Cassie Duncan, Co-founder and General Manager
I was born hungry. By the tender age of three I was piling my plate high with veggies
and eating the same size meals as my mum and sister. My favourite time of the week
was heading to our local market where I would dance at the feet of the Salvation
Army brass band, ride on the merry-go-round and help mum to pick out the very best
My hunger and passion for food has not subsided, in fact it has come to define me.
After studying Arts/Business Marketing at Monash University I did what many Aussies
do and headed to the UK, where I quickly discovered that the corporate world and
I do not get along. From then on I have worked for not-for-profits and three years ago started Sustainable Table with Hayley Morris. Producing The
Sustainable Table cookbook has been a career highlight to date because it allowed
me to marry my two passions of food and the environment. It recently won Best Sustainable Food Book in Australia at the Gourmand World Cookbook Awards, which was a real thrill!
By day I like talking, going to farmers’ markets and walking in the park with my dog
Otto and other dog-people who find it socially acceptable to chat about their hounds
as if they were children.
On hols I like getting active and being amongst nature, whether that be camping,
hiking or skiing.
After dark I like to host outrageous dinner parties, dance to music that many would
cringe at (Dolly Parton, Beyonce, Kanye West... I know, I know!) and very occasionally
I like to blow my pay packet on ten course meals that take five hours to consume
and two weeks to recover from.
Hayley Morris, Co-founder
The prominent memories of my childhood are weekends on our family farm in rural Victoria making cubbies in the hay shed, watching my uncle shear sheep, eating mulberries off the tree, getting dirt stuck under my nails, swimming in mud baths in the dam and ending the day with a sore back from harvesting potatoes. The ‘farm girl’ in me was buried deep during my teenage years as I tried to be cool, but it resurfaced in early adulthood when I realised the key to making a difference in the world was to embrace my love of being active and outdoors.
I entered the corporate world straight out of school, whilst studying a degree in International Business. At 24-years old I had a life-changing holiday to South Africa that shifted my perspective on life and my role in it. I became very aware of the environmental impact associated with everyday living. I struggled with my limited ability to make lasting and meaningful change. I decided my only choice was to leave my job and then found myself on a journey of personal discovery and learning, involving volunteering and postgraduate study in Sustainability, which led me to co-founding Sustainable Table with my school-friend Cassie. Early on we decided that we wanted the non-profit to be as commercial as possible, which led to us publishing The Sustainable Table and the development of a sustainability performance management system for businesses. The system is now a separate entity called Impact Sustainability and is the focus of my day-to-day work.
I am often described as organised, dedicated and passionate (some even say obsessive!) so my interests are aligned with my work: environment, culture, technology and of course all things food, wine and spirits. I’m the girl who likes to steer the dinner party conversation towards the topics most like to avoid, as I believe healthy conversation is a the way to start social change.
Maria Hannaford, Research & Content Coordinator
I grew up in the 80s, before backyard chooks became as popular as tweeting and lattes. So the hens (and at one point, lamb) in our backyard and the fruit trees and veg plants sprouting out of every available patch of dirt at my family home, labelled us a little ‘unique’. We were Greeks living in suburbia; of course we were going to grow an olive tree in the front yard! These days this sort of behaviour is all very chic. Which is a good thing. I believe using our own patch of dirt - no matter the size - to grow our food just makes sense, for us and the environment.
You could say I’ve had a colourful career to date. I’ve been a marketing manager and a lab scientist. I’ve worked in the diabetes field and in mental health. All the while, something was missing. I wasn’t quite hitting the ‘career satisfaction’ mark. Then I realised (it took a few years and a few careers) that where I needed to be was in the food and environment sector – that was my passion, and it was time I went with it. I’m happy now.
Unsurprisingly, I love eating. I’m also partial to cooking, and get my jollies out of making things from scratch (there ain’t no canned foods in my house). When I’m not in the kitchen, I’m riding my bike, swimming at the beach, reading, gardening or cuddling my big goofy dog Wilfred and my smaller-than-average cat Mishka, both of whom have a Cockney accent and get a mention in all my bios (love you furballs).
Riki Edelsten, Events Manager
The obsession with food began before I can remember. My Aunty tells the story of losing me whilst babysitting, only to find me in the pantry, face smothered in chocolate. My love of travel and nature was born when the family packed into a 4WD for a year of camping around Australia. On arrival at Caravan parks I would head straight for the laundry, the place to make friends. I’ve always loved a party, especially a dress up! The first themed event I organised was a disco pyjama party for my 12th birthday, complete with choreographed dance routines and a midnight feast.
The desire to wear sexy suits like Amanda (Heather Locklear) in Melrose Place led me to complete a Business degree. I worked in sales whilst studying and am one of the few people who actual liked being a telemarketer. My first Marketing role for a large global company was a hoot, but I became disillusioned when I learnt more about the environmental impacts of the products. The plan was to get a corporate job in London, but I found myself happiest working with food; Sorting dates in the desert; Cooking from the garden in Portugal; Motivating guests to get excited about cutting vegetables on the Greek islands; Cooking and serving at meditation retreats. I experienced the great joys of simple, waste-free communal meals. Upon returning to Melbourne I found the Sustainable Living Festival, and have been deeply involved in the festival ever since. I am passionate about using the power of events for behavior change.
The desire to learn more about health led to my studies in Shiatsu Therapy. Dietary therapeutics enthralls me, learning how deeply food choices, mental states around food and food preparation affect well being.Yoga is my drug of choice, along with red wine, dark chocolate and green tea. But nothing beats letting loose on the dance floor with good friends.