Melbourne chef, restaurateur and food writer Karen Martini has been cooking professionally for more than 20 years. She trained at top restaurant Tansy’s in the early 1990s and has headed restaurant kitchens including the iconic Melbourne Wine Room, white-hot Icebergs Dining Room in Sydney and her current artisan pizza restaurant Mr Wolf (which she runs with husband Michael Sapountsis), winning countless chefs hats and other plaudits along the way.
Karen’s kitchen career has been balanced by media commitments, cookbooks, charity dinners and much-loved recipe columns. She has been a presenter on Seven’s Better Homes and Gardens for six years, and is also a judge on the network’s top rating competition program, My Kitchen Rules.
Karen and Michael’s first child, Stella, was born in 2006, and Amber followed in 2008.
Since becoming a mother, Karen’s love of relaxed cooking with fresh, healthy, seasonal produce has intensified.
“I’m always thinking about what I am going to eat next, how I might cook it, how I could do it differently,” she says. “When I’m helping people to cook and eat and get the same pleasure from it that I do, then I’m happy. My recipes are an extension of me.”
After more than 20 years of cooking professionally, Karen’s passion for food and cooking is stronger than ever, and her palate has broadened as she’s experimented with different flavours. “I used to say my cooking was modern Mediterranean but now I chase the flavours of exotic Asia and the Middle East as well.”
Whatever the cuisine, the motivation and the reward are the same. “It’s a giving process, whether it’s at home or in a restaurant,” she says. “You’re nurturing people, you’re enabling conviviality and, for both cook and eater, I always aim to make mealtimes enjoyable and relaxed.”
In 2012, Better Homes and Gardens was awarded a record 10th Silver Logie for Australia’s Most Popular Lifestyle Program. The series is now in its 18th season.