At this moment we are in Lyon in France, and it’s such a beautiful city, especially the old town where we are staying. We’re here for the the Sirha Food Service Exhibition and the Bocuse d’Or competition. The exhibition is very impressive, with over 200,000 food service professionals including 25,000 chefs 3,000 exhibitors and brands focusing on influences and innovations in the food industry. There are seven halls filled with trade displays.


It goes for five days and includes the World Pastry Championships and the Bocuse d’Or finale. Named after the ground-breaking French chef Paul Bocuse, the Bocuse d’Or is a biennial world chef championship that has been running since 1987.


Frequently referred to as the culinary equivalent of the Olympic Games, the event is the world’s most prestigious cooking competition. Over two days, 24 countries compete: Australia on day 2.


Michael Cole, head chef at Georgie Bass Cafe and Cookery and Flinders Hotel is representing Australia. He will be assisted by his commis Laura Skvor.


Their first dish is a roasted rack of veal with five chops. The second dish is a vegetable chartreuse with seafood. A chartreuse is a French dish comprising vegetables that are wrapped tightly in a decorative manner, cooked within a dome mould.

Michael’s love of local produce, no matter what country he is in, extends his curiosity into the farming aspect and the ecological impact, which is where his belief that ‘everything should harmonise’ comes into play – I can only admire this.

“As a Chef working on the magnificent Mornington Peninsula in Victoria, I’m privileged to be surrounded by the stunning ocean and coastal hinterland of Victoria,” said Michael Cole.

“This unique environment – pristine waters, clean air, rich soil and diverse micro-climate nurtures an abundance of fine produce, which encourages my clarity of purpose to achieve my dreams, and inspires my vision and creativity, to stretch the boundaries of my craft.”

We wish Michael and Laura all the best!


Move over Peppa Pig and Thomas the Tank engine, watermelon birthday cakes are all the go on the toddler wish list!


When the gorgeous toddler in my life requested a watermelon birthday cake for her second birthday party, I couldn’t believe my luck. Now I know what you are probably thinking: yes, well that’s expected, you’re a Dietitian and sugar is more than likely banned in your house. So not expecting you to make super sweet cupcakes with pink icing, covered in hundreds and thousands.


Interestingly I had little influence with this request. I know that this young one loves fruit, especially watermelon, blueberries, strawberries and kiwifruit, and has been exposed to a healthy food environment at home all her life, and this highlights the importance of the first 1,000 days in laying the foundations for healthy eating. But no food is forbidden.


Fruit generally tastes sweet, but this watermelon-lover also eats lemons, natural yoghurt and red kidney beans. Her palate is developing and it’s so important that we expose young children to a wide variety of tastes and flavours. And don’t pass on our food biases to them. We need to encourage them to be intuitive eaters and to also have a healthy relationship with food.


So, back to the watermelon cake. Had a look at Pinterest for some inspiration and then headed to my favourite fruiterers in the whole wide world, Toscano’s of Kew. They have been going for three generations and have three stores in Melbourne: one in Hawksburn, Victoria gardens in Richmond and the original store in Kew. I have been shopping there for years. In fact my mother bought all her fruit and vegetables there when I was a child – and that’s quite a while ago!

Toscano’s also sponsored the Hawthorn Football Club with a weekly fresh fruit delivery when I worked there as their nutrition coach in the late ‘80s and ‘90s. So we go back a long way.


Dom, who is one of the third generation Toscanos, is my go-to person at the Kew store. When I explained my task ahead he ’went out the back’ and carefully selected four perfectly shaped, seedless watermelons for me to sculpt into three circular tiers. (I ended up only needing three.)
The first challenge was how to transport the watermelons in the boot of my car without them rolling around and getting bruised. Once we overcame that by encircling them with baskets, briefcases, computer bags and boxes, they arrived home safely to and remained sitting quietly in my car boot till the morning of the party.


The next challenge was how we were going to transport the finished ‘cake’ to the park where all the little two-year-olds were partying. To help it ‘hold’, I melted some white chocolate and spread that on the serving platter and stuck the first huge circle of watermelon on to the surface, then each other layer was attached to the one below with wooden skewers.


I must admit the circles ended up being more heaxagonal as I approached the top tier. Anyway, the watermelon tiers stayed in place and didn’t move or crack, so that all worked.


And then the easy part was decorating it. I had a small gingerbread cookie cutter and pressed that into cantaloupe or rockmelon (depends where you are from), and attached them onto the bottom tier with tooth picks and then alternated them with strawberry halves.


The next tier was decorated with circles of gold kiwifruit that looked a bit like eyes with blueberries as pupils. Then I just dotted more blueberries and grapes and strawberries all over the watermelon and finished with a top layer of the same. Slices of watermelon were then stacked around the edges.


