A Special Q&A With Donna Hay

OK PEOPLE get excited. We’re heading in O.G. Design Files territory today, with a CAPITAL-LETTER laden post, direct from our editor, Lucy, who was more than a little chuffed to speak with stylist, author, magazine editor, media personality and, let’s face it, Australian ICON Donna Hay earlier this week.

If you didn’t already know, Donna Hay magazine is celebrating it’s 100th issue this month. Sadly, though, it’ll be the final issue of the magazine as we know it.  Today, we share a candid chat with Donna about her incredible achievements to date – and what’s next!

Lucy Feagins

Salmon, Yuzu and Nashi with Sesame Mayo on Tempura Shiso Leaves from the ‘Raw Beauty’ feature in Donna Hay’s 100th issue. Photo – Chris Court. Styling – Steve Pearce.

From the magazine’s chapter on ‘Inspired – Herbs’ featuring Donna’s Crispy Potato With Parsley and Rosemary Salt recipe. Photo – Anson Smart. Styling – Steve Pearce.

The 100th issue special edition cover – out now! Photo – courtesy of Donna Hay.

The inimitable Donna Hay alongside a stack of all 100 past issues! Photo – Stewart White, courtesy of Donna Hay.

Check out the recipe for Chocolate Ice-Creams With Torched Meringue and Chocolate Sauce in the new issue. Photo – Chris Court. Styling – Steve Pearce.

Whipped Lemon Taramasalata with Salmon Roe and Pickled Zucchini Flowers from the magazine chapter ‘Raw Beauty’, in Donna Hay’s 100th issue. Photo – Chris Court. Styling – Steve Pearce.

Chocolate, Raspberry and Coconut Panna Cotta Bars from the ‘Wholefood Bars’ chapter in Donna’s 100th-anniversary magazine. Photo – Anson Smart. Styling – Steve Pearce.

A spread from the ‘Raw Beauty’ feature in Donna Hay’s 100th issue. Photo – Chris Court. Styling – Steve Pearce.

Lucy Feagins
19th of July 2018

In 2011, a mere three years into launching this little ol’ blog (if we can still call it a ‘blog’?)  I had the IMMENSE privilege of interviewing THE Donna Hay.

It was a defining moment, and one that made me realise that perhaps, just perhaps, I was onto something. To think that an editor as esteemed as Donna Hay even knew about TDF, let alone would agree to an interview with me, was a seriously big deal.

Seven years later, here we are again and I am no less starstruck to have had the opportunity to interview Donna Hay for the second time! This time, though it’s a little bittersweet. Because after 17 years in circulation, Donna Hay magazine’s 100th issue (on newsstands now!) will be their very last. It’s no exaggeration to say, this really is the end of an era.

The magazine made Donna Hay a household name both here and abroad, reaching subscribers in 82 countries around the world. But Donna is more than just a magazine editor. Over the past 20 years, she has authored 26 best-selling cookbooks, selling over six million copies worldwide, and has hosted TV series screened in over 17 countries. She’s developed her own tableware and kitchenware ranges, and even a home baking mix range – a bestselling product line available at supermarkets across Australia. Did I mention, she also served as creative director for Oprah Winfrey’s ‘Welcome to Sydney’ party, in 2011? Safe to say, it’s been a BUSY decade or two for Donna!

It was such a pleasure to chat with Donna earlier this week about the incredible success of her eponymous magazine, the defining memories she has had along the way, and of course, what we can expect from her next!

What were your initial goals when you first launched Donna Hay magazine in 2001 – did you ever expect the incredible success and notoriety the magazine has had?

Not really! I’m not much of a planner, I’ve always been more head down, focussed on the ‘now’.  I never really had a long-term plan for the magazine. It’s been an incredible ride and I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved.

It’s been 17 years and 100 issues – WOW that’s one hell of an achievement! What have been one or two major milestones along the way?

I’ve never been one for major milestones. It’s been more about a constant revision process, or refining what we do every step of the way.  For instance, we haven’t really focussed on major re-designs, but every issue we’ve tweaked and improved on our last. For us it’s always been about finding ways to simplify, refine and elevate what we do, every day and with every issue.

Over the years you’ve worked with some incredible photographers, stylists and creative collaborators. Can you outlines any key creatives who have been integral in developing that distinctive ‘Donna Hay’ style?

Over 17 years, I’ve met and worked with so many incredible people. One key collaborator has been photographer Con Poulos – he shot our very first cover, and I’ve worked with him on-and-off for 20 years.

Chris Court is someone else I’ve worked with since the early days. I think we first booked him to shoot deep-etched wine bottles(!) – he was a real newbie at the time. He’s another wonderful photographer I’ve worked with for many years, along with his sister, stylist Sibella Court, who is a great friend.

I’m sure, like us, many readers and subscribers will be devastated to learnt that Donna Hay magazine will no longer continue in its current format. So… what can we expect next!?

I don’t really look back, I always look forward… I’m really proud of what we’ve achieved but I’m also really excited to explore some new projects.  It’s been 17 years of having a bi-monthly deadline – which can be a really hard slog. I’m looking forward to having more time to explore other opportunities and creative projects.

I honestly don’t know what’s next. I have two cookbooks coming out later this year, and it’s the first time I’m launching them in all markets at the same time, which is really exciting.

I’ve got a big following in the UK, and Europe, and we’ve never been able to release a cookbook over there at the same time as here. Usually, there’s a delay, due to translation and different versions being released in different markets. But I’m really excited that this year for the first time, these books will be launched at the same time both here and globally. So, if I’m talking about a specific recipe or technique online, it’ll be relevant to Australia, and the UK, and Europe all at once.

I’m also looking forward to being able to give back and having time to spend on some more community-focused projects. I often get asked to speak at special events or schools, and you just have to say no all the time because there isn’t time to do everything. So I’m looking forward to being able to do those things.

And finally, can you share one single memory which has really stuck with you, and been a defining moment in the Donna Hay journey?

I’m not sure if there’s been one single moment… although there was one time I do remember going into an important meeting in a big publisher’s office in New York. It was a really big office and they had all these references on display, and I remember seeing some of our imagery on their moodboards and thinking… wow, you never know who is looking at what you do! That was a moment I realised we were really doing something that was being noticed on a global level.

I am still really passionate about print, and people are still buying print magazines and books. I think there will always be a place for great content.


For more on what’s in store for Donna Hay next visit Her forthcoming book ‘Modern Baking’, a fresh take on the enchanting ritual of baking, out on October 22nd.

Recent Food