Jennie Tressler is best known for her creativity and quirky work in the kitchen of First Edition where she has grown as an artist and a chef in the last four years. Her menu represents diversity in food experiences and draws on flavours from around world.
She is a native Canberran whose food journey has taken her to places some of us only dream of. After opening a restaurant in Italy and pursuing culinary adventures in other parts of the world, Jennie returned to the Aussie capital and captured the stomachs of locals.
As the holiday season nears its end, we thought it might be a good time to sit down with Jennie to find out her story, what special occasions look like in her kitchen, and to discuss all things festive!
Q: When did you know you wanted to pursue a food career?
It was kind of by chance. I was travelling around Australia, picking fruit and I figured I needed a qualification. I went to TAFE and I actually had no idea that I would be so in love with food. It was totally unexpected and it just took off from there. Once I started it I thought ‘this is for me’ and I’ve never looked back ready.
Q: What do you usually do during the festive season?
My family is a Canberra family and obviously, Christmas is really important for us. Usually, we do a slow-grazing brunch. We use a lot of local stuff from the Farmer’s Markets like different types of cheeses and fresh fruits because the fruit is just amazing this time of year. We have the brunch which turns into a lunch where we have the more traditional roast-style dishes and lasagnes that we make at home. This year I hosted Christmas, my whole family came over including the kids! Everyone had their different jobs for the day, so I was not cooking all day!
Q: What are your favourite festive ingredients?
It would have to be the fruit! We live in such an amazing place in Canberra, I think with the Tablelands out there that there are so many products and ingredients that are so close at hand. Going into the Federal Olive Grove which we use here in First Edition as well. Then there’s the Tilba Cheese that is always at the markets. I try and leave it to chance as to what I am going to cook on Christmas Day because I like to go to the markets and get inspired by what is actually there.
Q: Being a chef, did you design a Christmas menu for the family this year?
We actually used a recipe that has been in my family for a really, really long time. We don’t actually know where it came from! But it’s a roast chicken, basically, but we changed up the traditional roast and added more Asian flavours. So you start off making a puree and a paste which is like a green colour, but after you cook it, it turns the entire chicken jet black. It’s full of flavour and I paired that with some coconut rice and a bean sambal.
Then we did a play on pudding. I mean puddings are usually served at Christmas regardless of how ridiculously hot Australia is! We steered away from the traditional because a lot of the younger generation doesn’t seem to really like the fruit and mince style. So we did a chocolate pudding but served it with a bit of ginger and chilli through it and very simple vanilla bean gelato.
Q: What’s your favourite festive recipe?
Something that I really love doing is a roast pork with cider apples and paired with honey butter roots and put pomegranate seeds through it just before you serve it. That’s something we always do here [at First Edition] and people love it. Putting modern spins on old-school favourites is what seems to be the most popular. The thing I love about Australia is that people have their traditions but they don’t mind being surprised a little as well.
Q: What are some of your favourite traditions?
When I was a child my Nanna Jean was always in charge of making the Christmas pudding. She used to put in three pence coins in the batter and whoever found the coin got $2 which was a big thing back then. We have now adapted this tradition as none of us like the old-school dense fruit pudding. Instead of a coin, you can put something edible inside such as a glace cherry or a single almond.
Q: What’s the best thing about working at First Edition?
The team puts a lot of love and effort into cooking the food. All of the desserts here are hand-made; we don’t buy anything. That’s what differentiates us. Some recipes, like the Love is in the Air baked rosewater cheesecake, we failed thousands of times but at the end of the day when it’s fine and perfect, it’s a celebration for all of us! For us it’s a game, we always challenge ourselves like ‘what are we going to put on the menu next?’
First Edition is located at 65 Nortbourne Ave. Open seven days a week for:
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6:30 am to 10:30 am (Saturday, Sunday & Public Holidays)
All Day Dining starts at 11 am
Dinner 5:30 pm to 9:30 pm
Happy Hour – 4 pm to 7 pm
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