Retired, Ann Oliver’s cooking is limited to the VERY occasional small event, with wines so amazing that to turn down the experience would drive her crazy. Ann expresses great gratitude that Sharon Noel, her long-term front of house colleague, still makes herself available for these very rare occasions. Noel, Oliver explains is a brilliant sommelier and her attention to service detail is perfection.
Ann Oliver cooks confidently in several classical cuisines, including Chinese. Over many years, she has developed a reputation for delivering restaurant quality food for large events, even under the most difficult circumstances. Equally, she has created some amazing small dinners.
A favourite of the wine industry, Ann worked closely with the Penfolds winemaking team for ten years. Described by her as the dream job, she revelled in having control of the entire experience – from the food to the flowers to the menu [and cooking it] and is credited with having left lasting good memories with the guests who came from all over the world. Another enduring love was occasionally cooking for the Rockford wines Stonewall Table when chefs Michael Voumard and the late Ali Cribb took annual leave. She also held the fort for Rockford between chefs. These assignments have always had the common thread of excellent wine and the freedom to write the menus without interference. The use of local and seasonal produce from her garden, and from producers she knows personally, has always been mandatory. At Rockford wines it was their incredible on-site biodynamic garden that defined the menu.
A keen gardener, Ann was raised in a family that grew food, fished and hunted. Local and seasonal has been her way of life, not a passing fashion. Ann was one of just three Adelaide restaurateurs [Nick Papazahariakis at Chloe’s, and later, Lew Kathreptis at Mezes] who always scoured the wholesale produce markets, initially at the East End, and later at Pooraka. Ann’s strong bonds with producers has widely helped bring lesser known produce and producers to public attention.
After closing Mistress Augustine’s in 1992, for several years Ann managed a large garden with a half-acre orchard and vegetable garden in the Norwood area, where she grew much of the food that she used in her extensive catering work. She loved that people understood the importance of the flavours and textures of the base products; when they remarked about how delicious the salad was, we loved telling them the story.
In 2019, Ann had the opportunity to start a new garden, where she is growing food again and has a substantial diverse herb garden.
Remembering many highlights, Oliver reveals that among the hundreds of memorable small and large dinners and events, were an APEC (Asia-Pacific Economic Cooperation) Forum Ministers’ Dinner, and a week-long event for the Hardy Company (now Constellation Brands), cooking for their tech conference in the Flinders Ranges. Oliver will cite the Hardy Tech Conference as her most challenging, but exhilarating and terrifying, experience. With no running water, Oliver with her small crew cooked breakfasts, morning and afternoon teas, and lunches and dinners, making everything on-site from the bread to the puff pastry, and orchestrating several performance dinners over the week. She jokes that she doesn’t remember being driven back to Adelaide. ‘I slept on the floor of the bus I don’t think I’d had more than a couple of hours sleep for the entire week.’
Oliver has always celebrated and appreciated her producers and suppliers by citing them on her menus.
Last updated 21 November 19
Remembering that these are just highlights that Oliver states as the most memorable there were hundreds of small and large dinners and events on top. An APEC Ministers’ Dinner, a week long event for the Hardy Company (now Constellation) cooking for their six day tech conference in the Flinders Ranges. Oliver will sight the Hardy Tech Conference as her most challenging, but exhilarating and terrifying experience – no running water, Oliver with her small crew cooked breakfast, morning and afternoon tea, lunch and dinner, making everything on-site from the bread to the puff pastry and orchestrating several performance dinners over the week. She jokes that she doesn’t remember being driven back to Adelaide. “I slept on the floor of the bus I don’t think I’d had more than a couple of hours sleep for the entire week.
Oliver specialises in regional events, delighting in supporting her producers and introducing them to the broader public.