Swapping courts for cooking: Bree Hutchins guest blog

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When people find out what I do for a living and that I recently underwent a 360 degree career change, they’re quick to ask: how on earth do you go from being a lawyer to travelling the world photographing and writing about food in 3 years?

Truth is, a lot of serendipity and hard work! The defining moment that sent my life in another direction was being caught by a colleague reading how to make ginger crème brulee tarts, when I should have been preparing for court. Turns out, the cookbook I had wedged inside a brief of evidence was photographed by my colleague’s neighbour. He wrangled me an invite to a photoshoot and by the end of the day I had made up my mind to resign from my job and shamelessly asked the photographer to mentor me – I didn’t even own a camera!

Having never been a person to do things in half measures, I quickly enrolled in as many photography and writing courses as I could. Within a year I was being sent on assignments overseas and getting paid! Combining food and travel photography with writing, gave me the freedom to do projects that really interested me. My world was completely changing and to be honest even now, each day it still keeps getting better and better. Making the decision to focus on where my real passions lie was the best decision I’ve ever made. Without realising it at the time, I was tailor making my very own dream job – a collaboration of the things I love in life – people, food, travel, writing and photography.

For as long as I can remember I’ve been obsessed with cooking and travelling. Before I could properly read, I learnt to cook from a UNICEF picture cookbook of recipes from around the world. Since then, I have eaten my way across six continents, invited myself into countless kitchens and gathered recipes from across the globe. I’m also a keen adventurer and before my career change I tamed my discontent by white water rafting in Costa Rica, hiking to the top of Kilimanjaro and trekking with gorillas in Rwanda. If you haven’t yet read my book, Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka, I’ve also been lucky to cook with some inmates in a Sri Lankan prison and stay at an Army camp on the war ravaged east coast, where I learnt to cook cashew curry with the soldiers in their mess kitchen.

I’m often asked by people, why Sri Lanka? To be honest, I never actually set out to write a book on the country. I like to think Sri Lanka picked me.  I’d been invited to Sri Lanka to photograph for Dilmah Tea’s MJF Charitable Foundation and quite unexpectedly, I really connected with the people and became interested in their food. The people had a strength of character that was awe inspiring – I simply had to get to know them. And what better way to connect with people than through their food.  So I asked Dilmah to check me out of the Hilton and into a mud hut. It was in Manike’s dimly lit kitchen that I learnt to cook bringal moju (fried aubergine pickle), the dish which sparked my love affair with Sri Lankan cuisine.

Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka is as much about the people and their stories as it is about their food. I’ve used recipes, food and photographs to tell their stories. I really hope that when you cook a recipe from my book, you connect in some way with the person who gave it to me, no matter where in the world your kitchen may be.

Bree Hutchins

You can buy Hidden Kitchens of Sri Lanka on Hive right here

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