Jean won over a period of 20 years over 50 (mostly gold) medals. Her
achievements included 13 Gold, Silver and Bronze medals at "Olympic
level" and included numerous national and other international awards
before tragically becoming a victim of cancer in 1994. No other
individual that I know of in Australia has ever won so many Olympic gold medals as
Jean did. In one Olympics she won more individual medals than the sum
total of the whole team. Not only was she a fantastic food artist, but
also a wonderful mother to three beautiful children Garry, Lorraine
During a twenty year period, she produced in a "small business" over
600 different models from Butter, Margarine, Marzipan, Bee wax, Bread,
cube sugar and cheese. With incredible speed and natural dexterity, she
could for example produce a 400cm high single colour mermaid margarine
model in 4 to 6 hours. Some of the more complex commissions took up to
three weeks to produce. Her work was very much in demand with
models predominantly in margarine and beeswax dispatched to every state in Australia and
often as far as
Jean first started commercially making margarine models in the mid seventies. She
started because I used to privately produce margarine and ice sculptures to
supplement the inadequate income of a young teacher trying to
make ends meet the requirements for a growing family. One day in
1972 in my "enthusiasm" and during the busy November and pre
Christmas banquet season I took upon too much. Realising that
unless I had assistance I would not deliver Jean asked if she
could assist me.
I made the frame for an eagle and during each day Jean would form the
basic shape. When I returned at night, I would advise and indicate
the next step. When it was completed a week later, it was a better
model than I could have ever produced. From this simple margarine
eagle, very quickly and with a sprinkling of determination she would show a natural talent for sculpturing
in food mediums with an incredible eye for food presentation
Jean soon began developing her own techniques and concepts.
From this initial experience, a small business grew. Making
centerpieces for the hospitality Industry. This was an ideal extension to
her talents, as she could concentrate on her first love of being a
mother for three beautiful children, yet working at her "hobby" from
home and developing her own business to grow.
This page shows a small example of her
incredible creations and attention to detail. The example of detail
that can be identified in just the face of a model (above left) made from margarine
for our daughters wedding.
Jean's concepts, skills and techniques eventually
embraced being able to advise on the presentation of food on a
single plate to the visual experience of a full buffet.
skills in reaching the pinnacle of food presentations needs to be
shown to all who are dedicated to the highest ideals in the visual
presentation of food.
If for no other reason, other than to show what amazing
presentations can be achieved with food.
Jean and I used to
with each other at salon culinaires, while I mainly
concentrated on sugar work and fruit and vegetable carvings (Left). When it came to margarine
she was always the gold and I always the silver. In 1985 we
decided to write a book on the subject of modelling in margarine.
In 1986, we were very
fortunate to meet a publisher in David Cunningham. If it
were not for David's help and invaluable editorial advice
combined with his consent to print the world first book on
the subject of "Margarine Modelling" the book would
probably still be unpublished. I am delighted, just as I
know that Jean would have been, that David's Publishing
Firm "Hospitality Press Pty Ltd" continued to grow and
became recognized as a premier publisher of hospitality
books in Australia before David retired.
Thank you David.
The first and only edition
of Margarine Modelling sold out and was never reprinted
for a variety of reasons, including the changing nature of
the Australian eating style.
Food presentation culture and health regulations also changed
to dampen the popularity of buffets. Consequently the
demand for "show pieces" declined and we do not see
anymore a lot of
the old visual culinary food arts.
Unfortunately in 2008, we rarely
see in commercial kitchens, pulled sugar, ice or margarine
carvings or many of the other food arts in the commercial operation.
The last remaining arena where these arts appear, is a
sprinkling of presentations at the major Salon Culinaires.
Because also, there appears to be a lot less buffet /
smorgasbord presentations in the industry, there is less
emphasis placed on these arts in the commercial kitchen and in
Tafe training. As a
consequence, apprentices and trainee cooks do not learn the
techniques to prepare them.
Chefs seems to have neither the time
nor the motivation to learn these skills. and as a consequence
the pool of cooks and chefs who are able to add these talents to
their bag of skills has become less and less.
Unfortunately, because many chefs do not have the skills to
prepare them, these arts are branded by some as "old fashioned"
and often state that the "modern emphasis in food presentation"
is now on the plate".
But that was never otherwise. I can never remember any
food style era in
the last 50 years where plate presentation
was not paramount.
What the contemporary chef really misses is
the added challenge, joy and sense of satisfaction gained from
of being a specialist in one of the many food derived mediums used to create
visual food art displays. Many chefs were adept at using salt, sugar cubes, boiled sugar, spaghetti, potato, pastillage, margarine,
bee wax, marzipan, shells, fruit, vegetables, and numerous
other mediums that were often used in displays in the foyer or entrance of
the hotel or restaurant just to demonstrate the artistic skills in
Most good chefs have an
hidden artistic nature in them and have a need to satisfy this
artistic urge, especially in the boredom of many commercial
kitchens. In the past this urge was is satisfied by specializing
in some form of artistic skill many times preparing models using food derived
Now and again, someone
raises up to the absolute pinnacle of food art presentation as Jean did, to
demonstrate what can be achieved with determination and
practice in the artistic presentation of food.
I am now happily married again to a lovely lady, Catherine who
rescued me from incredible despair. I learnt that one can love
two equally, as I will always adore my first love with a
marriage that was made in heaven and also happy to have met a
lovely understanding lady whom our children also greatly adore,
never to replace Jean but just as cherished by all.