My Story

About Alex Herbert

My cooking has been driven by the season since before I can remember.

I grew up surrounded by women – my grandmother, mother and aunts – who loved to cook creatively with ingredients they had to hand.

(My mother used to make fantastic almond meringues for a small Sydney food store called Mrs Cox’s kitchen. There was always a huge volume of egg yolks leftover, so we were constantly eating crème caramel. And mayonnaise. And then there were the go-to family recipes: Beef Stifado, Lemon Delicious and Nan’s Sponge Cake with toffee icing.)

As a professional chef, I’ve developed a cooking style informed by the seasons, honed over 30+ years working with and being mentored by some of Australia’s culinary greats: Maggie Beer, Gay Bilson, Janni Kyritsis, David Thompson, Christine Manfield, Martin Boetz, to name a few.

I’ve spent years shopping and working at food markets, incorporating seasonal produce into food festivals and events programs, mentoring young chefs and teaching cooking classes centred on seasonal, and running my own produce-driven restaurants including Bird Cow Fish – a hatted Sydney bistro celebrating sustainable and seasonal ingredients in comforting home-cooked style dishes.

And even after all these years, I still get a kick out of cooking with the seasons. My ever-expanding repertoire of recipes is inspired first and foremost by ingredients, with dishes designed to be bundled together to create a seasonal food journey.

Until recently, these have been hand-written scribbles on cards, stashed away in boxes in my Sydney home. But I’m delighted to now share them with you, along with tips and tricks for bringing professional chef skills and knowledge into your own cooking.

I hope you enjoy piecing these Good Simple Delicious recipes together, learning something new in the process and discovering why cooking seasonally and “beyond one recipe” can be so rewarding.

A timeline of what has brought me here

Pre-1989

Where it all began. At home in my mother’s kitchen. Always cooking.

1989

My professional cooking journey kicked off with an apprentice chef posting at Sydney’s iconic Berowra Waters Inn working under Gay Bilson and Janni Kyritsis.

1991

I opened Pine Log Restaurant at Hardy’s Bay on the NSW Central Coast where I learnt firsthand the realities of running a restaurant. We were humbled to be awarded Sydney Morning Herald’s Country Restaurant of the Year in 1993.

1993

My partner Howard Gardner and I relocated to the Barossa Valley in South Australia for a year, where I worked as chef at Maggie Beer’s Pheasant Farm Restaurant in its final months. Such an iconic restaurant, and one which forever shaped my approach to food.

1994

Back in Sydney, you could find me in the kitchen of Christine Manfield’s Paramount Restaurant in Potts Point, working as sous chef up until the birth of my first son, Luke.

1995

An exciting time for me when I took up a position as chef in David Thompson’s newly-opened and influential Sailors Thai Restaurant in The Rocks. Martin Boetz was head chef. The ingredients were so foreign to me that it was like learning how to cook all over again. However the lessons that Maggie taught me at the Pheasant Farm remained the same and were further reinforced: Taste everything. Look for the balance of sweet, sour and salty. And then trust your palate.

1996

I opened the first Bird Cow Fish restaurant in Sydney’s Balmain with my husband Howard Gardner running the Front of House and joined by Martin Boetz in the kitchen as my co chef – a bistro embodying our philosophy that food should be Good Simple Delicious. Sydney Morning Herald food critic Terry Durack described the food was: good, simple, reductivist, generous with flavours that last, cooked with a light hand, stripped down, without gilding or garnish, highlighting my “intuitive cooking”. A proud moment.

1997

I took my home-cooked style of cuisine into De’lish Store in Lindfield as head chef and co-owner. In this little delicatessen, we made bread, take-home meals, cakes, desserts and gourmet sandwiches as well as providing catering. It was during this time that my second son Joel was born.

2002

My first foray into the corporate world, as a food consultant for Trippas White at the AGNSW Café.

2003

But I missed the kitchen. I spent a great year at Sydney’s Longrain Restaurant as chef, working once again with my friend Martin Boetz.

2004

To continue building my food consultancy skills, I joined Success Cycle (now B&P) advising on a number of projects, from developing innovation and sustainability food strategies, to food master planning and procurement management.

2006

After much soul searching, I brought Bird Cow Fish back to life, this time in Sydney’s Surry Hills. It was here that I really dove into a focus on provenance and sustainability of produce, creating a seasonally-driven menu and inviting chefs and winemakers from around the country to co-host regional wine and producers dinners. It was a firm favourite of food critics, maintaining One Hat in the Good Food Guide every year for six years, until I made the tough decision to close in 2012 to spend more time with my young family.

2008

I kicked off a six-year love affair with Sydney’s Carriageworks Farmers Market, manning a stall there every week. I dished up made-to-order creations such as Oh My Goshlette Omelettes and a range of pastries, inspired by and sourced from producers at the markets.

2009

I popped up as a guest chef on the first season of MasterChef Australia, whipping up the gnocchi with prawns sautéed in burnt butter with verjuice, capers and sage – a dish which had become synonymous with Bird Cow Fish.

2013

I returned to food consulting with B&P (previously Success Cycle) to head up a range of fascinating food innovation, leasing and sustainability projects for clients including Lend Lease, Mirvac, Myer, City of Sydney and Sydney Fish Market, to name a few.

2017

I embarked on a journey with IKEA Food Australia. I was initially responsible for the development and implementation of the local food range and securing suppliers for IKEA’s restaurants and cafes across Australia’s 10 stores. This role was expanded to include management of the Local and Global Supply Chain and logistics, securing of all ingredient specifications and reducing food waste by working with our Food Rescue Partners.

2021

Long overdue, I launched this platform to connect with home and professional cooks, and share my love for seasonal cooking and my learnings and recipes from over the years.


In the spirit of reconciliation I acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Australia and their connections to land, sea and community. I pay my respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today.


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