Life On The Job



Indigenous Famous Person's Story

Mark Olive (1962 - ) CHEF

Showing cooking
(Source: Black Olive)

Introduction

Mark Olive, aka ‘The Black Olive’, has been a chef for over 25 years and has become a well known Australian celebrity with his charismatic style and creative approach to food, starring in his own television series ‘The Outback Cafe ’ and a host of cooking, lifestyle and travel shows nationally and globally. Born and raised in Wollongong on Dharawal Country, Olive is a Bundjalung man whose family are originally from the Northern Rivers region of NSW. An exceptionally talented chef, businessman and presenter, Olive exudes a calm and warm energy with a genuine disposition that has seen him become one of the world’s most sought after and recognised Australian television chefs.

Mark is an iconic ambassador for “Indigenous Food and Hospitality” with unique skills in development of gourmet food products. Mark has cooked and presented locally in Melbourne, across Australia and around the world and is in frequent demand to present and appear at food events, Indigenous celebrations and representing Australia’s vibrant culinary and cultural tapestry, right across the world. Mark has a passion for fusing native and Indigenous Australian ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques to create a dynamic and unique gastronomic philosophy.

Mark’s passion for fusing native food and culture with contemporary lifestyle cooking has led to a huge international profile specialising in gourmet Australian Indigenous cuisine. Recently he’s been a celebrity judge alongside Dan Hong and Melissa Leong on the successful series on SBS The Chefs’ Line which brings home cooks and seasoned chefs together making some delicious dishes.
 
To call Olive a go-getter is an understatement. Alongside his TV shows, he is always working hard on many side projects, many which has seen his passion and brand expand across the globe. He has hosted cooking demonstrations and tours across the nation at major events and venues as well as internationally including in Canada, several parts of Europe and Asia, has participated in numerous media appearances and as a guest on shows, launched his own product line of native herbs, written a cookbook – 'Mark Olive’s Outback Café: A taste of Australia' —and more recently, teamed up with Connoisseur Gourmet Ice-cream company to create the Australian Native Collection.

It wasn’t until Olive wrote his own screenplay, Passing Through in the late 90s, which was included as part of the critically-acclaimed SBS series Shifting Sands, that pursuing a career in media was undoubtedly is calling.

Olive’s large and endearing smile, deep brown eyes that glint at a contagious jovial demeanour, his long curly dark hair, his humble disposition and intense passion for our people makes for an champion celebrity chef. At the brunt of it, Olive is a very talented cook, but he understands all aspects of the film and television industry.

Mark demonstrating
Mark demonstrating
(Source: Black Olive)

Early Life

Olive is one of five children with two brothers and two sisters. His father is Bruce Olive, who broke ground as one of the nation’s first Aboriginal NRL players in the 1950s and 60s.

“My role models are my parents, family and friends – each inspire me in different ways,” Olive tells me. “The stuff I do is unique and I push myself to devise and promote something that’s unique; to be a positive role model for our youth.”

Growing up in a household of women who were connected to land that surrounding them, Olive was both an onlooker and engaged cook, often with his mother, godmother and aunties teaching him the delicate balance between discipline and creativity in the kitchen. This resulted in natural, delicious and healthy meals made with the energy of love for family and a cultural connection which acknowledged their Indigeneity.

“I was only nine-years-old when I took a real interest in what Mum and the Aunties were doing in the kitchen,” he explains. “I’d be outside playing footy with my brothers, but then I’d spend time a lot on weekends watching and learning these cooking ways — they cooked with lemon myrtle among other native herbs; some of my earliest memories of native ingredients."

Education

During his course at Swinburne, Olive amassed both the courage and drive to apply for entry to the highly competitive and prestigious Victorian College of the Arts (VCA) in Melbourne, where Olive took on a Bachelor of Film and TV (Producing and Directing). He may have been in a new industry, but his love for food and cooking never left. Olive’s passionate to reach large audiences with the significance of native Australian food really began.

