Lucy Ridge developed a love for cooking in her mother’s kitchen from a young age. Now she’s turning her passion for food into a book celebrating the work of women in all aspects of the industry.
“My mum did a lot of baking when I was a kid and I always really liked helping her out with that,” Lucy said.
“Part of it was purely out of greed because, if I helped mum bake the cake, I got to lick the bowl. So that’s sort of how I fell into it.”
When Lucy was just 15, she started working in kitchens while studying and later became a chef.
Now 28, the freelance food writer and chef of 10 years has decided to take a “chef’s gap year” to undertake several internships across Australia. She plans to learn more about the food industry and pen her first book about her findings.
“Essentially, I’m travelling around Australia to do short-term hands-on internships with women who are working across all aspects of the food industry,” Lucy said
“There’s a lot of women who are farming and working towards growing food and making food, and I think it’s important to elevate those stories and show other women that it is possible.”
She hopes to undertake as many different internships as possible.
“It’s really about getting back to the roots of where food comes from,” Lucy said.
“I’m looking at working with brewers, Indigenous women who are running food businesses, female farmers and female producers.
“Then I’m hoping to be able to collect a diverse range of experiences, and write a book based on all of those things.
“It will be about all the internships I’ve done, the different places I’ve been to, the people I saw and the lessons I learnt.”
Lucy first developed a taste for internships last year when she did one as a cheesemaker at Second Mouse Cheese Co in Orange, and another at a Victorian pig farm, Jonai Farms and Meatsmiths.
“[At Second Mouse] I really got to know the process and looked at how they do things on a day to day basis,” Lucy said.
“It’s a fairly small cheese factory out there, they do eight different cheeses … but overall it was a fantastic experience.
“At Jonai Farms and Meatsmiths, I worked on a small scale pig farm with less than 100 pigs who lived in the paddocks their whole lives.
“They rotate the pigs regularly around the paddock and improve the soil structure as they go, which was really interesting to see, and they also do all their own butchery on site.”
Through her experiences so far, Lucy said she had learnt about the importance of local food economies and steering away from mass producers in supermarkets.
“It’s really important, wherever you can, to buy locally and to get to know the people who are growing your food,” she said.
“Buying food doesn’t have to be a transaction, it’s not just, you take my money, I take your product, it can be a community.
“I think everybody’s better off when we’re able to form communities like that.”
Lucy’s next internship is at the end of June at Blue Dog Farm – a small market garden that grows fresh, organic produce in Queensland.
She will be learning practical skills in market gardening, but also about the community, farmers and producers.
“I’ll be in Queensland for about six to eight weeks. I’ve found that it’s a good amount of time to really immerse myself in the work,” she said.
“I will be working alongside a lady named Jackie, she grows what she calls really fancy salad – so she’s got a little market garden with micro greens and salad greens, and she does mixed salads for a bunch of different restaurants in Brisbane. She also sells directly to customers.
“I’m pretty excited to do some more work on a farm. I really enjoy working outdoors, listening to the soil and the land, and working based on what it tells you. It’s a pretty special experience.”