There’s an old saying about too many cooks in the kitchen but, at Kris Lloyd’s house, a mass gathering of brilliant food minds can only be a good thing.
Foodie fare: Dinner at Kris Lloyd’s house
Kris Lloyd’s kitchen is grand by most standards but, today, a few of her guests are fighting for prime real estate on her benchtop and in her oven.
Tonight’s dinner at Kris’s Myrtle Bank home is a “pot luck” – but not as you know it. The theme conjures a vision of a collection of random old-fashioned dishes that don’t quite sit harmoniously at the same table. However, here at the home of the Woodside Cheese Wrights CEO, each element has been carefully curated by some of South Australia’s best cooks, chefs and foodies, with a hint of guidance from Kris.
The South Australian food industry is a place the artisan cheese maker is thankful to live in every day. Her philosophy of food discovery has always been about the people behind the produce and the stories they have to offer.
During COVID, when she was pulling together her Gather & Graze event, Kris was struck by just how willing to help her foodie friends were, so she decided to invite a bunch of them into her home to enjoy an evening of each other’s specialties.
“I was just observing everyone and the way they were interacting and it made me realise how lucky I am to be in this industry where there is so much community; so much camaraderie,” Kris says.
There’s no scent that entices people into a kitchen quite like warm dough in the oven, slowly rising and baking into a crispy loaf of bread. Food photographer Duy Dash is patiently standing by as one loaf cooks and another lot of dough hastily proves in full sun on the tennis court.
As he keeps an eye on his bread, Duy speculates about what his fellow guests will be adding to the dinner table. Besides the bread, Duy has cured ocean trout ready to be masterfully sliced to precision and served with smoked nori mayo.
“Cooking for chefs is a little daunting, but I know most of them today, so it’s not like going into a blind audition,” Duy says.
The oven next to Duy’s holds a buttermilk-brined lamb shoulder – the creation of MasterChef alumnus, Mandy Hall.
As the guests with dishes that require the most prep start making their way in, Kris flits about, clearly in her element. Kris’s home is a place that was designed with entertaining in mind. She and husband Paul bought it 12 years ago.
“It was a very typical bungalow with dark wood, green carpet and drapes all the way through,” Kris says. “The vision for me was quite easy to see. I just always wanted to have something that would be light.”
The expansive white walls and almost all surfaces are covered in art, many pieces from the Helpmann Academy Graduate Exhibitions, of which Kris has been a long-time supporter. “I’ve bought so many pieces. It’s a great way to support the industry, number one, but also, you can collect some bits from possible unknowns that eventually find their way in their career, so you end up with these gorgeous pieces.
“Opportunity knocks and when you see a piece, you’ve got to buy it. You will regret it for the rest of your life if you don’t – I’ve done that only a couple of times.”
Eye-catching JamFactory pieces pepper the kitchen and dining space, creating bursts of colour. “It’s local, and I’m very much for supporting local, especially as a food producer. It’s something that sits really high up in the things I aspire to,” Kris explains.
Locally-produced food is something Kris has always been surrounded by, growing up in her grandmother’s kitchen, tasting the delicacies from her Egyptian background.
“Her name was Krisanthy – I was named after her. She had a rich culinary experience; she lived in Egypt and was very cosmopolitan with so many different cuisines on offer. She lived in Parkside and they grew 80 or 90 per cent of their own produce. They had chickens and quails and turkeys,” Kris says. She remembers walking the streets of the suburb, swapping produce with neighbours.
“I would go to the Italian lady’s house with a box of apricots and give her 12 of those in exchange for a dozen eggs. I’d just be walking around Parkside with these little bags of things. I have really nice memories of that.
“There would be 10 or 12 women from all different cultures in my grandmother’s kitchen and they’d all be cooking and teaching each other their recipes. That really framed who I am; you never lose that stuff.”
When Kris married Paul, she joined the Lloyd family, who own Coriole Vineyards, and began working in the business in a marketing capacity. “I wasn’t really interested in the wine, I was more interested in the food products.”
Kris began to increase the offerings and toyed with the idea of a cheese factory on the premises. “Except that none of us knew how to make cheese, so that was a small detail.”
When Woodside Cheese Wrights went up for sale, it was all the convincing Kris needed. “The rest is history; but not without its winding road.”
A curious creativity to her endeavours has kept Kris and Woodside Cheese Wrights relevant over the years. She turned heads when she added green ants to a cheese and doesn’t shy away from a flourish, decorating her Monet cheese with vibrant edible flowers.
It’s this flair and adaptability that saw Woodside make light of cancelled restaurant orders and an oversupply of milk during the COVID lockdown. Out of it came Spilt Milk – as in, no use crying over it – and then Milk It.
She’s also been flexing other creative muscles, designing a jewellery line, Epsilon, which takes uncomplicated inspiration from nature. “If you find something you’re passionate about and you enjoy doing, that’s important to me and I think as human beings, that makes life a whole lot easier.”
As guests congregate around the cheeseboard, Kris’s son Mitchell describes each product and their processes.
Mitchell’s domain at Woodside is production, while he credits his mother as the business brain. The pair create as much of a distinction between their working and family relationships as possible. With the boundaries drawn, they have become a great working duo.
“Outside of work, we really try not to talk about work,” Mitchell says. “The other thing that helps is that I always call her Kris at work.
“She’s got all these crazy, creative ideas and I have to try to figure out how to make them work.”
A day like today is perfect for throwing open all the sliding doors, with guests free to wander in one direction to the outdoor kitchen, tennis court and pool area, or in the other direction to the open-air entertaining area surrounded by Kris’s meandering garden. It’s here that they enjoy Coffin Bay oysters and Pol Roger Champagne, while a fire pit comes up to temperature. There’s a natural migration to the flames as they come to life.
In charge of the pit is Pirate Life’s chef-in-residence, Jake Kellie, who is readying it to sear some gargantuan Mayura Station tomahawk steaks.
“I was down there at Mayura Station a few weeks ago and what they do for the environment and their animals is really good,” Jake says.
His offering is eagerly anticipated by the crowd, but before they’re let loose on the fire, Poh Ling Yeow’s Malaysian street snack chars away. Dried shrimp, roasted coconut and a punch of aromatics are wrapped in glutinous rice and enveloped in banana leaf.
“It’s quite time-consuming, so I only do it when I can show off,” Poh laughs. “Definitely not in the privacy of my own home where no one can see it.”
Groups form around the little stations of food preparation and inside, there’s plenty of interest in the dumplings being created by the Salopian Inn’s Karena Armstrong.
SkyCity Adelaide’s Kane Pollard has prepared golden watermelon, wrapped in prosciutto and topped in basil, pistachios and Paris Creek yoghurt.
The talk is inevitably of food, and everywhere you turn, there’s an impromptu masterclass being conducted for truly interested onlookers. With all the experience in the room, you’d be forgiven for expecting a sense of pretentiousness, but everyone is open and welcoming about their knowledge and keen to share.
The most open and welcoming of all is Kris herself, who tells her guests to make her home their own. When she says it, it’s not merely a request out of politeness, it’s almost a condition of entry.
“When I have people for dinner, I want them to be part of it beyond being a guest, which is what I’m seeing now everyone’s taken over my kitchen and my house,” Kris says, clearly delighted by the spectacle.
“People will remember what they ate, I guess, but moreover, they’ll remember how they felt and for me, that will always be the priority.
“If somebody can go to my cutlery drawer and look for a bottle opener, I’ve achieved my goal.”
This story first appeared in the April 2021 issue of SALIFE magazine.
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