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A Western Australian culinary legacy: Kate Lamont AM

The Governor describes Kate Lamont as “an icon of Western Australia’s service industries”. She is one of Western Australia’s most successful chefs, best-selling cookbook authors, active food and tourism industry advisors and, in June this year, became an Australian Honours recipient.

Kate was awarded a Member of the Order of Australia in the 2020 Queen’s Birthday Honours List, “For significant service to the tourism and hospitality sectors in Western Australia.”

The Lamont family is synonymous with Western Australia’s successful wine growing area of the Swan Valley and Kate runs three very successful restaurants in Perth.

The Governor sat down with Kate last month to discuss her decorated career, the story of her family and their ties to the Swan Valley and the impact of COVID-19 on their business, Lamonts.

Kate discovered a passion for wine and cooking while pursuing a career as a winemaker in the 1980’s and for the past 30 years has dedicated herself to a career in the service sector.

Speaking about her family’s history of wine making in the Swan Valley and what keeps the Lamonts going through successive generations, Kate said,

“Food and wine was always so important to me growing up. My grandfather was a guy called Jack Mann who – often when I’m talking to people I say “I think there’s a few people in the audience who might remember what Houghton’s White Burgundy is” – but that was a wine that he developed in the 1930’s. No one in the 1930’s, in Australia or Western Australia, drank dry table wine – really we drank port and sherry and maybe a bit of rough red that came from the influence of the Italian and Yugoslavian immigrants that came to settle in the Valley. So Jack making a dry white wine was a pretty extraordinary and courageous thing to do. The Swan Valley now has a very long history of dry table wine making as well as fortified wine making.” 

“We have a genuine passion for food and wine. My grandmother, Jack Mann’s wife Angela, was a fantastic cook and so we grew up eating good food every day. It was always about ingredients, and (in Western Australia) we have access to the most phenomenal ingredients. And as much as West Australians and Australians love travelling, I know that when we come home we are always reminded of the quality of our beef, of our lamb, of our seafood, our fresh vegetables…I think about Tom who used to grow marron for me up in the foothills and he would bring marron down every weekend for me to serve. So it was about our love for wine and food, and as my career advanced it was about my interest and passion for wine and food together and what showed them both at their best, and I guess that sits across my whole family…”

And of the impact of COVID-19 on her family’s business,

“I hesitate to use the word ‘difficult’. I think it’s been a fascinating and very interesting year.

For me I’ve learnt so much about myself and about my business. Of course it’s about resilience, but it’s also about kindness and looking after people and really understanding what’s important.

My whole life we’ve worked in hospitality, which is really about being genuine and authentic about people relaxing and enjoying themselves and so it took me a few weeks – my husband and I, and my sister and my mum and our respective families – to really understand what was happening. Because in the first instance we were just battening down the hatches, trying to make sure financially we could survive, and we had lots of little side things like we employ at least half a dozen young people on Visas across our businesses who weren’t eligible for any government support. So we wanted to make sure that they could still pay their rent and be fed and all of those kinds of things…I think WA particularly, but Australia generally, has done a fantastic job and our economy feels like it’s recovering with much certainty.”

The Lamont family operates licensed restaurants, cellar doors and specialist wine stores in the Swan Valley, Margaret River, Perth CBD and Cottesloe. Visit their website for more details.

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