Born and bred in Adelaide, the talented Emma McCaskill is a leading Australian chef who celebrates cooking in all its forms, having drawn much inspiration from her Indian heritage and global cooking experience. She’s also a strong advocate for equal rights for women in the hospitality industry.
Now, she’s set to be a part of this year’s Tasting Australia presented by RAA Travel which kicks off on the 30th April through to the 9th May. The 10-day event will showcase all things South Australian: the produce, the people, and the place. With over 140 events across the state, there’s something to suit all tastebuds.
We dove in deep to learn everything we could about this talented chef…
Who are you / what do you do / what’s your background story?
I am a mother, a teacher and have forged a career as a leading Australian chef for almost 20 years.
I was a rebellious teenager and left school early to begin a career in cooking at the age of 16. This lead me to a hugely successful International career at restaurants including Narisawa (Tokyo), Sat bains (UK), Tetsuya (Syd), Ezard (MELB), Magill Estate (ADL), The Pot By Emma McCaskill (ADL) and Sparkke at The Whitmore (ADL).
I love a good laugh (and a wine) with friends and am solely devoted to my two daughters. I am passionate about creating equal opportunities for women in the hospitality industry and paving the way for young people in cooking.
I’m working on a project in the Education sector, with over 30 schools across South Australia. I work on curriculum, I mentor students and I help find students job opportunities who choose to become a chef as a career path.
I am also apart of Australia’s premier eating and drinking festival, Tasting Australia. For those who want to say hello, I will be headlining the ‘Cooking For Your Family’ event in Town Square (with my daughter Grace) to show tips and tricks on how to add fast, affordable meals to your weeknight dinner roster!
What’s a saying that you repeat to yourself to pick yourself up?
I don’t have a daily mantra per se, but when self- doubt creeps in or life presents it hurdles, I often tell myself to ‘just keep going’.
What’s the best piece of advice that you’ve ever been given?
‘Fake it till you make it’! Saying yes first, then learning along the way is what helped catapult me into success. My lack of knowledge and experience when I first started out was a huge benefit in the beginning. It’s really important to realise that it doesn’t matter if you don’t know, because you can always find out. Just seize any opportunities that come your way and roll with it!
Who’s the person that you most look up to?
I look up to many people for different reasons. I’m constantly inspired by Maggie Beer for her energy and passion with cooking, and her ability to juggle a family at the same time. I hope to carry out the same enthusiasm for cooking and provenance as she does throughout my career. I hope I get to cross paths with Maggie at the Tasting Australia festival in a few weeks time!
What’s your favourite place in SA?
Kangaroo Island! I just came back from a visit there last week. It’s such a beautiful place — Snelling Beach is a special part of the world and when you’re on the Island it feels like you’re getting away from everything. Watching breathtaking sunsets, soft sand, blue water. The next beach over — Stokes Bay — has an awesome fish and chip shop also.
When you were little, what did you want to be when you grew up?
I went through many phases, from wanting to be an undercover detective through to a textile artist. I have always enjoyed creative, hands on projects so landing on cooking was a perfect balance for me being hands on and creative.
When you got your first paycheck EVER, what’s the first thing you bought?
The first job I started was in Melbourne as an apprentice chef. I arrived in Melbourne knowing no one, armed with a suitcase of essentials. Melbourne was a lot colder than I had imagined, I didn’t really factor that in when I packed my bags, so I bought myself some warmer clothes with my first pay check!