Friday, July 16, 2010

Interview - Rachel Khoo & Frankie Unsworth

Edible Immigration Tales event in Sydney last year by culinary collaborators Rachel Khoo and Frankie Unsworth. Photos by Howard Trang.

Edible Immigration Tales 2009 - Goats curd and macadamia nut 'native grubs', and freshly spun edible wool! Photos by Howard Trang.

Guests enjoy their edible tales. Photos by Howard Trang.

After last week's tummy tempting interview with food stylist Deb Kaloper it seems perfect timing to introduce two very special ladies who are hosting an inspired event in Melbourne next week as part of State of Design! (Wow, that was a long sentence.)

Rachel Khoo and partner in foodie crime Frankie Unsworth have a sweet story which I have just tried to re-write about 5 times, but it is so perfectly told on Rachel's blog that I hope you will forgive me for borrowing her words! -

'Once upon a time there were two British girls who met in Paris over muffin making at an adorable cookbook store. They soon found out that they had many things in common: a pâtisserie diplome from Le Cordon Bleu, the love for food and lots of fun.

They had many adventures in Paris and beyond. But the day came when Frankie departed to a far away land called Australia. Rachel was very sad that her fun loving foodie partner in crime was leaving but was determined that no matter how many thousands of miles away Frankie was, she would make sure they would continue to have more edible adventures.'

Rachel and Frankie collaborated on the very popular and much-blogged Edible Immigration Tales event in Sydney last year... and have been invited by State of Design to produce a similar event this year in Melbourne! The talented pair will host a carefully curated food-meets-design event at the Victorian Tapestry Workshop next week. Entitled Edible Tapestry Tales, the event will incorporate lots of weaving, thread-like foods and tapestry techniques at the dinner table! According to their very famous and brilliant Paris-based friend Pia Jane Bijkerk(!), the pair have been busy testing out all sorts of edible tapestries and edible thread in their Paris and Sydney kitchens, and skyping the results to each other...! Pia says 'if I was samantha stephens, I’d bewitch myself over there in a flash'!

WELL really if a wrap like that from PJB isn't enough to get you booking your ticket, I don't know what is! It will surely be a magical and very memorable evening! No bewitching necessary.

I am so grateful to both Rachel and Frankie for taking part in this interview! Such a truly inspiring pair! (And Frankie just turned 2-6..?! OH another over-achiever in our midst!). Rachel is still based in Paris and travels the world on many culinary adventures! Frankie now works in Sydney at who are quite great, you should totally subscribe to their newsletter :)

Edible Tapestry Tales
Friday 23 July, Saturday 24 July, Sunday 25 July, 7.00pm

Victorian Tapestry Workshop
262 - 266 Park st, South Melbourne

$110 inc. cocktail and wine

Bookings -

Rachel Khoo (left) and Frankie Unsworth (Right) both manage to look relaxed and gorgeous whilst whipping up some magic in the kitchen! Photos by Kang Leong and Howard Trang.

Frankie and Rachel! You guys seem like a match made in edible heaven. How did you meet, how and when did you start collaborating on foodie projects?

Rachel – We met in Paris at a cute culinary bookstore, La Cocotte, where I worked baking and cooking for events and workshops. We hit it off immediately being both foodies and Brits in Paris. When I went freelance in November 2008 I started catering and organising small events. Frankie would help me out when she could. It was a little hard as she had a full time job working as food and travel editor for Italia! and Taste Italia magazines. We had some fun cooking for a private concert in a Paris apartment and also doing a Mash up dinner at the Loft, London.

When Frankie moved to Sydney last September I knew I just had to visit. We both decided that it would be too much of missed opportunity to not put on an event when I visited in March and that’s how our first collaborative project was born, Edible Immigration Tales.

Rachel and Frankie cool up a storm at the first Mash Up event at The Loft in London. Photo Bronia Stewart.

Can you briefly give a little idea of each of your backgrounds before meeting in Paris?

– I graduated from Central Saint Martins school of Art Design with an Arts degree specialising in film, photography, graphic and web design. During my studies I worked as an assistant for the Sunday Times Style magazine on interior shoots. I fell into food styling via that. After I graduated I wanted to work as a food stylist but found it hard to get a job so I worked in luxury fashion PR and marketing. Two years later and I threw that in to move to Paris to study Pâtisserie at Le Cordon Bleu. And that’s how I ended up in Paris.

- I have always been slightly obsessed with Italy so fresh out a language degree at Bristol I went to work for a publishing house who specialised in Italy, where I became the food and travel editor. I continued in the role when I left to Paris with my French boyfriend, travelling back and forth to Italy. After two years in Paris I went to work for chef Nuno Mendes in the Summer of 2009, then I got itchy feet again and ended up in Sydney where I work as an editor on

What inspired you both to devise your upcoming ‘Edible Tapestry Tales’ For Melbourne’s State of Design Festival?

Rachel & Frankie -
Kate Rhodes initially put us in touch with the workshop after we had applied to host an event as part of State of Design Public Program. After doing our Edible Immigration tales in March we went to Melbourne where we visited the Australian Tapesty Workshop. It was really seeing all the different colours, textures and handcraft techniques at the workshop, which inspired us to put on Edible Tapestry Tales.

Can you perhaps give us a little sneaky tip-off about what visitors to this event can expect to eat and see!?

Rachel & Frankie
- There will be lots of weaving, threads and other tapestry techniques integrated into the food as well as some delicious wines from Mollydooker in McLaren Vale.

