Nonnas of Melbourne | Great entertainers | Toast blog | Peter Rowland
9 August 2019

Meet the Nonnas of Melbourne

The nonnas, yia yias and po pos next door are the new celebrity chefs. We celebrate five of our favourites in the Nonnas of Melbourne series.

There are a million reasons why we love nonnas (and yia yias and po pos and all the other grandmas we know). There’s not enough space to share all the reasons we love them as much as we do, so we’ll just start off with five.

1. Their food. Each wave of migration to Australia over the past 200-odd years has contributed to the rich diversity of our nation’s culinary identity. Just imagine what Australian restaurants would be like without our nonnas and their well-travelled family recipes.

2. Their insistent love. There’s nothing nonnas love more than feeding the ones they love. Nonnas know that good food takes time, so there’s never a rush. Plus, they always make sure there are leftovers to take home.

3. Without our nonnas, everyday items like olive oil, soy sauce, haloumi and pide would not be part of Australia’s culinary vernacular. And can you even imagine a life without pizza, dumplings, kebabs, baklava or espresso coffee? It’s too sad to even contemplate!

4. They’ve taught us that nothing tastes better than produce grown in our own yards.

5. They’ve played a huge part in shaping Melbourne into the vibrant, internationally renowned food city that it is today.

It is a truth universally acknowledged that nonnas are the best bakers

A lot of what we love about Melbourne is to do with food, and Peter Rowland is proud to have been part of the city’s food scene since 1962. If you’re from Melbourne, chances are that you or someone you know will have experienced Peter Rowland’s legendary hospitality at least once in your life.

Po po Elizabeth Chong prepares dim sim with Peter Rowland

As we embark on our next chapter in the food and entertaining business, we wanted to acknowledge and honour the many cultures that have shaped the way we approach food and those who’ve helped establish Melbourne’s incredible culinary identity.

We also just love spending time with grandmothers – watching them cook, eating their food, hearing their stories, learning their secrets. That’s why we recently sent our friend Nick Tsindos off to capture five of these inspiring women in action for our new Nonnas of Melbourne video series.

Po po Elizabeth prepares her father’s famous Dim Sim. Watch Elizabeth’s cooking tutorial >
Yia yia Mary’s pastitsio. Watch Mary’s cooking tutorial >

Videographer Nick Tsindos’ family has itself played a significant role in Melbourne’s food culture: his great-grandfather ran Florentino on Bourke Street from the 1950s through to the 1970s, while his grandparents owned the award-winning Tsindos Bistrot in the 1980s.

As the five women shared their recipes, stories and culinary traditions (from Cyprus, Turkey, China, Italy and Malta), Nick was reminded of his own nonna, who grew up in Sicily before moving to Australia. He recalls: “I cherish the memories I have of spending summers with my nonna down in Sorrento and getting the chance to spend time with these five women in their home kitchens, when they’re in their absolute element, was a real privilege.”

Nonna Maria’s spaghetti with meatballs with ragu. Watch Maria’s cooking tutorial >
Nanna Doris’ baked Maltese macaroni. Watch Doris’ cooking tutorial >

Nick was certainly well looked-after during the shoot. “From the moment you walk in the door to the moment you leave, you’re being fed,” he explains. “And when you’re naturally skinny like me they want to feed you even more – I’m still trying to shed the extra weight I put on that week!”

Nonna Fatma prepares mezze with her son Kemal (of Melbourne’s Lezzet restaurant).
Watch Fatma’s cooking tutorial >

Watch the full Nonnas of Melbourne series now on our YouTube channel.

Photography by Nick Tsindos

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