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The People Behind the Plate: Li Crothers, Brumfield Winery and SLAQ Brewery

People Behind The Plate

2 Jun. 2022

Li Crothers was a young teenager when she had her ‘lightbulb moment’ and decided she wanted to become a chef. “My first food tech class was taught by a very knowledgeable and genuinely kind teacher,” Li says. “Her warm, strength and passion for food education really stuck with me. I came home from school to proudly tell my parents I wanted to be a chef.” Li has cooked in restaurants and bars all over Melbourne, but it was during her time in London that she fell in love with beer. “I threw myself into the bellies of kitchens in London,” she says. “But when I wasn’t working, I could be found at the pub.” Li describes the pub scene as an extension of the family lounge room. “There’s something about those spaces: warmth, caring, support and beer,” she says. After immersing herself in the craft beer scene in Melbourne and Canada, Li’s parents proposed she join them at Brumfield where they would grow hops and she could brew beer. Li has also developed a small snack menu – with a gentle nod to her travels – to complement the wine, beer and cider on offer.

Li’s first food memory

Family holidays loom large in the memory of Li. She recalls visits to wine regions and coastal destinations, where there would always be fish and chips on the beach. “I have always loved going to the source and eating fresh produce,” she says. “It’s so special. Sitting on the sand, eating fish that hasn’t sat in a freezer in a truck; the combination of fresh and location, is magical.”

What Li loves most about the Yarra Valley

Li was in her early teens when her family moved from Bendigo to the Yarra Valley. “One thing I absolutely adored (and was the polar opposite of Bendigo) was the access to so many forest walks, hikes and trails,” Li says. “The mossy, towering trees and the adventure – definitely my happy place.”

Li’s favourite season to cook in

The lure of warm, hearty, slow-cooked meals makes autumn Li’s favourite season for cooking. It’s also her favourite season for brewing. “Everything in the winery has begun to go to sleep, the hops have been harvested, dried and packed away, and everything takes a breath after the chaos of summer,” she says. “I love having time to really enjoy the brewing process, time to get creative.” Li describes cooking in autumn as her absolute joy. “Between chestnuts, quinces, the last of the fig season, beetroot and Brussels sprouts coming into season, it’s definitely my favourite.”

What Li would feed a Melbourne family of six

Still thinking of autumn, Li says she would serve one of her hearty, slow-cooked meals as her family feast. “When the weather gets colder and you have a group of people, I love to enjoy a nice large pot of meatballs,” she says. “Beef meatballs slow-cooked in rich tomato, heavy with basil, some creamy polenta, and soft Turkish bread to mop it up. So warming and comforting.” And, of course, a “toasty, malty stout” adds an “extra delicious” touch.

What Li loves about working at Brumfield Winery and SLAQ Brewery

At Brumfield and SLAQ, Li is able to combine her two loves of food and beer. “I love having the opportunity to work here, mostly because we are an independent, family-owned and operated farm,” she says. “We enjoy taking the extra time and effort to look after our land and what it provides us. It’s important to us. Being able to brew and provide bar snacks at the cellar door makes me happy.”

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