Creative People

Interview - Donna Hay (+ subscription giveaway!)

Lucy Feagins
Lucy Feagins
25th of November 2011
Various pagespreads from Australia's much loved Donna Hay Magazine.  Photos - Chris Court.
Pagespreads from Donna Hay Magazine
The prettiest sashimi in Donna Hay Magazine
Donna Hay celebrates her 10th year in print with the launch of the brilliant new Donna Hay iPad app!

OK so this is a 'pinch me and tell me I'm dreaming moment'.  YES it's an interview with Donna Hay!   Wowsers.  We really have hit the bigtime, people.  I'm pretty sure Donna is the most famous person ever to grace this little old blog.  Yeeha!  We must be doing something right :)

Donna Hay is, of course, a household name both here and abroad, and one seriously clever cookie.  Or probably more of a perfect homemade macaron.  After many years working as a food editor and food stylist across various titles including Marie Claire's hugely popular cookbook series in the 1990's, Donna Hay branched out in 2001 with her very own self-titled magazine.  I think we can safely say that in the ten years that have passed since then, she has created an empire.

Donna Hay Magazine has been a runaway success from the very earely days, and now reaches a loyal readership of 384,000 people per issue.  The ever-growing network of projects under the Donna Hay brand include cookbooks, a dense and juicy website full of recipes and exclusive content, a tableware collaboration with Royal Doulton available nationally from David Jones, The Donna Hay General Store in Sydney's Woollahra, and a TV series on the Lifestyle Channel.   I'd call that a pretty epic Australian success story.

This month, Donna Hay Magazine celebrates their 10th birthday, and to mark this very special occasion, they've launched  their brilliant new iPad app!  The app is the perfect extension of the printed magazine, with a few added bonuses of course!  One of the key features is the 'cook mode' for every recipe, dividing the recipe into easy-to-follow steps and bringing each up in large text.  As we've come to expect from the Donna Hay team, it's executed faultlessly - beautiful to look at and intuitively simple to use.  You can download the first Donna Hay iPad issue FREE right here!

Donna and her team have also kindly offered a year's subscription to Donna Hay magazine for ten lucky readers! To be in the running for this fab giveaway simply leave a comment on today's post! Ten winners will be selected at random and contacted by email early next week!  YUM a whole year of delectable recipes and simple, special foodie goodness.

*UPDATE: Thank you to everyone who left a comment! 10 lucky winners were drawn at random and they are... Frances G (comment #169), Emily (comment #284), Renee (comment #1), Laura (comment #71), Georgia (comment #24), Mademoiselle Slimalicious (comment #309), Mary Anne (comment #10), Lizzy (comment #234), Diana (comment #192) and Lena (comment #233). Congratulations and we hope you love your subscription to Donna Hay Magazine! Thank you again to Donna and her team for their generosity!

Massive thanks to Donna and her team for being part of The Design Files interview series! I can pretty much retire now.

Donna Hay works her magic

Donna Hay!  You’re Australia’s best known food editor and best selling food author – we love your work! Can you give us a little info about your background, and what led you to food writing / styling initially?

I loved cooking as a kid and from a young age spent hours in the kitchen. I was inspired to cook by my grandmother – I used to watch her cooking and she was an accomplished baker. I remember being so proud to make Steak Diane for my Dad’s birthday when I was eight years old.

My love of cooking led me to study home economics at college, and I started working in test kitchens, on food magazines and cookbooks. I got the confidence to branch out and go freelance as a food stylist, but I missed the connection between the creative folks and the wordsmiths that you get working at a magazine. I eventually started my own magazine to fill the gap.

The Donna Hay brand has gone from strength to strength since you first launched Donna Hay magazine in 2001. What were your initial goals when you first left Marie Claire, and did you always expect that your own name would become a household name?

I’m not much of a goal setter, I believe in going where life takes you! I was literally working freelance in an old warehouse studio in Surry Hills, dreaming up what my ultimate magazine would look like, when the opportunity to work with News Magazines was presented. It was never my intention to be the name of the publication (even now I still feel a little awkward!), there were so many details for the team of 5 to work on for the launch issue, but the marketing team at the time thought it was a great idea because people knew me from my books, so it was thought they could identify with the familiar.