Mark with camera
Mark early in his media career
(Source: SBS)

He trained under a European chef and has worked in a number of kitchens ranging from theatres, universities, health services, film sets and in a lá carte restaurants around the globe, before establishing his own successful business in 2008 which operated till 2014.

early career
Mark as a chef early in his culinary career
(Source: SBS)

Employment

Olive got his first major break many years ago, with the ABC’s former Indigenous Affairs program Message Stick where he secured weekly five-minute segments as TV Chef 'The Black Olive'. Then came the self-produced Foxtel’s Lifestyle channel hit The Outback Café which saw its international debut in several different countries including across Asia after a successful run on home soil. More recently he has starred in the popular SBS and Netflix series The Chef’s Line and now, with the exceptional On Country Kitchen with co-host comedian Derek Nannup, a Noongar man from Western Australia.

On Country Kitchen is a delectable concept building on Olive’s passion for fusing native Indigenous Australian ingredients with contemporary cooking techniques to create a dynamic and unique gastronomic philosophy. Nannup is Olive’s sidekick, so to speak; he is the hunter and gatherer of the native ingredients – taking them back to Olive, who teaches Nunnup what to do with them. Nannup comically confesses he can’t cook to save his life.

Along with his current business operations, Mark now cooks regularly for clients such as Tourism Australia (TA) at large corporate, public and cultural events around the country and the world, bringing his signature infusions of contemporary outback flavours to every occasion.

Chef's Line
On the Chef's Line with Melissa Leong and Dan Hong
(Source: SBS)

In 2010 Mark was chosen as one of the destinations on Oprah’s Victorian itinerary when she travelled to Australia with her Ultimate Audience. Her lucky guests were treated to a cultural experience of indigenous food, art and storytelling during Mark’s infamous cooking demonstration.

Mark has also hosted his own private Masterclass on series three of Master Chef, and has made regular appearances in the kitchen on The Circle (both airing on Network Ten). Mark has also been published in SBS’s new foodie Feast Magazine which launched later in 2011.

Due to his success, Mark has been selected to be a member of Tourism Australia’s ‘Friends of Australia’ program, which was “created to harness the power of bright and influential individuals who are making a name for themselves on the world stage, and who have a genuine affinity with Australia”.

In the past few years, Mark has travelled extensively as the guest chef to deliver signature events in gourmet Australian Indigenous cuisine overseas in major hotel chains such as the Anantara Dubai Palm Resort and Spa and international culinary festivals in destinations such as Dubai, France, Germany, Switzerland, Italy and England.

In recent times, launched in November 2018, Mark is one of six chefs as part of a brand new 6 part series – The Good Cooks - launched on the SBS Food Network which has already captured the imagination of viewers with a fresh approach. They have taken six guest chefs out of their well equipped kitchen comfort zones and placed them in foreign lands to learn how the locals cook food, home grown or gathered from the local market.

Mark Olive

Experiences

Olive has come full circle in honouring his ancestors, tapping into his own intuitions and creativity as a Bundjalung man of this country; he embodies the beauty of sourcing, cooking and eating what the land provides. “It’s about time we look in our own backyard for some of the most nutritious and delicious ingredients around; lemon myrtle, wattle seed, Davidson plum, native finger lime, bush honey, bloodroot and sea parsley to name just a few…”

Yet Olive is very humble and he is still amazed when people recognise him. Recently, on a tour in Europe people in places like Prague and Berlin stopped him for autographs.

“I’m just blown away sometimes,” Olive says of the recognition and support, “It’s just wonderful…”

Reflecting on his long career in both hospitality and television, Olive says it’s all about perseverance.

“I learnt a lot about persistence, about being prepared to be disappointed and to deal with the knock-backs but to keep persisting.

“A lot of the drive for the work I do comes from wanting to promote and celebrate our culture and food and be someone our young people can look up to.”

Beyond the technical production lights and highly-equipped kitchens where Mark Olive teaches the goggle-boxers of Australia how to revitalise and honour native foods, he remains the Bundjalung boy alongside his mother and aunts on Dharawal land; cooking with ingredients of Country, on Country, with Country.

