Maggie, originally from Sydney, worked and travelled overseas in an amazing variety of jobs from a Lift Driver in a New Zealand department store to the Assistant to the Senior Geophysicist for British Petroleum in Libya. Returning home in 1968 and well before becoming immersed in the world of food, she was employed in fields as diverse as light aircraft, Citizenship Law Clerk for the American Embassy and House Management at the Women’s College of Sydney University.
Her marriage to Colin in 1970 led them to the Barossa Valley in 1973, where they began pheasant breeding and grape growing. The establishment of the Pheasant Farm was the start of a career that now spans farming, food production, exporting, food writing and television presenting.
There have been lots of awards over the years from those first heady days when in 1991 the Pheasant Farm Restaurant won the Remy Martin Cognac/Australian Gourmet Traveller Restaurant of the Year. More business related accolades included the Telstra Business Woman of the Year in 1997 and the Jaguar/Australian Gourmet Traveller Award of Excellence in 1999 and then in 2001 Maggie was overwhelmed to be presented with the Food Media Club’s Industry Peer Award.
Maggie has written nine books in total. The first being Maggie’s Farm, followed by Maggie’s Orchard and Cooking with Verjuice. She then collaborated with Stephanie Alexander and chronicled their Italian cooking school experiences in Stephanie and Maggie’s Tuscan Cookbook which has been translated into five languages. Her fifth book Maggie’s Table won the Best Regional Cook Book in English in 2001, and then against all other languages, replicated its success in the Gourmand World Cook Book Awards in Perigord, France. In 2003 Maggie’s Table was also awarded the Australian Food Media Award for Best Hardcover Recipe Book. The sixth addition to her literary collection is Maggie’s Harvest, a veritable tome of Maggie’s cooking expertise, superbly bound in hand embroidered Chinese silk. Since its release it has been awarded second place against books from 27 countries for the best cookbook cover in the world at the 2007 Gourmand World Cookbook Awards and was highly commended by judges in the category for Best Recipe Book over $36 at the Australian Food Media Awards in 2008. Maggie’s Kitchen, released in 2008 is a collection of favourite recipes as well as the everyday basics Maggie believes form the foundations of a good food life. Next on the list, Maggie’s Verjuice Cookbook was published in 2012, and features over 100 recipes using Maggie’s favourite ingredient – Verjuice. Her most recent addition to the library is Maggie’s Christmas, where Maggie shares her all-time favourite recipes and menus for entertaining family and friends during the festive season in the Barossa.
It was a natural extension, with her passion for food and food writing, that Maggie should find herself in front of the camera in her own television series. Screening on the ABC, The Cook and The Chef shows Maggie introducing Executive Chef Simon Bryant to her home region and the people who supply her with the produce she has used to create her culinary reputation. Her success on the show was cemented at the 2008 Australian Food Media Awards where Maggie won the inaugural Lifestyle Food Channel’s People’s Choice Award and The Cook and The Chef won the Sizzler Bernard King award for Best Television Food Segment.
Wrapping up production on The Cook and the Chef has by no means meant Maggie has escaped the spotlight. As part of the 2010 Australia Day Awards, Maggie was honoured with winning Senior Australian of the Year, in recognition of her focus on cooking with seasonal produce, that has in turn, helped to educate so many Australians to make informed food choices. The award was presented to Maggie by Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, at a special ceremony in Canberra on January 25th 2010. The following year Maggie became the 2011 South Australian of the Year and in addition to these achievements, Maggie was thrilled to be appointed a Member of the Order of Australia (AM) for her service to tourism and hospitality on Australia Day 2012. On September 19th 2013, Maggie was absolutely thrilled to receive a Doctor of Business honoris causa from Macquarie University. In a graduation ceremony for the Faculty of Human Sciences and Faculty of Business and Economics, Vice Chancellor Professor Bruce Dowton read the citation for Beer’s award. He said, “With an extensive list of accolades and as recipient of numerous awards, Maggie Beer has attributed her business success to a simple formula: relate to the produce at hand; aspire endlessly for excellence and continuous improvement; and be dogged in doing what feels right.” Most recently, Maggie was thrilled to find herself starring on a postage stamp as one of the winners of the Australia Post Australian Legends Award. Australia Post initiated the award in 1997 to honour living Australians who have made a unique contribution to our way of life, inspired the community and influenced the way Australians think about themselves and their country – and it was agreed that has Maggie’s name all over it!
Her appearances on television have been numerous, with the most notable being her involvement with Channel 10‘s Masterchef, setting new ratings records for the episodes she featured in. The Lifestyle Channel have also shone the spotlight on Maggie with a Christmas Special devoted to seasonal menus and celebration. On that theme, Maggie also returned to the ABC in 2012 to share her family Christmas in the Barossa.
A good food life for all, and all that encompasses, is what drives Maggie. As part of this philosophy, Maggie is proud to be the South Australian Ambassador for the Stephanie Alexander Kitchen Garden Foundation, whose inspirational program can truly change lives.