We are so excited to have an amazing group of people as our Scarf Ambassadors, and we want you to get to know them better with some good old-fashioned Q + A. To start with, we’re chatting with esteemed food writer and everywhere-woman, Leanne Clancey. She’s already written about how pumped she is to be a Scarf Ambassador, but we wanted to find out more!
Q. What is the best bit about being involved with Scarf?
A. My affection for Scarf has been fairly long term, so it’s a real honour to be invited to be involved in this way. I first started attending dinners back in the very early days (2011) and really admired the practical, grass-roots approach to the whole deal.
Part of the work that I’ve been doing with Scarf has been interviewing trainees in preparation for them entering the workforce at the pointy end of their time in the program. Because I interview people for a living, invariably I steer the conversations towards finding out about who they are and what brought them to get involved with Scarf. I’m always humbled and touched by the stories that some of the trainees share with me. There’s always a lot invested in it for them. And yes, I’ve been known to quietly tear-up.
You can pick up a paper and read about the various complex issues surrounding Australia’s refugee situation, but to hear those stories first-hand is something else entirely. I feel a great sense of admiration and pride when I see the confidence, resilience, hope and gratitude that these young people develop through their experiences with Scarf. This is what makes it worthwhile for me.
You are an esteemed food writer and critic, what is the best and worst bit about your job?
The thing I love most about my job is the opportunity to interview people. I get to meet some really interesting, passionate folks and I love tapping into the stories about what drives their passion and what got them to where they are.
I also get the chance to travel a bit for work now too, which is a huge privilege – for me, there are very few things in life that come close to equalling my desire to keep exploring the world.
Worst bit? I’m a pretty active person and I’m not big on having to sit still for long periods of time, so the whole chained-to-the-desk aspect of my job tends to bug me. Oh, and transcribing audio into text. That’s a killer.
In another life, what career path can you imagine travelling?
That’s a hard one to answer because I can honestly say I’ve got my dream job right here and now! Something that I love to do work-wise (and that comes naturally to me) is connecting people and helping others, and although it may not seem completely obvious in my work as a writer, I do get to do a lot of that in my work. Even more so now with my involvement at Scarf and the other community work that I do.
Most memorable eating experience to date?
I’ve been lucky to have eaten in Michelin starred restaurants all over the world but funnily enough, these aren’t the things that always stick for me. I tend to prefer the random stuff – like being invited in for lunch by my Lebanese neighbour, Manira for lunch. If she ever sees me in the street she’ll invariably drag me home with her to eat. She’s an incredible cook and you can tell it’s her way of piling her love on the world. My mum lives three hours away, so I feel like I’m getting some surrogate mum-love. It’s pretty nice.
One stand-out food memory I have was of eating this amazing fresh buffalo mozzarella (so fresh it was still warm) on a road trip with some crazy Neapolitan friends in the countryside in Campania back in 2000. Campania is the region most famous in Italy (and the world) for mozzarella di bufala and my friend Filippo stopped the car and insisted that we just had to try this cheese. It was summertime and we sat on the front bonnet of the car and tore off chunks of panino to eat with it nothing else. It was a magical moment.
If you could head overseas tomorrow, where would you go and what would you track down to eat first?
Funny you should say that, I just got back from a three week stint in NYC and I’m already madly plotting my return. While I was based in Brooklyn I got majorly hooked on the fresh mozzarella pizza ‘slice’ at Luigi’s in Park Slope. The place opened in the mid 70s and hasn’t changed a lick since. It really is like stepping back in time – in all its John Travolta/Saturday Night Fever glory. It was awesome. The owner Gio is a quintessential Brooklyn character – larger than life in all ways. And the best bit? A slice will set you back a mere $2.25. I wouldn’t mind popping back into the Tsukiji fish market in Tokyo for a quick sashimi breakfast either.
If you were to tell people in one sentence why they should book into a Scarf dinner what would it be?
For $40 you and your friends can check out a cool new venue, eat great food and contribute to transforming the lives of some pretty remarkable young people. A no-brainer, no?
Thanks Leanne! It was ace getting to know you better! Y’all should take Leanne’s advice and book a Scarf Dinner!
Photograph: Leanne, Hannah, Dean and Charby on 3CR’s Thursday Breakfast show, talking about National Refugee Week and Winter Scarf Dinners.