Emily!
Emily Thomas joined Team Otherness during the last two months.
Rather than write me a short resumé as my other staff have supplied me as a basis for these staff celebrations, Emily asked whether it would be possible for me to informally interview her and ask her what I wished to know as she felt slightly awkward and embarrassed about selecting what should be included in her career highlights reel. So began one of the most thrilling culinary hours of my life!
Emily was born to cook. Her parents owned restaurants in New Zealand. Her uncles and aunties and her brother are all accomplished chefs.
Emily has worked far and wide. There were formative cheffing experiences that I am not going to document, apart to say that some of these alone would represent the high points in many other chefs’ careers.
Some early tenures in Australia provided her with both the aspiration and the contacts to secure a job working at River Cafe in London, a position that she held for 18 months and laid the foundations for an obsession with seasonal produce-driven Italian and Mediterranean food.
OMG she has lived an extraordinarily adventurous food life!
Travelling to a remote part of Piedmont, she did the hippy thing: woofing, finding herself on a farm where she had the opportunity to learn the art of making Italian farm-style cheeses, milking the sheep and goats herself. And embedding herself within the Piedmontese culinary culture.
Returning to Australia she studied nutrition in Melbourne whilst working at Union Dining. Tenures in Sydney with Bill Granger and then at Fratelli Fresh where she enjoyed an educational role: managing the market floor, selling the best vegetables and produce and educating the staff and wholesale customers in how to use them.
The next phase of her career took her to Mallorca where she became the chef on board a luxury private yacht, shopping at the local markets wherever the yacht docked throughout the Mediterranean.
Similar yacht-based cooking experiences followed over the next few years, based in Spain, Italy, Greece and Turkey. Then in Antigua in the Caribbean.
Emily then returned to NZ where she ran her own cafe on the Coromandel Peninsula, with an attached orchard and gardens, where she grew much of the produce for the dining room.
Believe it or not, this is a very selective representation of her career!
Emily now has two young children, so the galavanting and itinerant phase of her life is over. Moving to Angaston with her husband and family, she lives around the corner from me and I feel so privileged that she has chosen to join Sam Smith in the Otherness kitchen.
I remember the day Sam told me that Emily had visited Otherness to discuss possibilities and there had been a weird rare heirloom pumpkin grown by Sandor Palmai in the Rockford garden on show in our display fridge. She remarked to Sam that she hadn’t seen this breed of pumpkin since she was working at River Cafe in London. The next day Sam called out to me, showed me a text message on his phone where Emily had suggested how she would love to use such a vegetable. A short, passionately articulated recipe followed. “Grant!’ Sam enthused. “This is what we’re getting!”
Stay tuned for news of Emily’s contributions. We have a Piedmontese dinner in the diary where Jeremy and Heidi Holmes have organised Matteo Ellena from Ellena Guiseppe in La Mora, Piemonte to present his Barolos to a table of 20 guests on 11th February. Please contact us as soon as possible if you are interested in joining us!
Emily is a joy to work with. Her passion rubs off on us all. And every night she goes home to read cook books.

I am so confident that Otherness, with Sam Smith and Emily Thomas collaborating in the kitchen on all forthcoming menus will make Otherness one of our state’s great dining destinations!

– Grant Dickson

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