Two Sydney Mums Take On The Culinary World

5 min read

Bondi Beach locals & friends Joanna Cooper & Vanessa Rowe pair up to publish Our Tamarama Kitchena new cookbook brimming with easy, healthy, delicious recipes, offering a unique insight into the coveted Australian lifestyle.

Our Tamarama Kitchen cook book launch by Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe Sydney photos by Iris Lillian
Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe, creators of new Australian lifestyle cookbook Our Tamarama Kitchen at their favourite lunch spot,  La Piadina, Bondi

In my experience, many Australians foster a healthy tendency to down play their friends’ achievements and strengths. I’d go as far as saying that it’s a social norm entrenched in the Australian psyche. For example, I learnt from a young age that It’s “un-Australian” to talk about your achievements or to “toot your own horn”. This norm applies, in particular, to women and is sometimes referred to as The Tall Poppy Syndrome and, according to Dr Helen Troncoso, in the United States it’s known as Crab in a Bucket.

After chatting with Jo and Ness recently about what motivated and enabled them to design, create, write, photograph and self-publish Our Tamarama Kitchen, I realised that what their particular group of friends has created is an informal accelerator start-up program: supporting each others’ business plans, commercial ideas, creative passions, fledgling and established businesses. In this case, it was Alison Chow (I wrote about here), a mutual friend of Jo and Ness, who suggested we meet. And it was Jo’s family and friends, whose love of her cooking & classes, who spurred her on to publish the cookbook. The network came full circle as both ladies spoke to me enthusiastically of their other friends’ businesses and brands and showcased a few in the gorgeous photos below, including jewellery from Siobhan Way, a Kirrily Johnston cape and a Coco Ribbon gilet.

As I witnessed the championing of, not only each others’ strengths but also their own, I felt an overwhelming sense of relief. With recipes and words by Jo and photography and design by Ness, Our Tamarama Kitchen is a celebration of food, happiness and health as well as friendship, collegiality and community. Perhaps poppies are set to make a comeback?

View of Tamarama and Bronte beach waves surfers Sydney, Australia
View of Tamarama Beach, Sydney

Meet Jo

An ex-banking commercial lawyer with a Masters in International Politics and Human Rights and mother of three, Jo was born in Hong Kong before moving to Australia for school.

Her modern Australian recipes draw inspiration from the traditional eastern diet. With flavour and freshness paramount, Jo sources local & organic produce from the Bondi Farmers Markets. She explained that the dish most evocative of her childhood is the traditional Cantonese recipe of steamed whole snapper (page 133). She used to follow her mother through the wet markets in Hong Kong, helping her to select the fish with the clearest eyes (an indication of freshness) before watching her cook the meat in sizzling peanut oil and dress it with ginger, shallots and chilli – creating a simple, clean, delicious flavour. Yum!

Our Tamarama Kitchen cook book launch by Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe Sydney photos by Iris Lillian
Fashionistas – Ness wears jewellery/top/gilet/skirt/glasses/jacket/shoes Jo wears necklace/rings/top/vintage skirt/cape/shoes/timepiece

Meet Ness

A fellow West Australian with a Bachelor’s Degree in Graphic Design and mother of two, Ness moved to Sydney with a successful web-development company during the .com boom. Although photography formed part of her degree, it was the diagnosis of her coeliac condition, and the realisation that toast & Vegemite would be forever contraband, which ignited her interest in food photography and her blog – The Low Flying Duck. Photography commissions soon started rolling in.

Ness’ evocative food images decorate the pages of Our Tamarama Kitchen alongside incredible photos of Bondi Beach and other local beaches. The Lunar Eclipse over Bondi on page 105 and the breaching whales on page 141 are two particularly stunning examples. Our Tamarama Kitchen would be quite at home on a teak coffee table, as well as a kitchen counter.

Our Tamarama Kitchen cook book launch by Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe Sydney photos by Iris Lillian
Vanessa Rowe, designer and photographer of Our Tamarama Kitchen

Quick and easy recipes from Our Tamarama Kitchen

“But I have no time to cook!!” Yup, I hear you! For those of us who have little time to spend in the kitchen, Jo and Ness have it covered with the Monday to Thursday dinner section of the cookbook. Most recipes can be quickly prepared and enjoyed over a few nights and are perfect to take to work the next day.  Jo explained that her recipes aim to inspire rather than prescribe, encouraging you to be creative with whatever you have (or don’t have) in the pantry. And Ness happily reported that all the recipes are either gluten free, or can be made gluten free.

Here are a few recipes that caught my eye:

  1. Red chilli con carne (page 86)
  2. Brown rice with tuna (page 68)
  3. Lamb shank and pearly barley soup (page 98)

Kick those clean eating goals out of the park by whipping up some “Addictive chocolate raw bars” (page 197) on a Sunday and enjoy them at your desk during the week instead of a Snickers from the vending machine.


