Five Minutes with a Legend: Jo Barrett

Published on 5 July 2021

Photo: Jo Barrett, chef/resident/activist at Future Food Systems

Jo Barrett has achieved more in the four years since her induction as a MFWF Trailblazer than many chefs (and just people in general) achieve in their lifetime. Running hatted kitchens, representing Australia in global competitions, judging national awards alongside the industry’s best, but it’s perhaps her current role as chef/resident/activist at Future Food Systems that is proving to be her greatest contribution and proudest achievement in food so far. Jo Barrett was inducted as a MFWF Trailblazer in 2017. 

The proudest moment in my career has been… Becoming a National judge for the Delicious produce awards, self publishing "Have a go series" and also representing Australian in Milan in the Australian pastry team at the World Championships of patisserie.

The mistake that taught me the most was… I have made so many mistakes and they have all taught me to become a better chef, business woman and person.
My first job in hospitality/food was…. washing dishes when I was 14 at a cafe in the burbs, I took it so seriously and was really nervous. I hardly spoke.

The reason I got into this industry was… I have always loved every aspect of cooking and the industry. I thrive on the connection to the environment, the people, the craftsmanship, creativity and hard work. It's all very rewarding and I couldn't imagine being a part of a better industry, even in the hard times.

The reason I stayed was…I'd never leave...there is too much to learn and many different aspects of cooking and hospitality to move into.

My mentor was/is… because… I don't have just one, I feed off people's energy and drive. Michael James was the first chef I worked for that showed me you can be gentle and kind and give feedback in a productive way. I knew from there that's the kind of environment I wanted to provide for people and still get amazing results.

If there’s one positive thing to come out of this lockdown experience, I think it’s… hmm I had time to create Have a go series but the continued lockdowns in Melbourne have been extremely draining. I use to be able to find lots of positives but now I think it's obscene. I'm proud of the way people have tried to protect their livelihoods, moved to online content but I'm sad how much of a toll it's taken on the Melbourne dining scene. People definitely have a growing interest in the environment and their health which I think is very important.

If I could return to any moment in the Melbourne/Victorian hospitality industry of the last 50 years, I’d choose… 2007 when I started my apprenticeship, that was so exciting. Restaurants were popping off and people were really into the food scene.

But the most exciting development in the Melbourne/Victorian hospitality industry in the last five years is… Future food system ahahah but I'm biased!

What’s next for me is… Keep focusing on the Future food system project and the idea of how the industry impacts the climate. I truly believe we can have a massive impact on our global situation through our food system. I want to keep on bringing awareness to this and provide positive solutions for people.

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