated column for the News Local network of newspapers, and contributes to a variety of other magazines and newspapers both in Australia and beyond.
His motto is simple: “When you do less, the ingredients can do more!”
Beginning his culinary career at 15 as a kitchenhand while he was still at school, then becoming an assistant chef, over the following twenty years, Ed has had experience cooking in some of the world’s best restaurants. As a chef and pastry chef, Ed’s resume includes the iconic Rockpool and Bennelong in Sydney. His favourite job was working at the Wickaninnish Inn in Tofino, Canada.
Ed has also found the time to do a Bachelor of Arts/Law, started a Bachelor of Business degree, and even qualified as a beekeeper. Ed is a successful commercial photographer, running a food and product media business in Sydney called Roughcut Studio, and continues to play competitively as a member of the Pittwater Phantoms AFL team.
“Figtree Conference Centre celebrates 5 years”, June 6, 2018, https://getsydney.com.au/2018/06/06/figtree-conference-centre-celebrates-5-years/