By Elisa Cirene
The realm of food opened at an early age for Helen Kline who was raised in a family that loved creating rich food and bountiful gardening traditions.
Helen’s childhood memories include her grandparent’s abundant produce gardens in Ballarat which evoke memories of sweet ripe white nectarines, collecting blackberries in a billy can, hunting for field mushrooms, making blackberry and apple jelly, the delight of golden syrup dumplings and so much more. Helen enjoyed her first cooking lesson at the mere age of 8 when she attended a YMCA school holiday program and learnt to make scones. These young experiences paved the way for what was yet to come!
Memories of the 1970’s include decadent dinner parties hosted by her parents with dishes such as lobster mornay prepared in clam shells, beef wellington, chocolate truffles and after dinner mints. Helen remembers pleading with her mum to help in the kitchen, which was always met with “when you are old enough to clean up after yourself!”. It really is no surprise that Helen’s influences led her to a career working with food.
Helen had just completed her Arts degree when she headed off to William Angliss College to hone her knife skills and follow her dream of working in a kitchen. From there, Helen embarked on a journey across many kitchens and encounters with wonderful hospitality mentors. There were days at the David Jones Food Hall, mornings as a breakfast chef in Brunswick St, mastering Toad in the Hole to the applause of pub goers in England, and fond memories of working alongside Greg Brown of Browns Restaurant and Bakery fame, who inspired Helen with his relentless drive, passion and eye for detail.
During this period Helen was collecting ideas and dreams about pursuing her own business. Her journey started small as she focused on developing a range of value-add products that weren’t readily available at markets. She began with the savoury biscuit range, sourcing locally grown products to include in recipes with flour, oil and seeds from small scale biodynamic / organic and sustainable farms.
One Christmas, Helen was busy baking for friends when she noticed an excess of lemons on a tree in her in-laws garden. This resulted in her first attempt at cordial making and she hasn’t looked back since. The Stir Crazy cordials are a popular product at the Slow Food Melbourne markets for cocktails, soda stream and sparkling water.
Like most success stories, the Stir Crazy achievement is a family effort. Helen’s husband Andrew, who is our regular stall holder at both the Spotswood and West Footscray markets, supported and encouraged Helen over the years and is now a proud Stir Crazy employee. Even the children have supported mum’s venture by working their weekend plans around market days. Helen thanks them by cooking fantastic meals.
Helen and Andrew have recently built a new self-contained kitchen attached to their home and look forward to the possibility of cooking classes and a small farm gate store available to locals and visitors. Watch this space!
You will find Andrew at the Slow Food Melbourne farmers’ markets at West Footscray (second Saturday of the month) and Spotswood (fourth Saturday of the month).