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Australian legends of cooking

It seems appropriate somehow, that five chefs who have firmly put their own stamp on the cuisine of this country, are themselves now featured on Australian stamps as the recipients of the 2014 Australia Post Legends Award.

This small book does not look as valuable as it is. Not only does it pay tribute to all five of the chefs: Margaret Fulton OAM, Maggie Beer AM, Stephanie Alexander OAM, Neil Perry AM and Kylie Kwong, but each section contains an outline of their career, anecdotes, three stunning recipes with photographs - and four stamps for each of the culinary 'legends'.

Australia Post released the stamps to honour these Legends of Cooking have been recognised for their influence over Australia's food culture and the visionary role each have played in shaping Australia's palate and laying the foundations of our gastronomic success.

At official Australia Day Council events hosted in all capital cities, each Legend was also presented with a 24-carat gold replica of their stamp. Michael Harden, independent culinary writer and member of the industry selection panel, believes the current food culture we have in Australia would not have been possible without the input of these amazing and visionary cooks.

"The people on this list have been integral to the way we eat now, and their innovation, imagination and integrity will keep the inspiration going into the future. It's enough to make you hungry just thinking about it," Mr Harden said.

Margaret Fulton said:

"It's a very nice honour. I'm getting older, and it's a lovely feeling to say that you've wound up on a stamp."

Maggie Beer said:

"I'm a sentimentalist and I've got every letter my mother wrote me while I was overseas, so being on a stamp makes me very proud. There have been so many parts of my life that I've had to pinch myself about, and this is one of them."

Stephanie Alexander said:

"When I want to thank somebody for something special I always hand write a letter because I feel it deserves it and now I'll be even prouder to put a stamp on it. I think it's a great honour and I'm in some marvellous company."

Neil Perry said:

"It is just such an amazing honour and I am deeply humbled to have been chosen. Monarchs' and Heads of State are on stamps, as well as music legends like Barnesy, so to be named amongst them feels like an incredible achievement."

Kylie Kwong said:

"I'm absolutely chuffed. I don't even think it's sunk in yet; I'm still digesting the enormity of it. It fills me with such pride and it makes me want to do even more for this country and to take what I do that step further."

This year's recipients have joined an exclusive group of only 70 others awarded Legend status. The Legends Award began 16 years ago when Sir Donald Bradman was the first living Australian to be honoured on an Australian stamp. Prior to that, the only living people honoured on our nation's stamps were members of the royal family. Today, the only other living Australians to feature on stamps are Australian Olympic and Commonwealth Games gold medallists.

Each Legend will feature on a 60c stamp, with all Legends featuring in a stamp pack, first day cover and set of maxi cards along with this commemorative book. The stamps and associated products are available at participating Australia Post retail outlets, via mail order phone 1800 331 794 and online from 17 January 2014 while stocks last.

And of course, philatelists need to note that not only the stamps and first day covers are collector's items, but so is the book itself.

Australian Legends of Cooking, by Michael Harden, Australian Postal Corporation, 2014, paperback, rrp A$14.95.

- reviewed by Sally Hammond


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