Absolutely Mama meets food stylist Donna Hay to talk about everything from cooking with her kids, to her go-to family meals
Food stylist Donna Hay lives in Sydney and is a mama of two boys. She is Australia’s leading food editor and best-selling cookbook author and has just launched a new title called Week Light. Full of super-fast meal ideas, it’s perfect for busy mamas.
Interview Carly Glendinning
Were you always interested in cooking and food from a young age?
Yes! I’ve always loved cooking – even when I was just a little girl. I used to help my grandmother in the kitchen, baking cakes or picking fresh herbs from her vegetable garden. Many of my happiest memories are food related! These days, we’re all so time-poor that I think people have forgotten how great it is to teach kids how to make things from scratch and really take the time to teach them about ingredients and how to use fresh produce.
After a long day at work, what are you go-to family meals?
My very favourite thing about what I do is helping people realise that cooking doesn’t have to be difficult (or time-consuming) to be fabulous. Let’s face it – we all have busy lives; the key is knowing when and where to cheat! I stand by my line…. If you have eggs – you have dinner! If we’re really short of time my boys love a spinach omelette for dinner. In summer, I love a bit of DIY, I put a big board on the table filled with salad and shredded veg and chicken and they make their own rice paper rolls or ‘salad boats’.
Do you cook with your children?
They love getting involved in the kitchen, which is great, and when they were younger we often cooked together – but these days they quite often cook for themselves! Their current speciality is sushi and they really like making pizza. My youngest is very specific about what he likes in his lunchbox, too, so he often helps me out with his special requests. But if I’m cooking, I love it if they’re hanging out in the kitchen chatting with me as I cook.
What’s it like raising a family in Sydney?
Well, I don’t want to sound smug but umm… Amazing! Sydney is my hometown and there’s nothing I love more than spending my free time enjoying the sunshine, sparkling sights and beautiful food. The city has a lot to offer, wonderful warm weather and so many world-class beaches within just a few kilometres of the CBD. There’s so much to do with lots of options to have a great time outdoors with my boys. Plus, the Australian restaurant and café culture means there are loads of casual places with great fresh food to take the boys to dinner.
How do you juggle motherhood and such a busy career?
I try my best to have work life boundaries. My aim each day is to leave work behind in the car on the drive home, then I don’t check my emails once I get home (well, hardly ever!). Our office rule is ‘family first’. My boys are at an age now where they want to chat, they want you to be engaged and have a laugh with them. Boys, well my boys – have a great sense of humour!