There’s a point in every writer’s life when they question whether they’re on the right path. For Terry Durack, it was a story about a fine dining encounter in France’s Alsace region, submitted to US food bible Gourmet and returned, rejected and unread. “I scrunched the whole page up, threw it in the bin and walked out of the room, disgusted,” laughs Durack.
It’s a good thing the celebrated food critic had already met Jill Dupleix. “I had no idea that Jill took it out, flattened it and sent it to the editor of Epicurean magazine. It then received a four-page spread.”
When Durack’s world first collided with Dupleix’s, he was working at a high-powered Melbourne advertising firm, a role that included regular lessons in the art of the long lunch. “We had a fight the first night and hated each other! Then we met at the pub later and never really parted. Terry found out that I was helping a friend write a book and that must have intrigued him a bit. We met for lunch and finally got together six months later,” Dupleix recalls.
Dupleix and Durack’s culinary journey has always been bound up in their romantic one. They flew to Singapore and Hong Kong, sipped cocktails at the Raffles and fell for food prepared humbly and served up on the street. Durack bought her a book on the great chefs of France and they toured Europe’s Michelin star institutions, a trip that sparked a love affair with haute cuisine. The couple also began writing about their experiences, accumulating bylines one by one. They both worked as food critics at The Age, then The Sydney Morning Herald and went on to co-author the cities’ well-thumbed Good Food Guides. “We were so innocent, so naive. There was a real learning curve about food in the eighties and we were just in the right place in the right time. And everything we knew how to do – write, eat, drink – all came together at the right time in this really great way,” says Dupleix.
It wasn’t long before London called. Dupleix was made cookery editor of The Times, ruffling the country’s stuffy foodie establishment with her wit and no-nonsense approach. And Durack became the chief food critic for UK’s Independent on Sunday, reviewing restaurants from here to Monte Carlo and was named World Food Media’s Best Restaurant Critic in the process.
But since returning to Sydney, it seem that this city best reflects who they are. When you ask Dupleix about her favourite dining experiences are, she says sharing a beer and a hot dog slider with Durack at a local pub is as memorable as dining at Noma in Denmark or a Florentine trattoria.
“We met over a drink and we’ve probably stayed together over a drink as well.”