Accoutrement's Sue Jenkins On Her Passion For All Things Food
ACCOUTREMENT IS A MUCH-LOVED LANDMARK ON MOSMAN'S UPMARKET SHOPPING PRECINCT: A MAJOR DRAWCARD FOR LOCALS AND VISITORS OFFERING THE MOST COMPLETE RANGE OF KITCHEN EQUIPMENT, UTENSILS AND HOMEWARES YOU'LL FIND ANYWHERE, AS ANNA USHER DISCOVERED.
Photography: Graham Monro
For nearly 50 years, people who love to cook and entertain have made a beeline for Accoutrement.
And for much of that time, locals and visitors from around the world have found Sue Jenkins standing behind the counter, ready to offer her trademark practical, honest advice when it comes to investing in designer cookware.
But her influence on Australian cuisine extends far beyond selling the best quality pots, pans and kitchen accessories.
Decades of dedication and an unwavering adherence to quality have made Sue an Australian food industry luminary - and one of our most loved Mosman locals.
“My true passion is food and everything that goes with it,” she says.
“Accoutrement is a landmark in Mosman and each year people from around the world come to visit.
“Our philosophy is that quality has no substitute and I guess that’s why we’ve withstood the test of time.
“The store first opened its doors in 1970 and here we are, still going strong, 47 years later,” she laughs.
Sue took over the business from the Prentice family in 1982, and the “self-taught” retailer has enjoyed stellar success, thanks in part to her renowned cooking school at the rear of the store that’s hosted the likes of Neil Perry, Guillaume Brahimi, Christine Manfield and Damien Pignolet.
“At one point we were doing 150 classes a year,” Sue recalls.
“It was absolute madness in the 80’s and 90’s, quite literally there was an insatiable hunger for people to learn the finer art of cooking.
“Now of course the demand is not there. Families are extremely time poor, it’s become a nightmare to park in Mosman - and it’s easier to watch a YouTube cooking tutorial, rather than coming into the store to see a hands on demonstration.”
Having lived and worked in Mosman for most of her 70 years, Sue says the suburb has “changed immensely” over that time.
“There wasn’t a whole lot happening in the Mosman food scene when I was growing up,” she says.
“During the 1950’s, there were two Chinese restaurants and I can remember Dad going up on 'special occasions' to get takeaway. The only choice was Chicken Chow Mein or Sweet and Sour Pork which we thought was terribly exotic at the time.
“Of course there were no plastic containers, so he’d get the cook to fill up our aluminium saucepans with this dreadful Chinese food.”
In the 1970’s, Sue remembers our culinary tastes slowly developing - with fine dining restaurants springing to life in the city, offering “sophisticated” cuisine.
Starters included iceberg lettuce, dressed with a twist of cucumber, orange and radish, followed by smoked salmon “sliced by hand at the table”, says Sue.
“For a main meal we’d have something like Steak Diane and we’d always finish with brewed, inevitably burnt (non Italian) coffee.”
"MY TRUE PASSION IS FOOD AND EVERYTHING THAT GOES WITH IT"
- Sue Jenkins
Fast forward to the 1980’s, when Sue says local tastes evolved again, thanks to a trend in opulent dinner parties hosted at home.
“It would take me three days to prepare a formal, sit down meal. Terrines had to be layered and left in the fridge overnight, then another layer added the next day.
“It was tricky, complicated food. Nothing like how we do things today.”
One of the biggest changes Sue has seen in recent years, is the rise of male interest in cooking. 30 years ago, her customer base was almost exclusively female, but now she says it’s not unusual to have more men than women in an Accoutrement cooking class.
“And TV shows like MKR and MasterChef have also done great things for kids when it comes to interest and engagement with cooking.”
Sue’s influence and contribution to Australia’s gourmet food scene has resulted in numerous accolades, including a Jaguar Award for Excellence - and a coveted place in the Sydney Morning Herald’s “Food Hall of Fame”.
“It’s truly amazing to think I’ve been doing this for over four decades,” she says.
“And I certainly have no plans to retire just yet.
“Who knows, maybe Accoutrement will be around for another 40 years!”