Please tell us some other clever creative people your each admire?

– Wow, that’s really difficult as there are so many. I really respect the work of Marije Vogelzang. I love the way her work/food always communicates her ideas in such a fun and innovative way. The TED talks are also very inspiring. I find that inspiration doesn’t always have to be visual. Hearing about concepts and ideas can also stimulate and push your work too.

– I am constantly reading blogs where there is endless inspiration. I love Sibella Court’s styling and her Paddington shop The Society Inc. I think Jim Denevan is incredibly cool with his touring pop-up dinners on farms across America.

When it comes to food, Slow Food founder Carlo Petrini is my pin-up, along with Jonathan Safran Foer and Michael Pollan, all of whom are incredibly influential in changing the public attitudes to food and its provenance. Anything writer and philosopher Alain de Botton says I hold as gospel.

What would be your dream creative project?

Rachel & Frankie
– Organising the Edible Tapestry Tales is already bit of a dream. The Australian Tapestry workshop is an amazing venue as well the State of Design festival giving us a blank canvas in terms of creation. A dream would definitely be not dealing with all the administration. Dealing with bookings is so time consuming!

A project where we’re not constrained financially would definitely be a dream. The events we do rely just as much on the interaction and reaction of participants. The cost of food, equipment and staff means that we have to charge a certain amount, which limits who can come. It would be great to offer something for free or small fee, open to everyone but for that we would need a big sponsor, which in this economic situation is a bit difficult.

Rachel and Frankie's notes and scribbles for Edible Tales last year!

What is next for Rachel Khoo and Frankie Unsworth?

– I have my second French language cookery book coming out in September and I’m currently working on a third. As for ‘Edible Tales’ who knows. If this one is a success we’ll be back for sure!

– It is safe to say writing, cooking, eating will probably be involved.

Rachel Khoo, back at The Loft in London for Mash Up II last year. Photos Kang Leong.

Paris / Sydney Questions

Your favourite neighbourhood in Sydney (Frankie) / Paris (Rachel) and why?

– I’m definitely a right bank (north of the seine) girl. I live in the 19Th in Belleville which has a large Chinese community but also a very young and creative scene too. It has some great parks: Butte Chaumont and Parc de Belleville, which are perfect for summer picnics and plenty of cheap and cheerful Parisian bars.

- I live in and love Bondi, but I work in Surry Hills, which means I get to revel in the Sydney's creative and cool side during the day and then enjoy seaside living on the weekends. I see it as the best of both worlds. Moving to Sydney, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to live by the beach. It honestly makes everyday feel like a holiday.

What/where was the last great meal you each ate in your home town?

– I’m currently baking a lot of French pâtisserie so I really like my food to be simple and healthy. I usually go to Bob's Kitchen (some good photos here), a vegetarian restaurant in the Marais. They do delicious salads, soups, sandwiches and other vegetarian delights which are the perfect antidote to all that sugar.

- The last great meal I had was probably on my birthday at Marigold in Chinatown with a fellow food friend. We feasted on Yum Cha late morning accompanied by some really dodgy sparkling wine and finished up with custard buns and mango pancakes. It was a perfect way to celebrate the big 2-6.

Where do you shop for the tools of your trade?

- There’s a street in Paris, rue Montmartre (metro Les Halles) which has several chef shops: Bovida, Mora, A. Simon and a street along, rue Tiquetonne there’s G.Detou, great for specialist ingredients and L’épicerie de Bruno which has an amazing selection of spices.

- Seasonal Concepts in Redfern is a great place to pick up quirky one off items – plates, cups, cakes stands. For all things practical for the kitchen, it's all about the Chef's Warehouse in Surry Hills. I love the Earth Foodstore, my local organic shop on Gould street in Bondi for doing the everyday shopping.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

– If I’m up early enough I’d go to yoga and then my local market, which is on a Wednesday and Saturday. I have my favourite fruit and veg guy where I pick up my fruit and veg for the week. He always has a great selection and picks out melons for when you want to eat them. If I’m feeling a little naughty I go get a Pastal de nata (portugese custard tart) from the organic bread stand. And then I go for a café créme at Café Cherie, my favourite local hangout.

- Yoga at Dharma Shala in North Bondi followed perhaps by smashed eggs and avo at Porch and Parlour. Walk along the beach or around the cliffs to Bronte. The winter months have made Bondi bookstore and cafe Gertrude and Alice highly appealing for its vast collection of obscure food books and slouchy sofas.

Sydney / Paris’ best kept secret?

– Well in Paris it’s a little difficult as it’s small (in comparison to other capital cities) and nothing stays a secret for long. There’s this new gelato shop in the haut marais (1 rue dupuis). It’s run by Mary Quarta, an Italian who doesn’t speak much French or English but certainly knows how to make delicious gelati.

- Not sure it's a secret, but Youeni Provides has been open for a few months on South Dowling Street and not only are the guys super nice, but we share a love for Beirut and Buena Vista Social Club which you’ll hear bellowing out the sound system. I go there for the creamy pumpkin soup accompanied by a slab of Sonoma miche slathered in butter.

More Mash Up II - Photos Kang Leong.


  1. wow- their work looks/sounds amazing.

  2. i totally agree! this is beautiful! :) you have some lovely bits and bobs on here!Truly inspiring

    thanks for sharing



  3. Amazing work from two very talented young ladies! If you get to the Edible Tapestry Dinner please share some photos.