 


Did You Know?

ABC Gardening Australia

ABC Gardening Australia - Series 28 - Episode 37 - An Aussie Feast

Published 8 October 2018

Wattleseed
Acacias (Acacia sp.) can be found across a wide range of habitats in Australia from coastal to sub-alpine regions and from high rainfall to arid inland areas. Its fruits are legume pods which split when they’re ripe to reveal hard wattleseeds. With at least 1200 different species of Acacias, some widely used species include Prickly Acacia (A. victoriae), Coastal Wattle (A. sophorae) and Dogwood (A. coriacea). Traditionally Indigenous Australians eat wattleseeds either green and cooked, or after they were dried and milled into flour using flat grinding stones (e.g. for damper or cakes).

Bush Tomato
Bush tomato (Solanum centrale) - also known as Kutjera, is a small desert plant which is widespread in arid areas of WA, NT, SW QLD and northern SA. Unsurprisingly, it thrives in dry, well-drained soil and is a great drought-resistant plant. Its fruits are 1-3cm in diameter and yellow in colour when the fruit is ripe. The traditional harvesting method is to collect the fruits when they are sundried in the autumn and winter months. The fruit has a strong pungent taste of tamarillo and caramel that makes them popular for use in sauces and condiments.

NOTE: Ensure that you only eat ripe S. centrale fruit as green fruit contains the toxin solanine.

Native Pepper
Native pepper (Tasmannia lanceolata) - also known as mountain pepper, is naturally found in the cold high country of VIC, NSW and TAS. It’s a great hardy plant for a cool, moist-well drained position and does well in either sun or shade. The fruit is berry-like, about the size of a pea, shiny, dark red, and turns black when ripe. Both the berries and the leaves of native pepper can be used in the same way as conventional pepper but they have a slightly different taste – sweet at first with an aromatic, peppery aftertaste.

Oldman Saltbush
Oldman saltbush (Atriplex nummularia) occurs across all Australian mainland states and thrives in arid and semi-arid inland regions. Indigenous Australians mostly collected the saltbush seeds to roast and grind for damper. The large fresh or blanched saltbush leaves can also be used as a wrap around meat or fish. Dried saltbush flakes are also a wonderful addition to bread, grills, pasta and as a pot herb.

Lemon Myrtle
Lemon myrtle (Backhousia citriodora) is one of the most popular Australian native herbs. It occurs naturally in the wetter coastal areas of northern NSW and southern QLD. Its leaves are a fresh green colour and strongly lemon-scented. Used fresh, the leaves compliment a range of dishes from fish and chicken to icecream and sorbet.


Warrigal Greens
Warrigal greens (Tetragonia tetragonioides) can be found scattered throughout Australia. It has a long history with coastal Aboriginal people and was one of the first Australian food plants used by European settlers. The large, diamond-shaped leaves can be used instead of spinach.br />
NNOTE: Although edible, the leaves contain a high level of oxalic acid so you need to blanch warrigal greens before eating them.

Quandong
Quandongs (Santalum acuminatum) are widely dispersed throughout the central deserts and southern areas of Australia. Its fruits ripen in the spring and have a striking, shiny red skin. It has a tart flavour that is reminiscent of a peach or rhubarb./span>


YouTube: NAIDOC Week 2021: Mark Olive Shares Recipes With Native Herbs | Studio 10
https://youtu.be/becwad44JvY

 

YouTube: Mark Olive
https://youtu.be/NZ7n3XJQ5wE

 

YouTube: Black Olive - Full Interview
https://youtu.be/AMzkK9P_8Vs

 

YouTube: Did You Know These Ingredients Are Native To Australia? | The Living Room
https://youtu.be/XLfydEMINM4

 

YouTube: Aboriginal Chef Mark Olive on cooking with indigenous foods
https://youtu.be/MZF5IzcPGBs

 

Links

Mark Olive - "The Black Olive"

Mark Olive
Cooking with Culture: How Mark Olive found fame in food

NITV


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