As part of the launch of the cookbook, Jo and Ness are taking the opportunity to draw readers’ attention to Hagar, an international a charity both ladies are passionate about. Hagar works to “restore to wholeness the lives of women and children in AfghanistanCambodia and Vietnam that have been torn apart by human rights abuse.

Our Tamarama Kitchen cook book launch by Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe Sydney photos by Iris Lillian

 Ness & Jo’s chic, laid back Sydney style

Living on the same street in Tamarama, Jo and Ness share a large portion of their wardrobes (the dream!). Their blended style is laid back, yet effortlessly chic with their staples being classic pieces from French designers Isabel Marant and Vanessa Bruno, and local labels Jac & Jack, Bassike and Scanlan Theodore. The ladies’ hero piece for Autumn/Winter is a pair of leather trousers. I second that.

Hot tip! According to Ness, the Scanlan Theodore crepe jacket is key to maintaining a polished look whilst travelling because the material doesn’t crease. Win! Ness also has a penchant for kicks including Y3, Spring Court and her new pink Reeboks – she wouldn’t tell me how many pairs she owns!

Our Tamarama Kitchen cook book launch by Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe Sydney photos by Iris Lillian
Get the look!  Brand details below.

If you would like to receive a copy of the Our Tamarama Kitchen Addictive Chocolate Raw Bars recipe straight to your inbox, just sign up to the mailing list and follow @irislillian and @ourtamaramakitchen on Instagram. Easy as!

Elissa was generously gifted a copy of Our Tamarama Kitchen.

Style Notes

Ness wears jewellery/top/gilet/skirt/glasses/jacket/shoes.

Jo wears necklace/rings/top/vintage skirt/cape/shoes/timepiece.

Our Tamarama Kitchen cook book launch by Joanna Cooper and Vanessa Rowe Sydney photos by Iris Lillian

  1. AJ says

    Fabulous article IL!! You really are an amazing writer. I’m off to find page 197 and those chocolate raw bars 😉

    1. Elissa says

      Thanks AJ! You’re very kind. I’ll be attempting the raw chocolate bars this week xx

  2. Melinda says

    This is a fabulous article. The thread that ran through the article of encouragement shown to women in business and following their dreams is what I enjoyed.

    1. Elissa says

      I’m thrilled Melinda! Have you had an experience like this?

  3. Holly says

    Gorgeous post, your writing makes me feel like I really know these amazing women. What an achievement they’re sharing! X

    1. Elissa says

      Thanks Holly! I loved your post this week on Sleek Makeup. What’s next?

  4. Sarah Jensen says

    Gorgeous article, gorgeous photos and oh my goodness, the recipes have me drooling! They sound so delicious.

    1. Elissa says

      Thanks Sarah! They are SO drool-worthy. Have you ever experienced the Tall Poppy Syndrome?

  5. Kat says

    Love your writing style – have bookmarked your blog for future reading pleasure! Awesome work x

    1. Elissa says

      Hey Kat, thanks! Likewise, I love your style and look forward to your next post.

  6. Nicola says

    Beautiful article! Yes, I think tall poppy syndrome is a definite problem in Aust- but i think times are changing (for the better) and these 2 talented ladies are a great example of that. Book sounds so yum too!!

    1. Elissa says

      Yes, I agree times are changing! What a relief 😉 Thanks for visiting Iris Lillian!

  7. Kate says

    Ahh the recipes sounds so great! Also that photo at Tamarama Beach ?. My favourite place! Kate X

    1. Elissa says

      They are Kate! Did you know that you can get a free copy of their famous Addictive Chocolate Raw Bars recipe? All you need to do is sign up to the mailing list (on the right of the page or at the bottom) and follow @irislillian and @ourtamaramakitchen on Instagram. Et voila!

  8. Joleene Moody says

    What I love about this is how they left what they didn’t love to explore what the DO love…and look at them now! We need to stick together was women entrepreneurs so if we can’t see the talent and strengths we have, someone else will — and gently remind us of them. xoxo

    1. Elissa says

      Well said Joleene! Did you recognise your own strengths or did someone draw them to your attention? How did you become an entrepreneur?

  9. Brianna Nash says

    Love this. I’ll have to see about that book too! I love some good recipes 🙂

    1. Elissa says

      Hey Brianna, thanks for visiting Iris Lillian. Have you claimed your free recipe yet?

  10. Janine Good says

    You had me at Red Chili con Carne 🙂
    Lovely article! My husband is Australian so I am familiar with the areas you mention in your article! Thanks for posting this! It is a great piece.

    1. Elissa says

      Hey Janine, I’m glad you enjoyed it! How often do you get to Australia?

  11. Elisha says

    So inspiring. I have been playing with the idea of writing a cookbook and these article makes it seem possible.

    1. Elissa says

      Why not?! You should get in touch with Jo and Ness for their tips 🙂

  12. Siobhan says

    A beautifully written piece about what seems like one incredible book. Ness and Jo sound like remarkable women. Thanks so much for sharing. xox

    1. Elissa says

      You’re welcome Siobhan! The recipes are spot on and the photos of Bondi Beach are incredible too!

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