Q&A with Alex Elliott-Howery of “Cornersmith: Salads and Pickles”

Hot Chicks with Big Brains spoke with Alex Elliott-Howery ahead of her event at Wandering Cooks in Brisbane tonight, to learn more about how she built her career, the women who inspire her, and how her latest cookbook, Cornersmith: Salads and Pickles, came to be.

Hi Alex! Please can you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?

Hello. I’m Alex and I’m the co owner of Cornersmith cafes and Picklery in Sydney’s Inner West. I’m also a mum to two kiddos, a pickle maker, and a cookbook author.

When did you realise you wanted to start your own business, and how did you go about it?

I think I’ve always been a bit of a business woman. When I was a kid, I had lemonade stalls and Christmas card stalls up in the main drag of my neighbourhood. When I was about 20, my friend and I were living in a cornershop in Camperdown and it had a shop front. So we decided to turn it into a second hand clothes shop. We drove all around NSW and filled up my station wagon with clothes we collected from op shops and then started a shop called Pigeon Ground. It was awesome and lots of fun.

Cornersmith started because my partner James and I wanted to open the kind of place we wanted to go to. I’m an obsessive cook and he comes from a coffee background, so we decided to put our heads together and see what we could do.

We opened a little café in Marrickville that was full of everything we believed in—good seasonal food, local produce, no factory farming, traditional cooking skills, community and education.

We scraped together money and all our wonderful friends and family helped set up shop. It was crazy busy from day one and over the last six years I’ve been very busy—opening a Picklery and Cooking school, writing two cookbooks, and recently opening another Cornersmith café in Annandale. It’s been an incredible experience.

Roasted couscous and citrus salad with turmeric dressing

What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced throughout your career to date?

Learning how to look after myself and my mental health is definitely the biggest challenge. I’m trying to raise my kids well, run a growing business, have a relationship, be a good friend and boss, stand up for what I believe in, and not get completely overwhelmed.

I love doing things and having a big full life, but I’m still learning how to take time out just for myself.

Pickled mango

Can you tell us a bit about Cornersmith: Salads and Pickles and how it came to be?

I’m very proud of this book.

Our Head Chef Sabine Spindler and I joined forces and made a book that celebrates our shared love of vegetables, the seasons, pickling, and reducing waste.

It’s a really user-friendly book about how to make seasonal vegetables the hero of your meals and how to fill your pantry with delicious pickles, but also how to use up what you have in the fridge, fruit bowl, and garden.

Grilled pineapple

Who are some of the women you admire most and why?

I’m in love with Ronni Kahn who is the founder of the food rescue organisation, OzHarvest.

She is a incredible woman who has made a huge amount of change to reducing food waste in Australia and around the world. She’s now working with the United Nations and in our government to halve food waste nationally by 2030. I cry everytime I hear her speak about her work.

On a personal note, I admire my incredible women friends. Watching them all do the things they’re passionate about is so exciting. Without their support and laughs I’d be a trainwreck.

What’s next for you?

I’ve got a million ideas for Cornersmith in my head. But I think next year I’m going to try really hard not to do anything more! I’m going to learn how to go for walks and take naps.

In Brisbane with no plans tonight? Why not head over to Wandering Cooks where Alex will be chatting about (and demonstrating delicious recipes from!) Cornersmith: Salads and Pickles?

Grab your tickets here!


Follow Alex and Cornersmith on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, or keep up to date via Cornersmith’s website.

Questions and Edits by Emma Kate Lewis

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *