Mark Olive - Radio interview script

Interviewer: Today, we're joined by Mark Olive, award winning chef and host of the successful lifestyle and cooking show, The Outback Cafe, which you can catch on the lifestyle channel.

Mark, welcome.

Mark Olive: Hi Nancy. How are you?

Interviewer: Good thank you. Now you're here today to talk to us about healthy eating and I guess these days being a chef isn't just about making things taste good. It's about making sure they're good for you as well?

Mark Olive: Oh, totally. It's really important that I think, you know, kids today - but not only that, adults - eat a lot of fruit, eat a lot of veggies and get a bit of exercise, be it half an hour walking, or just out for a quick jog or a game of tennis. It's really important that people have breakfast in the morning, to get that metabolism fired up. And once that's on, you're ready to go.

Interviewer: Now - well, I know myself, a lot of the time you tend to think that healthy food doesn't necessarily taste good.

Mark Olive: Yeah, and I think that's the, you know, perception with, well kids especially, they want to do fast food and stuff like that. But, look healthy food can taste good and healthy food has a flavour on its own. And I think, you know, you've got to get kids trained early. Get them eating fruit and veggies at a young age, so they can really acquire that taste. And once they have acquired that taste, it's easy for them, you know. It's easy for them to understand the flavours, the texture of the food they're eating and enjoy it.

Interviewer: I think from my experience I think healthy food tends to taste cleaner.

Mark Olive: Mmm hum, yeah.

Interviewer: Would you say that?

Mark Olive: Oh, yeah, totally. Cleaner, crisper and not only that, it goes down well and digests a lot better.

Interviewer: It's fresh food.

Mark Olive: Fresh food, exactly.

Interviewer: That's more often a key isn't it?

Mark Olive: Oh, totally. Totally.

Interviewer: Great. Well I'd say most of us, and me included, we wouldn't classify ourselves as gourmet chefs. Do you need a lot of skill to make good, healthy, tasty food?

Mark Olive: No, not really. I mean basic healthy cooking is things without, you know, a lot of fat and grilling a lot of things, and boiling and steaming. And, you know, steaming your veggies and not adding all the extra oils and butter. But, look, you can coat maybe your chicken breasts with a little bit of olive oil, macadamia nut oil. But if you're worried about it actually sitting in a tray cooking, stick it on a rack, so it's not stewing in its own juices - like the fats and the oils and everything like that. It will grill off and you've got a cleaner meat.

Interviewer: Mmm. There is a movement too, that says that cooked food is not healthy food, in other words fresh is better.

Mark Olive: Well they say fresh is better and it is. But certain foods also, you need to cook, sometimes, or part way, to actually get the benefit out of it. So it's a double-edged sword and - but the key is yes, eat fresh fruit. Eat fresh veggies. Steam them, boil them and just have fun with it and like, look, there's non-stick pans out there today. You don't have to cook a lot of steaks and anything like that, veggies in a pan that's going to be sticking, where you have to put oil on there to actually lubricate the actual fry pan.

So, you know, that's another key I think.

Interviewer: In Australia we're fond of barbecuing. Is barbecuing healthy for you?

Mark Olive: Look, there's always been that debate whether it is, or do you char your meat? Is it healthy for you?

I mean look it's grilling as it goes, you know, it's cooking - the fat's dripping off. Look, I love a lamb chop on the barbie [laughs] [indistinct] much everybody. But, you know, you've just got to be sensible with it and maybe if it is marbled with a lot of fat on a barbie, cut all that fat off and let it cook properly.

Interviewer: Now for people living in remote areas, getting fresh food isn't always that easy, or affordable for that matter. So what are some other healthy options when fresh food is just not possible?

Mark Olive: Well that's a big problem too and I think that's a key for a lot of communities to re-introduce a lot of their bush foods back into their communities. So, look, there is communities that grow things like salt bush and - which is high in vitamin C, same with the akundjura, the bush tomato in those remote desert areas. Or, you know the Warrigal green, which again is high in vitamin C and great fibre, you know, which grows along the coast.

So it's re-introducing, I think, our ancient foods back into our communities, but not only that, to Australia. And not only that, give them a sense of what we have in this country. This is - I keep talking about, is our national cuisine and I've been spruiking that for the last 15, 20 years. We've embraced every other culture in this country, accept our own.

I mean, you know, I love Vietnamese, I love Asian and everything else, but I think it's about time we start infusing our own herbs and spices into what we have here to make it uniquely Australian. And it is clean food.

Interviewer: And when you talk about traditional food, you know, catching a fish, that's pretty fresh food isn't it?

Mark Olive: Oh, totally.

Interviewer: Or going to hunt a, you know, whatever it is that is local in your area?

Mark Olive: Exactly and a lot of, you know, remote communities do that, or go and get a geese or a bush turkey and, you know, allowed to take a kangaroo and a turtle and a dugong. So, you know, that does happen around the country as well.

So, again, it's - I think about cooking fresh vibrant, you know, food that will get the whole community fired up. But, look, not only that, these remote communities can utilise a lot of canned food as well, things like the legumes - you've got beans, you've got red kidney beans, you've got broad beans in cans these days. Chick peas are amazing, you know. Again, great fibre, great protein.

So, you know, it's looking into and I think re-educating our Indigenous people that yes, you can eat healthy, if you can't get fresh food. Just source out a few things and yes, it does take time and effort, but look, it's going to be the best thing you do for your body and ultimately for your life.

Interviewer: Mmm. You're making my mouth water there, talking about all that food. And you talked about canned food. Frozen food, is that good for you too?

Mark Olive: Look, everything's snap frozen these days, so it basically comes straight off the field, snap, you know, it's frozen. Corn, peas, beans, again great in vitamins, great proteins, great nutritional value. And being snap frozen, it retains a lot of that, until you actually start cooking it. So there are options out there. Again, it's just getting out there, getting familiar with food and really enjoying the experience, because it is an experience to eat. And I mean everybody has to eat, but you ultimately have to enjoy it and enjoy what you're putting in your mouth.

Interviewer: And what about shopping for healthy foods too? What sort of changes can people make to their shopping lists, to make sure that they get healthier foods, that doesn't cost a lot?

Mark Olive: Well that's the other thing too Nancy, is yeah, fruit and veggies have gone through the roof at the moment. I think that's a way to - I think look at ourselves, of how much we eat too. I mean, you know, we are society where we'll just put anything in our mouth, regardless of whatever.

I think it's really training your body as, you know, as a young adult and as a child that your body doesn't need to be overloaded with a lot of food. It needs fuel yes, and if you exercise, yes. Eat your proteins, eat your chicken, eat your beef. But ultimately you don't need that much in your gut to digest. So again, it's being sensible, it's being - eating your food slow, to the point where you just feel satisfied. Yes, have your snacking in the middle of day, have an apple, have some nuts and keep that protein and that energy up.

But ultimately, you know, because we're such a fast society these days, we just go out and buy fast food. Look, I'm not a saint. I like a Subway, or something like that every now and then. But ultimately I love the experience at home of cooking, having people around and at a dining table, that's where social interaction starts. And not only that, I think the whole - the wellbeing of people is really important, sitting around a table, you do get that whole conversation of - you know, it's a great, great experience.

Interviewer: Yeah. So I think you were just saying you should keep your food simple.

Mark Olive: Mmm.

Interviewer: As well.

Mark Olive: Oh simple, easy. I mean look, there's nothing to knock together a salad, you know, lettuce, tomato, a cucumber and a capsicum in there. I mean basically that covers a lot of the food groups in a cucumber. And your dietary requirements. Again, very simple, very easy and like you said in remote communities, yes fresh food is expensive. Ca...

Interviewer: Can you make a salad - sorry. Can you make a salad out of frozen vegetables?

Mark Olive: Yeah, you can actually. Like - things like the corn, you know cut it off the corn. But, I mean, again it's about, I think, re-introducing Indigenous people, but not Indigenous people too, that they grow this native spinach we've got in this country, our Warrigal greens - in New South Wales it's called, you know, Botany greens - and Warrigal greens everywhere else. It's a great substitute for a salad.

Interviewer: Our ancestors didn't suffer from obesity or type II diabetes. What are some of the benefits of a traditional diet?

Mark Olive: I think the benefits like the kangaroo and the emu. Yes, they're our coat of arms, but for Indigenous people it wasn't [indistinct] in their coat of arms and I think that's what non-Indigenous Australia and everybody else around the world has to get over basically. Skippy was cute, but Skippy's yummy. And Skippy's very good for you, because we have - it's been proven to lower glucose levels for diabetes. So again, a great meat. A huge potential in protein. Same with emu. A very, very lean meat, hardly marbled at all. There's no marbling through it. So it's very lean. Very clean and it's got an amazing flavour on it.

So, you know, but there's things that people have to, I think, get over. And it's like that coat of arms. We have wallaby in this country that's been farmed now. We have possums that come from Tasmania. I mean its on-par with hare and rabbit. I mean, it's the same. And yes, a lot of traditional communities are eating witchetty grubs - again high in protein.

So the - I think, you know, the - as the generations have moved on, we've become more introduced to flours and everything like that. But, you know, that traditional diet is out there. It's still out there in our remote communities and I think it's just tapping back into it and really sourcing it out and yeah, whipping up a storm basically.

Interviewer: Can you give us some ideas on how we can incorporate those traditional elements into our diet. Like, for example, what about dried foods?

Mark Olive: Dried foods - perfect, like fruits. We've got dried fruits. We've got quandongs, you can dry your quandongs. Quandong trees are amazing.

I mean, you know, in the '40s and '50s Nancy, quandongs were quite out there as a jam and as a preserve. And through the '60s, '70s and '80s, off the shelf and I mean - but it is proving again to be very high in vitamin C. We have things like munthari berries and the munthari berries are great. You can dry them out. Apples, you can solar dry your apples. And, I mean, again it's looking into that sort of thing, drying fruit is another way of preserving the nutritional value of what you're eating. But not only that, exploring the taste and the crispness of a dried apricot, or a dried apple, or anything like that.

But we have our Indigenous fruits as well, that you can dry out. And get out there and explore those lemon aspens and desert limes and like I said, munthari berries, rye berries, lilly pillys, quandongs, the list goes on.

Interviewer: Would you say that for every western herb that we know of. There's a traditional equivalent?

Mark Olive: You've hit the nail on the head, because look, we have lemon grass. We have our version of lemon myrtle. And I'm sure you've smelt the lemon myrtle which is an amazing leaf. It's green, gross - glossy - green, glossy leaf. It's got a straight edge on it, but it has that lovely lemon scent. And you'll find that in like in hand creams now and also soaps. But you know, it makes great sauces and biscuits and cheesecakes and - but it's, you know, the best herb I've ever used with sea food basically.

Interviewer: Well, I think there's some fantastic ideas there Mark and I'm sure everybody's mouths are watering as is mine right now.

Thank you very much for your time today.

Interviewer: Thanks Nancy.