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Women at work: Vanessa Broadfoot

Laura Peppas

When Vanessa Broadfoot decided to pull out of her economics and Asian studies degrees for a cooking apprenticeship, it raised a few eyebrows at the time.

“This was before Masterchef – before cooking was considered ‘cool’,” says Vanessa.

“Everyone was questioning why I was doing it… they were all pretty confused.”

Fast-forward many years, awards, restaurants and overseas gigs later, and Vanessa, now the co-owner of Broadbean Catering at the National Museum of Australia, is still thriving in the hospitality industry.

“I’ve always got a buzz out of the fast paced nature of hospitality,” she says.

“I love that every day is so different and you’re often thinking on the go – there’s a lot of problem solving involved.”

Vanessa’s path to success is littered with what most foodies would call dream jobs.

After quitting her degree for an apprenticeship with prestigious Canberra venue The Lobby alongside Fiona Wright, Vanessa was eventually appointed head chef.

Her talents at The Lobby didn’t go unnoticed, and she was soon offered a job as the chef for the Australian Ambassador to the UN in New York.

“That was a pretty amazing experience,” she says.

“I’d catch the subway down to China town and pick up ducks for dinner. It introduced me to a new world of cooking.”

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Vanessa at the National Museum of Australia cafe.

After two years in the big apple, Vanessa moved to Sydney for a gig as food editor for Murdoch Press, writing for magazines such as Gourmet Traveller.

She was then offered another job cooking for the Australian Ambassadors to the UN and WTO – this time in Geneva.

“It was probably the most picturesque place I’ve been to,” Vanessa says.

“I used a lot of local ingredients there and made dishes with an Australian twist – I’d pick up a lot of the beautiful wild berries they had and make Pavlova.”

Once she arrived back in Canberra, Vanessa was motivated to start her own business, setting up Sitting Ducks Catering in 2004, which eventually won the tender to cater for the National Portrait Gallery where it won several awards.

The business became Broadbean Catering once joining with the National Museum of Australia, catering for weddings, cocktail parties and corporate events. Vanessa now co-owns the business with fellow experts Savva Dimarhos, Anthony Barhoush and Sebastian Nicinski.

“It’s a beautiful space so we’re very happy here,” Vanessa says.

“One of our café girls has been working here since she was 16, so she has been here for seven or eight years. When we see talent, we nurture it and try and make it working environment people want to stay in, because in the hospitality industry one of the biggest challenges is retaining staff.”

Vanessa says the many openings of new restaurants in Canberra have given way to a more food savvy audience.

“People used to not really expect much from their food at big events but I think now people have higher expectations and caterers really need to step up to the mark because of that,” she says.

“There’s a lot more competition now, so it’s important to keep the standard up – the food, the service, you have to have the whole package.

“When you have a good team – at the back of house, when everything runs really smoothly, that’s when you know it’s good.”


Photos by Martin Ollman



Laura Peppas

Laura Peppas is HerCanberra's senior journalist and communications manager and is the Editor of Unveiled, HerCanberra's wedding magazine. She is enjoying uncovering all that Canberra has to offer, meeting some intriguing locals and working with a pretty awesome bunch of women. Laura has lived in Canberra for most of her life and when she's not writing fervently she enjoys pursuing her passion for travel, reading, online shopping and chai tea. More about the Author

  • Angela Hall

    Beautiful food & beautiful chef. Great to get to know the chef who catered our wedding at the Museum. Such a great experience – the best wedding food i’ve ever tasted!