Sylvester Sessions #76

Sylvester Sessions

Jane Lyons

Auckland, New Zealand

Tell us about what do you do.

Half of the week I am a freelance food writer/stylist and the other half I am the Garden to Table kitchen specialist for a special needs school in Otahuhu where I write recipes and take cooking classes for students using produce they've grown in the school garden. (If you haven't heard of Garden to Table, you should Google it – it's a pretty cool organisation.)

How did your journey of working with food come about?

I think I've just always loved cooking/food – when I was younger I had a few cookbooks that I absolutely loved and I would study them like mad. I used to make meals for my family and my older brothers would tease me and say that they tasted horrendous (they'd called my Chicken Chow Mein, "Chicken Chow Crap") but they recently confessed that everything was quite yummy. Last year when I worked for Toast and Dish magazine I fell even more in love with food writing and food magazines and I had some really cool experiences that prompted me to go freelancing. As for the children's cooking journey, I've been pretty interested in this area since uni and have always admired Garden to Table so working for them now is a bit of a dream come true!

Tell us about some projects you have been involved in recently or have planned for the future.

My boyfriend Will and I have a little food thing called The Next Meal and we've got a few exciting projects in the pipeline for this year, one of them is a pop-up dinner for my friend Billie's next art exhibition at Parlour Projects gallery in Hawke's Bay.

Where do you find inspiration?

It feels a bit odd writing this but when I think about it, I really find a huge amount of inspiration on Instagram – there are so many people on that platform doing incredible things with food in their communities and Instagram seems to make those people/projects so accessible. Accounts like Hia Kia, Cornersmith, Fermenting Projects, Rachel Alice Roddy, Pasture, Orphan's Kitchen and Peter Langlands are some of my favorites.

What are you currently reading/listening to/ watching?

Reading: My Kitchen in Rome by Rachel Roddy (I'm pretty hopeless at reading books but this is a cookbook with a narrative and I am loving every word.) Listening to: a lot of Mai FM on my way to school in the mornings. Fake Love by Drake is my current favorite banger. Watching: Rick Stein's Venice to Istanbul.

What is your favourite thing about where you live?

I love that Auckland is diverse and that each part of the city – whether it's Freeman's Bay, Otara or Sandringham – has such a different feeling and something different to offer. I'm finding it really cool working in places like Otahuhu, Papatoetoe and Otara and getting to know the communities there.

Place you are happiest?

Kuratau, New Zealand.

What is the best advice you’ve ever been given?

Integrity is doing the right thing when no one is watching.

Interview and photography by Olivia Renouf.