Mark Olive Talks Food and Role Models
Words by Louise Jeckells
As one of the hosts of SBS TV’s The Chefs’ Line, Indigenous chef Mark Olive is fast becoming known to a legion of food fans. But in truth, he’s a veteran of the screen.
An opportune sign to join community TV, a BA in Film and Television, working as Baz Luhrmann’s runner in Romeo and Juliet, a successful show on Lifestyle showcasing indigenous food and culture; chef Mark Olive is a master at connecting television and food. When he’s not travelling the world promoting native ingredients, Mark can be seen weeknights as co-host on Chef’s Line, a new series on SBS where talented home cooks take on Australia’s best chefs in their own restaurant kitchens.
With two television shows airing in 2017, both The Chefs’ Line and a new series On Country Kitchen for NITV, Mark puts his success down to grabbing opportunities.
“Things come to you when you don’t expect them to and you’ve got to take those opportunities. That’s what I try to tell and encourage Indigenous kids to do,” Mark says.
“When there are opportunities, go for it, because you never know where it’s going to lead you, hence the Baz (Luhrmann) stuff and doing things that I never thought I’d ever do.”
Stars in his eyes
Although born in Wollongong, Mark is a Bundjalung man, his family originating from Northern NSW. He joined a photography agency when he first left home as a young man; and this sparked his idea for an Indigenous cooking show.
“I had the idea for a cooking show back in the late 80s – there weren’t any cooking shows like there are today, so it took a while to develop where I wanted to go.”
Mark’s ability to push, and dream, into the future has helped him create a diverse career. While he completed a BA in film and television at Australian Film, Television and Radio School [AFTRS], he developed the cooking show idea and pitched it to the ABC.
“I approached them and said, ‘Look, what about this idea for an eight-minute slot featuring Indigenous foods, what do you think?’ They bit the cherry and we started filming. That was in 2005, so it took me a while to get there.”
“Television is a platform to showcase to otherIndigenous kids that they can get out there and do this stuff. When I was doing my apprenticeship, there were no other Aboriginal chefs around.”
The real role model
Promoting Indigenous food and culture has always been top of Mark’s priorities and has continued throughout his career on the small screen.
“The first thing I cooked on the show was a baked wattle seed cheesecake. After that, everybody started using wattle seeds, which was great,” he says.
“Working on a show like Outback Café was amazing because I got to visit lots of communities around Australia. Even for Indigenous people, you need an invite from the elders, so I was really lucky to go to a lot of remote areas, and promote lots of places people would never see.”
Given his amazing career, juggling TV production alongside his other many and varied commitments, is part of a whirlwind lifestyle which Mark approaches with calmness and grace. It is all to do with his love of life, food and his culture – and his sense of responsibility as a role model.
“Television is a platform to showcase to other Indigenous kids that they can get out there and do this stuff. When I was doing my apprenticeship, there were no other Aboriginal chefs around,” he says. “There was nobody out there for nearly 20 odd years. It’s been interesting how that’s changed. And now we’re able to see more Indigenous faces on TV, which is exciting.
“Finally we’re getting more Indigenous people out in the arts, people like Rachel Perkins doing great things with film and Clayton Donovan doing different things with food.
“We’ve got these great role models now who are showcasing to other Indigenous kids that they can do this. With technology now, it’s only been in the last 10 years that we’re really getting into a lot of remote communities to actually show them that, ‘Wow, I can do this. I don’t have to come from a big city. I can be around town and still do anything.’”
Choose a citrussy wine to match the lemon flavours in this dish. The pure and pristine Cooks Lot 333 Riesling 2016 from Orange is ideal with its delicate yet flavoursome lemon and lime varietals, succulent texture and bright, crisp acid drive. Get the recipe here