In an exclusive final interview for season three of The Bottom Line, (Saturday 26 July at 4:00pm on Channel Nine), Australia’s famous food aficionado, Maggie Beer, talks with host and CPA Australia’s Chief Executive, Alex Malley, about her financially confronting childhood and the impact it had on her own approach to life.
Beer reveals how that the harsh reality of the bankruptcy of her family’s kitchenware factory helped shape her own future business success.
“I remember the floor of the office covered in unopened bills and it had a great effect on me… you’ve lost your home and business, furniture, everything, it was just gone
“It was harsh but it gave me something called grit,” says Beer Having left school at 14 to pursue an income to help support the family, Beer spent the following 10 years chopping and changing jobs in both Australia and England.
“I had a ball and I tried so many different things because leaving school at 14 meant I was always searching and it led me to a whole pile of different things that weren’t right for one reason or another but they were all part of my makeup…that gave me a lot of confidence.”
Beer admits she didn’t realise food was her passion until she and husband Colin decided to move to South Australia to farm pheasants.
“I’d had this really rich food life in my childhood and I was never taught, I just knew how to cook and I was cooking from probably the age of seven, bits and pieces, and it just came so naturally to me. It was there but I didn’t see it.”
“He had a vision, he wanted to go back to South Australia and farm pheasants and yeah, I was up for it and so that’s how it all happened,” says Beer.
Still working a 70-hour plus week, Maggie says the Beer empire has flourished due to hard work, dedication and doing what she loves.
“The first order we had for our pate in Adelaide we had enough money for the petrol to take it down there. Really the pheasant farm itself ran at a loss for nearly 11 years… Colin never once said, ‘well look at the bottom line’, I don’t think we had one, well we certainly didn’t have a positive one but we never even looked at it. I was purely doing what I loved to do and it was seductive.”
Reflecting on a powerful 44 year union, Beer celebrates the strength of her personal and professional relationship with husband Colin.
“He makes me laugh every day of my life, because I’m a bit obsessive and he’s laid back.”
But she says she carried the guilt of being a working parent for a long time. “I was a workaholic, but I am more able to balance it now… I carried a lot of guilt until my girls said to me, come on, enough of this, we’re strong.”
Now, approaching 70 and a former Senior Australian of the Year, Beer talks of her newest challenge, to redefine the culture of food in Australia’s aged care facilities with The Maggie Beer Foundation.
“This is an incredibly complex issue but yet simple issue to try and change the culture of food in age care across Australia and I’ve been surrounded by some really amazing passionate people and the foundation I hope to be conduit for lots research, ideas to share, that generosity of sharing all the good things.”
“I’ve taken on such a big challenge I’m never going to be bored,” says Beer.
Maggie Beer shares her insights with Alex Malley on The Bottom Line – airing on Saturday 26 July at 4pm on Channel Nine
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Maggie Beer on The Bottom Line is Episode 24 in a 24 episode series.
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