What I found so interesting was the reaction from the children. They loved the watermelon cake, especially the cantaloupe gingerbread shapes! Even my little family member who won’t eat cantaloupe kept pulling these little ‘orange men’ from the ‘cake’ and eating them with great delight.


What is the message here? It shows that how we present the food to children is super-important. It’s about making food fun to eat, whether we are talking offering colourful food (not brightly coloured lollies) or fun shapes. I am now going to cut all the vegetables I can think of into different shapes and see if that encourages greater consumption.


Well the party is over and the watermelon cake has been a definite winner, not only with my beautiful two-year-old, but her friends and their parents.


As one of the mothers said to me: ‘I wonder what the birthday cake request will be for next year? Broccoli cake perhaps?’ I wish !!!


Well, as they say…a week’s a long time in football and what a week it’s been. We saw Collingwood knock off the Grand Final favourites, Richmond, with an amazing performance and have now won the right to play for the premiership.

Then we saw the mighty Demons, known for their clever, chaotic style of football, fly to Perth and get annihilated by the West Coast Eagles. Admittedly the weather was much warmer than in Melbourne but surely the fitness staff would have ensured that the players were somewhat acclimatised, well hydrated and recovered properly after their defeat of my beloved Hawks? I’m sure the dietitians could have helped there.


It’s so disappointing for the footy fans to have such one-sided preliminary finals.  Hopefully we have a tight game for the Collingwood –West Coast Grand Final.


I must admit I am happy to see Collingwood in a Grand Final again. It takes me back to 1980 when Collingwood got the ’Collywobbles’ in the Grand final and lost to Richmond by a massive 81 points. Hopefully the ‘Collywobble’ era doesn’t return this Saturday! After that record loss I was appointed to the Club to see if a change in diet may help turn things around. They managed to get to the Grand final in 1981, but once again lost. This time to Carlton, but at least the margin was only 20 points, so some improvement. Can’t really say how much of that improvement was attributed to the change in diet.


In those days players really didn’t pay much attention to what they ate and drank to improve performance. Friday night was often fish and chips, deep fried potato cakes and dim sims The pre-game meal was a ’fry up‘ 3 hours before the match, consisting of eggs, sausages, hash browns, steak and white bread, washed down with cordial. We didn’t have any understanding about alcohol and recovery and just trying to convince the players not to drink alcohol the night before the game was a battle.


How things have changed. Or have they?


This week on my radio segment on 3AW I invited Emily Walker, Collingwood’s dietitian, to join Darren ‘one-eyed Pie fanatic’ James (Denis Walter was away) and I to talk about the Magpie’s dietary preparation this week. She said that there would be nothing unusual this week as far as diet goes. They would be eating their usual diet which she referred to as an anti-inflammatory diet consisting of colourful fruits and vegetables, oily fish and other healthy fat sources like olive oil and avocado.


‘What about Carbo loading with mountains of pasta the night before the game?’ I asked. Emily said that while some players still enjoy their pasta there was a shift to rice as they felt rice was easier to digest. She said that the provision of healthy snacks was important and she emphasised good protein sources like nuts, chia pods and dairy drinks and foods like yoghurt. They drink water and sports drinks, which was no different to the old days, but what is new is the dark cherry juice and pickle juice.


Why the cherry and pickle juice you may ask? Dark cherries are high in polyphenols which have anti-inflammatory effects. I added that the cherry skins contain melatonin and that helps sleep. Emily agreed that they use the juice for improving sleep as well.


The pickle juice on the other hand is to help treat cramps but you don’t have to drink it. You can use it as a ‘sensory aid’ whereby, Emily says, that if the player just smelt it their cramps can disappear. Well that sounds a bit like a placebo to me – and that’s OK too. Salt tablets were all the go in the early ‘80s, but too many of them caused stomach cramps so we went back to basics and just increased fluid intake and occasionally used quinine to treat cramping.


Going through my treasure box I found a copy of the first diet sheet I prepared for the Collingwood players in 1981, with an original drawing of a happy looking Magpie eating an apple. This was done by a student dietitian Rita Federico who was doing a placement with me at the time.  It highlighted the importance of a balanced diet and showed the players how to choose from the 5 food groups to ensure optimal performance . How to stay well hydrated and which food to eat before a game. This advice still holds relevance today.


The main difference is that our dietary advice today is much more tailored to the individual. We didn’t have any players with food allergies or intolerances and there were no vegetarian or vegan footballers.


I would also like to congratulate Tom Mitchell, the Hawks star who has had such a fabulous season, on winning the Brownlow last Monday night. I had to smile when I read the article in the paper where Tom attributes the improvement in his game to a change in diet. His admitted that his pre-game meal, consisting of a box of savoury shapes and a Kit Kat, was not ideal and he says he is now on a strict salmon diet. Not sure what that is exactly Tom but it’s definitely an improvement from the fish and chips, potato cakes and dimmys pre-game prep of 38 years ago.


May the best-fuelled team win on Saturday!