We caught up with the ‘Simon’ of Simon Johnson Quality foods for a chat about how his company started, what it’s all about, where his passion for food began and his popular annual ‘Talk, Eat, Drink’ cooking seminar.
1. You’re the ‘Simon’ of Simon Johnson Quality Foods – tell us about your company and how it all started.
I started the company in 1989 after seeing a gap in the market for chefs and restaurants wanting quality food. I started to source exceptional ingredients from around the country and the globe and sold them from the back of a truck. Two years later I opened my first store in Sydney’s Pyrmont. The Pyrmont store (still trading today) was joined by a further six stores in Sydney and around Australia and in 2005, by a flagship emporium, the Providores’ Market in Alexandria. This year I have opened 5 pop up shops (including one in the MLC centre) to cater for the festive season.
2. When did your passion for all things food begin?
I was a fortunate to grow up in a family that valued food. Mum and Dad had an organic philosophy all those years ago which saw us grow a lot of our own product or buy direct from growers. My parents had a simplistic and produce driven approach to food which rubbed off on me.
3. You were born in New Zealand – any great childhood foodie memories?
Dad was in the airline which meant I was lucky to explore different cultures and cuisines around the world from a young age. We travelled a lot as kids. I have great food memories from Asia and the Middle East.
4. You’ve previously spent many years chefing in Auckland and Sydney; what’s your favourite restaurant you’ve worked at?
I brought my first restaurant in Auckland in 1981 at the age of twenty two. I sold it 6 years later. It taught me a lot about the industry and how to run a business.
5. Tell us a bit more about your annual ‘Talk, Eat, Drink’ cooking seminar; what’s that all about?
Talk, Eat, Drink is a cooking school that showcases great produce. We work with industry leaders and top chefs from around the globe. I also like to showcase wonderful products through our producer events. It’s a fun, educational environment that celebrates food.
6. There are currently 8 Simon Johnson retail stores across Australia – any plans to expand?
Yes there are plans for further expansion as we find great locations. The festive season is our favourite time of the year and we like to celebrate this by opening pop up stores around the country. We have opened our first Brisbane stand alone store as well as a stores in the MLC building in Sydney, Northbridge and Armidale down in Victoria. To me this time of year is all about celebrating fantastic food, family and friends.
7. If you could eat one meal for the rest of your life, what would it be?
Life is too short to eat one thing for the rest of your life. There is so much great produce that pops up throughout the seasons. Why stick to just one type of food?
8. Favourite place to EAT in Sydney?
Well it depends on the style of food I feel like eating… for French I love to dine at Guillaume at Bennelong, for steak it’s Rockpool Bar and Grill. We are so lucky to have a large number of great restaurants here in Sydney
9. Best place to have a DRINK in Sydney?
10. Where in Sydney do you love to PLAY?
On the water in Sydney Harbour or up at Pittwater.
For more info, check out his website here