Maggie Beer

Despite not having any formal training as a chef, Maggie Beer is a celebrated culinary icon based in the heart of South Australia’s burgeoning food and wine region. Stevie Newbegin speaks with the renowned foodie about her love affair with the Barossa Valley and how this world-class region inspires her each and every day.

When Maggie Beer and her husband Colin relocated to the Barossa Valley in South Australia, neither of them knew the impact this fruitful region would have on their lives. Since first establishing and operating Pheasant Farm Restaurant from 1978 to 1993, the couple has gone from strength to strength, and today, are the founders of Maggie Beer Products.

Inspired by Barossa Valley’s fresh produce, Maggie Beer Products produces gourmet essentials including pâté, fruit pastes, jams, sauces, verjuice, ice-creams and much more, each of which can be sampled and purchased at Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop. Over the last 20 years, the business has expanded to become one of the Barossa Valley’s largest proprietors, with more than 100 staff members and manufacturing over 200 products.

The individual behind the branding, Maggie Beer, has earned her reputation as one of Australia’s most loved gourmet food experts. Beer has authored nine best-selling cookbooks, co-hosted the ABC television cooking program, The Cook and the Chef, and has appeared as a guest judge on MasterChef. To top it off, she was privileged with winning Senior Australian of the Year in 2010 and South Australian of the Year in 2011, in appreciation of her focus on cooking with seasonal produce.

Here, Wineries of South Australia discovers how Beer got to where she is today, as well as how South Australia has influenced her working life, so that you too can appreciate, and devour, the region’s mouth-watering produce.


Due to Beer’s talent, passion and success as a ‘famous foodie’, it wouldn’t be foolish to

assume that her current career was always an ambition for her, yet she insists everything in her life has always followed an organic process, rather than a plan.

“I really didn’t know what I wanted to do when I was growing up, so when I left school I carried out a career ‘degustation’ of sorts. This included being a lift driver in a New Zealand department store, a citizenship law clerk for the American Embassy and a house manager at The Women’s College at The University of Sydney, [among other things],” explains Beer.

“When it came to a career involving food, it really just evolved – there was no grand plan. Moving to the Barossa Valley when I married Colin, and being surrounded by such wonderful seasonal produce, certainly sparked my interest in food to be taken to the next level.

“Eventually starting the Pheasant Farm Restaurant clinched the deal to set me on my food path. I still wonder how I had the audacity, with no experience or training, to start a restaurant, but I'm so happy I did.

“That’s not to say it has always been easy! I have [simply] learnt to go with the flow.

It is this ability to seize different opportunities as they present, as well as take risks that has set Beer on the right path to success.

“Success, for me, has been about thinking outside the square and honouring intuition. The simple fact is that I love what I do; I’m truly passionate about food and ideas and making them happen. Helping people to make good food choices on a daily basis is what drives me, and I am lucky to have every opportunity to do so.”


Just as her foray into the culinary world wasn’t methodical, neither is Beer’s approach to cooking. Instead, she believes in cooking from the heart, getting her hands on good seasonal produce and letting that drive her intuition for a meal.

“My notion of cooking from the heart [exists] for so many reasons. This includes connecting with growing food on a deeper level, nourishing myself, and sharing occasions that will become special memories for me, my family and my friends,” says Beer.

“Improvisation is the key to everything I do, and while I may make some mistakes along the way, it’s the most wonderful way to cook. Many delicious surprises pop-up and can quickly become staple dishes you rely on again and again. It also allows you to put your creative stamp on everything you cook.”

The key to improvising with cooking, Beer explains, is to always consider the produce of the season and work from there. As good seasonal produce needs little work done to it, you’re never at risk of overcomplicating things.

“Seasonal produce also allows you to get to know the rhythm of the seasons, as well as how to delight in fruit and vegetables picked

at their best, truly ripened and full of flavour. Working with nature always tastes better than working against it,” says Beer.

Beer loves cooking at any time of the year, as the produce seems to arrive just in time to pique her interest as each season changes. That said, winter is perhaps the most rewarding because her kitchen doubles as a cosy place to spend time while she’s cooking.

“I find myself spending more and more time in the kitchen in winter because of the shortened days preventing most outdoor activities, but also to enjoy the ‘slow food’ nature of winter’s produce. Stewing, braising, roasting and poaching are such satisfying ways to cook food that warm from the inside out.”


While Beer believes no pantry should go without extra-virgin olive oil, sea salt flakes, dried pasta, anchovies, free-range eggs, unsalted cultured butter and Parmigiano Reggiano, her signature ingredient is verjuice, which she discovered through her and her husband’s wine labels.

“Verjuice is something I use every day in my cooking, so more often than not it turns up in my favourite dishes, one of which has to be my daughter Saskia's Barossa chook,” says Beer.

“It’s such a versatile ingredient, giving that ‘lift’ to food that our palate searches for. I’ve had so many people say that using verjuice makes them feel like they are eating in a restaurant! It can be used in marinades, vinaigrettes, to add to custard or jellies, as a deglazing agent for anything pan-fried and most simply as a very refreshing drink, poured over ice.”

Beer discovered verjuice, which is the juice of unripened grapes, when she and her husband were contemplating ways to ensure they didn’t waste a harvest of rhine riesling grapes. She researched how to make it, and was then the first in the world to produce it commercially. It’s now her signature ingredient, and has led her to develop another drink based on the unfermented juice of grapes – sparkling ruby cabernet.

“Ask anyone from the Barossa Valley and they will tell you that local wine is an essential partner to our fantastic produce grown in the Barossa Valley,” says Beer.

“Colin and I have been growing grapes for as long as we’ve been in the Barossa Valley, and Beer Brothers Wines and Pheasant Farm Wines are our two labels sold through Maggie Beer’s Farm Shop.”


Fresh produce in South Australia, and the Barossa Valley more specifically, is what inspired Beer all those years ago, and is still the inspiration for her current range at Maggie Beer Products.

“So much of my business is based on South Australian produce, from fruit for pastes and

sauces, grapes for verjuice and wine, vegetables for soup, and almonds for dukkah,” says Beer.

“South Australia is one of the best places to be if you love food and wine, as it has the most wonderfully diverse array of producers and growers able to take advantage of the Mediterranean climate.

“With fresh seafood from Port Lincoln, fantastic cheeses from the Limestone Coast, Murray River citrus, Kangaroo Island’s superb honey and of course outstanding wine, it’s very easy to be South Australia proud.”

Beer says she feels lucky to have access to growers in the Barossa Valley, where she and her family are based.

“A strong food culture develops organically over time, based on the day-to-day lives of the people that make up the community. The Barossa Valley has such a rich diversity of produce that it has naturally allowed, and encouraged, an ever-growing tapestry of food-based ventures, but all of them are steeped in a common history. That’s the key; there must be substance that sits behind what appears idyllic.”

For those who hope to visit the Barossa Valley and explore the beauty of the region first-hand, Beer advises you give yourself time to enjoy it as a local and go to the farmer’s market, eat just-picked ripened fruit and talk to the people who made the cheese and/or wine.

“We have nature at our fingertips, with beautiful walking trails to discover and seasonal produce abounding. Life here is built around good food and wine and the culture of fantastic art and music, so make sure you give yourself time to enjoy it.”

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