Wholesome & Real Food: VanillaFood
Pernilla ‘Nilla’ Tomkins
Why did you become a chef?
I have always loved cooking. Growing
up in Denmark, I helped my mother a lot
in the kitchen. I started studying Physical Education at University and it wasn’t
for me, so I decided to do a chef’s apprenticeship and I have been
cooking ever since!
What is your approach to food?
I guess I have a very healthy approach.
I have been eating only organic for more than 10 years. I wanted to feed my two daughters healthy, organic foods so
I slowly changed the way I cooked at
home and that followed through to my restaurants. To me, the most important thing is to look after your health and family first, if you don’t have that, you have nothing.
Is it important to use local produce?
Absolutely. All our meat is from Eumundi Meats and we love Nurture Greens. We are about 95 per cent organic, so our eggs are biodynamic and we even have a little herb and flower garden out the back at Noosa Junction. We love to decorate our meals with flowers.
What do you love about being a chef?
Definitely creating in the kitchen.
I love nothing more than going into the garden at the restaurant to pick herbs
and flowers and see them go from the garden to the table.
What has been the most rewarding moment of your career so far?
Opening VanillaFood at Noosa Junction was a huge deal for the whole team and for us as a family. I’m also very excited about my first cookbook, which should be out by Christmas. It’s been 10 years in the making but the timing just feels right now.
Do you cook at home and if so, what do you like to cook?
I definitely like to cook at home.
I make a lot of traditional Danish recipes but I’ve turned them into a more modern, healthier version. When I was a child growing up in Denmark, we would go foraging mushrooms. Mum would cook them up with lots of thyme and lots of cream and put them on thick home-made toast. Now I make it with coconut yoghurt instead of cream so it’s a healthier option. I have served it in the restaurants and it will be in the cookbook.
Who is your culinary inspiration?
I do like Jamie Oliver. I think he stands for what he believes in and he has remained pretty humble too.
Who would you love to cook for?
Probably my grandmother, who passed away when I was six months old. She was a great cook.
What is your favourite kitchen tool?
Definitely wooden spoons. I have a fetish for them! Everywhere I go in the world, I buy one. I use them all but I do have my favourites in the kitchen.
What is your favourite ingredient?
Turmeric. It has great health benefits such as being an anti-inflammatory and an antioxidant. I use it in a lot of my recipes. We do a beautiful turmeric roasted cauliflower salad. It’s a magical ingredient!