Can you give us a little insight into the inner workings of Donna Hay inc.? How many staff do you employ across the magazine, website, General Store, TV production and other areas of your business?  What significant tasks do you oursource? Do you still play a very hands on role in each creative decision?

It’s a very tight team. There are 15 on the magazine across art, copy, food, marketing, design and styling. Then for the business side, there are just two people. My sister works with me on the retail side of the business. I’ve been really lucky to work with some great supportive brand partners, so there are good resources backing me up. I’m quite hands-on but I think that’s to be expected when the title and the business carries your name. I like to muck in at all levels, but am fortunate that my passionate and creative team share my vision, so I can rely on them whole heartedly!

Congrats on the launch of your brand new donna hay magazine for iPad app!  Can you tell us a little about it?   How long has your team been working on the app and what content / features can we expect to see?

The process of working on the iPad app has been really exciting and it’s been wonderful watching the pages of the magazine come to life. The same team who work on the print magazine work on the app, redesigning the issue for the iPad. We worked for several months on the concept to get it right the first time. We incorporated our app plans into the schedule for the magazine, launching it at the same time as our 10th birthday issue. One of the key features is the cook mode for every recipe, dividing the recipe into easy-to-follow steps and bringing it up in large text, plus there are video tips to assist with certain recipes and special animated features that bring the pages to life.

the brilliant new Donna Hay iPad app complete with super handy 'cook mode' feature!

What does a typical day involve for you?

Working in a test kitchen there is no such thing as a typical day! I am an early riser thanks to two young boys, so it’s breakfast, packing school lunches and doing the final check on homework. Then I’m in the office by 9.00am, earlier on some days if there is a TV commitment or radio. Then the day is divided between meetings and studio time for shoots.

We work in the single studio/kitchen space. So we can be working on magazine, book and newspaper content all at the same time. That means that we don’t eat like normal people – lots of small bites throughout the day, which can be very dangerous! We’re not a very serious office in the corporate sense – lots of laughter fuels creativity.

Can you list for us your top 5 creative resources across any media?

I love looking at fashion and design websites and blogs. My app version of French Vogue and net-a-porter are always quite inspiring. I often check out Design*Sponge, too. I get a lot of inspiration from little details – typography, the dressing in a shop window, flowers, tableware.

Which other Australian creative people do you admire?

One of my closest friends is the wonderful stylist, Sibella Court, and I love her bower bird approach to collecting and styling. We work with some wonderful photographers like William Meppem, Anson Smart, Con Poulos and Chris Court, who always brings something new to the studio.

What would be your dream project?

I’m very lucky in that lots of my dreams have come true already! I have a beautiful new range with Royal Doulton that will continue to grow, and the magazine has been going from strength-to-strength, so I’m very much focussed on these. I believe that digital media will mean some significant changes for our industry and I’m really excited about where that might take us.

What are you looking forward to?

I am looking forward to some time off at the end of the year and lazy summer days with my boys (plus, the chance to eat ice -cream at the end of those lazy hot days!). It’s about the simple things, really.

Sydney Questions

Where do you shop in Sydney for great kitchenalia and foodie finds!? (Besides your own store!)

I must admit I love the Chef’s Warehouse, a large store stacked high with pots, pans, utensils, glasses, you name it!  I can get lost in there. They are a trade supplier but are open to the public as well. I also like the local farmers’ markets around Sydney – the one at the Eveleigh CarriageWorks in Redfern is a must – you can even spot some famous Sydney chefs there peddling their wares!

What/where was the last great meal you ate in Sydney?

There’s a great new local bistro-style restaurant that’s opened up in my local area called Honeycomb, run by chef/owner Andy Bunn. I like his philosophy and approach to food – it’s full of flavour and really pops, but isn’t tricked up. It’s honest, refined and super tasty.

Where would we find you on a typical Saturday morning?

The school sports run with an early start; I pack the car the night before! It’s like a choose-your-own adventure with visits to sports ovals all over the place. Obviously after running around, little boys require big breakfasts!

Sydney’s best kept secret?

Messina Gelato – it’s the best ice-cream in Sydney and they are consistent in all the classic flavours and continually reinvent themselves with their ‘special’ flavours. I honestly believe a serve of good ice-cream is the same as a great meal!

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