Aussies spend more time talking about food and watching cooking programs than we do eating. Flavours from all over the world combine to impact our health, political and cultural habits.
But who decides what's on Australia's plates? Mix together supermarket tsars with fruit and vegie tycoons, add some cookbook queens for sweetness, deep fry the fast food fat cats and spoon a dollop of celebrity chef on top. And then there are the restaurant writers and reviewers who add spice to the whole feast.
Next week we're kicking off a new list looking at all things food. Here, Amber Jamieson presents the shortlist:
Stephanie Alexander (chef turned educator): Her famous Cooks Companion is a must-have in every Aussie kitchen but it's her work at primary schools with the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden program that's making generations of Aussie kids enjoy vegetables.
Peter Bartholomew (restaurant investor): The money man behind many of the country's top restaurants, Bartholomew is a strong financial backer in the Spanish-loving MoVida group (which includes several restaurants in Melbourne and a new bakery opening in Sydney) and helped top Sydney chef Mark Best move into the Melbourne market with Pei Modern.
Margie Bashfield (executive producer, MasterChef): Ratings at the biggest foodie juggernaut on television might be down, but Bashfield still influences what Australians plate up at home. The long-time TV producer knows what works on the screen (and has a hefty little black book of chefs) but also believes in the power of the MasterChef brand to change the way Aussie kids view cooking.
Maggie Beer (cook and food producer): With her charming demeanour and constant spruiking of verjuice, the crowd erupts whenever Maggie appears, from her guest judging on MasterChef to her enduring love of the Barossa Valley, where she calls home.
George Calombaris (MasterChef judge and restaurateur, The Press Club Group): The Melbourne boy from the big Greek family has become a media star, with his spot on MasterChef helping bring more customers through the door of his restaurant empire. Audiences love (or love to hate) his mannerisms, but has he reached saturation point?
Frank Costa (fruit and vegetable wholesaler, Costa Group): Costa is king when it comes to fruit and vegetables, with his company comprising one of Australia's largest producers, distributors and exporters of fresh fruit and vegies. And as a former president of Geelong Football Club, Costa's power reaches far beyond the (crop) field.
Jill Dupleix (food writer and cookbook author): Dupliex was cooking editor at the Sydney Morning Herald before crossing over to the UK to be the cooking editor at The Times. She's written 14 cook books -- the Simple range being her signature -- and freelances for a pantry full of publications across the globe.
Terry Durack (restaurant reviewer, The Sydney Morning Herald): Partner of Jill Dupleix and restaurant reviewer at The Sydney Morning Herald, the pair combined are Australia’s true food power couple. "Their opinion absolutely matters to anyone in food," a food media consultant told The Power Index. He's the tough restaurant critic, she's the recipe and food trend author.
Julie Gibbs (cookbook publisher): As publishing director of Lantern (an imprint of Penguin publishing that focuses mainly on food, lifestyle and travel books) Gibbs publishes some of Australia's most well-known chefs and food writers. She got her big career break publishing The Cook's Companion, and her authors menu includes Kylie Kwong, Maggie Beer, Stephanie Alexander and Christine Mansfield.
Peter Gilmore (executive chef, Quay): Creator of the infamous Snow Egg dessert. His restaurant Quay has been the number one ranked Australian restaurant in the top 50 best restaurants of the world list for the last three years (it’s currently sitting at no.29).
Donna Hay (food stylist and entrepreneur): Our very own cookbook queen. She's editor-in-chief of her eponymous magazine and has her own line of homewares products, food range and her own lifestyle store. She aims her cookbooks at simple fresh food and has written over 14 of them, but critics call her a stylist not a chef.
Justin Hemmes (hospitality entrepreneur): Controversial Sydney hotelier and restaurateur. Although the headlines (and he's appeared in enough of them) read "nightclub owner", Hemmes is a clever entrepreneur who's made a bomb out of opening bars and restaurants for Sydney's slick set.
Lisa Hudson (general manager, food and wine at Fairfax Media): Hudson was last year appointed the general manager of food and wine content of Fairfax's Media Metro Division. Editors of all the Good Food Guides, Epicure, Good Living and Cuisine.com.au report to her. Already she's making changes with planned revamps to much-loved Epicure and Good Living.
Simon Johnson (gourmet wholesaler): The providore who ensured Australia could savour the best olive oil, chocolates and cheese the world has to offer. Simon Johnson has nine retail stores across Australia, but 70% of his business is food service and distribution to the nation's top restaurants and gourmet grocers.
Kylie Kwong (chef and educator): Kwong demystified Chinese cooking for an apprehensive Australian audience. Her recently released Simple Chinese Cooking Class is a follow-up to her Simple Chinese Cooking, a staple for many. These days she's nearly as well-known for her push to sustainable and local organic produce (catch her every Saturday working the Billy Kwong stall at Eveleigh Farmers Market).
John Lethlean (restaurant reviewer, The Australian): Restaurant reviewer for The Australian, we’re envious of his time spent travelling the country in search of the next best feed. He was a reviewer at Gourmet Traveller from 1998-2009, and a reviewer and editor at The Age's Epicure and Good Food Guide before he took his knife and fork to The Oz.
Ian McLeod (managing director, Coles): A former UK director at Halford, chief merchandise officer and Walmart and director at Asada, now managing director of supermarket giant Coles. McLeod’s biggest legacy has been the push for more home brand products in Coles stores, a strategy which has been followed by the rest of the industry.
Catriona Noble (CEO, McDonald's): A former burger flipper, Noble now runs a $3.5 billion business. She's never worked for another company, since being employed by the golden arches at 14. But don't blame her when you get that 2am Big Mac craving...
Grant O'Brien (CEO, Woolworths): O’Brien started as a night stacker at Purity Supermarkets (part of Woolies) in Tassie while working in the daytime as an accountant at the store. He’s been there for over 25 years in a variety of departments and was an unknown quantity to outsiders before he was announced as CEO last year.
Neil Perry (chef and restaurateur, Rockpool Group): Not only does the pony-tailed Sydneysider cook a mean steak at his Rockpool restaurants, he's even tested his cooking in that most ridiculed of cuisines: airline food. Perry's the official Qantas chef and he's got friends in high places. Foodies adore him. And some say Planet Perry adores himself too.
Matt Preston (food writer and MasterChef judge): The debonair cravat-wearer burst into the Aussie psyche thanks to MasterChef, but his reviews and food writings have taken up column inches for years. Who else on Australian television talks about food in such ravishing sentences?
Raph Rashid (food truck trendsetter): One for the hipster crowd, Rashid is owner and creator of Melbourne's Beatbox Burger and Taco Truck. Food trucks have been setting social media alight in the past few years and Rashid was the first to make it cool in Oz. Sydney mayor Clover Moore even put out a tender to encourage food truck licensees after they proved so popular in Melbourne.
Ben Shewry (head chef, Attica): Shewry got his Melbourne restaurant to number 53 on the San Pellegrino Best Restaurants in the World list (now at 63). An avid tweeter and forager, Shewry is a big global player (even if the spotlight doesn't shine on him as much in Oz).
Curtis Stone (celebrity chef): Millions of Americans watch him on his own TV show -- plus his Oprah and Martha Stewart appearances. In Australia he's most famous for his Coles ads, but most industry people view him as a celebrity chef, not an actual chef.
Brian Tap (regional director, Subway Australia): Last year Subway overtook McDonald's as the world's biggest fast food chain. As regional director for Subway Systems Australia, Tap has helped the company grow to over 1200 stores in Oz (which is why you can't walk down the street without smelling those cookies).
*Be sure to check back in next week to see who makes it in at No.10.