Ever found yourself lost in a daydream of what you would you do if you won the lottery? I think we’d all be lying if we tried to pretend the thought hasn’t crossed our mind. Whether it’s in the minutes before we fall asleep, or sitting on the train commuting to work, or standing in the shower. We all have those dreams of being a winner – those fleeting moments of indulging ourselves in a fantasy of having no boundaries, no limitations, and the ability to chase our passions.
Last week, Lotterywest gave me the opportunity to have a taste of such a thing. For just a moment, indulge in what it would be like to be Set for Life.
If you haven’t heard of Set for Life, it’s a game where the first prize is winning $20,000 a month, every month for 20 years. Effectively that becomes a very generous wage, freeing up the winner to do whatever they want in life. Whatever their heart desires most.
A prize like that really makes you take a step back and ask yourself, what would I actually do? What is it in life that truly makes me happy?
For me, it would be pursuing my love of food and travel. Don’t get me wrong – I love what I do for a living. I find it challenging and fulfilling and it ticks all the boxes for me. But I also love what I do with this blog; it fills me with the greatest sense of satisfaction. I devour dishes as chefs create them. I seek out local cuisines and produce, supporting WA farmers, chefs and growers. I go to markets on weekends, pop up dinners and a range of eateries, providores and locavores.
I love learning the stories behind the scenes. Whether it’s the inspiration that drove the creation of a plate of food, or it’s the journey an ingredient took to get to this stage – I eat it up mind, body and spirit. And I try my best to help communicate what’s happening in the industry in an effort to effect even the smallest change.
So spending a weekend having a taste of being Set for Life I could think of nothing better than throwing myself even more into this passion.
When I first started Queen of Bad Timing six years ago, it was a way to channel my love of food and writing. Now fast-forward to today it’s grown pretty incredible legs. It’s an outlet for me to learn, and connect with other likeminded individuals. It’s not just about eating a bowl of pasta and snapping a photo, it’s understanding the region the recipe is inspired by, the heirloom varietals used and the way the combination of flavours tastes as you move the bite through different parts of your mouth. Great food is a chef acting as a conductor to play a song – and it can elicit the most powerful of emotions.
But how does all of this manifest into my dream weekend of being Set for Life? Simple. It involved my fiancé Jeremy, myself, the South West and an incredible itinerary of food-based experiences. And to make sure I was able to document it all, I was finally able to upgrade from my old Canon 600D to a new lightweight mirrorless Sony. It’s already changed the game for me and will help me maintain a level of professionalism as I continue blogging.
And then with a bit of planning, off we went – camera in tow and overnight bags in hand. While if I were to really win Set for Life I’d be looking at a holiday house in Yallingup, we settled for a not so shabby second choice this time around – a stay at Empire Spa & Retreat. With the softest king size bed imaginable, a view of the vineyards and swaying trees and a welcome hamper of local edible goods, it was the ideal setting for us to embark on our adventure. Pro tip if you’re headed there: eat as many of the buttery croissants as your belly can fit at the breakfast spread, they are just plain phenomenal.
As for the experiences themselves… I almost don’t know where to begin. First there was our visit to Xanadu, one of WA’s oldest family-owned wineries for an eight-course degustation followed by a private cooking class with Head Chef Melissa Kokoti. It was such an intimate and informal affair, allowing us to not just ask for whatever we wanted, but to take notes and soak in as much knowledge as possible. This was the highlight of the day for sure. After all, a passion for food isn’t just about eating it, but understanding the technicalities of creating such plates. Understanding the nuances of flavour combinations, or the importance of using certain cuts of meat and so on.
The next day was really memorable – lunch at the newly opened Yarri. I have been following them pretty hard on Instagram as I love Head Chef Aaron Carr’s approach to food and WA produce. It was everything I could have imagined and more. Sitting at the pass for a few hours, chatting to the chefs as they cooked, grilled and plated up, it was a feast for the senses. From the exceptional marron with XO and saltbush, to the charred squid, to the coconut and mandarin dessert – I feel like this is the kind of cooking I can really connect with. Not pretentious, but respectful and exciting. The kind of food that reinvigorates your love of the culinary arts.
With full bellies and minds, the rest of the weekend played out with a mix of down time at Empire, and getting out and about in the South West to enjoy the likes of Cabin Fever events and the Margaret River Farmers Market.
Each and every activity we participated in reaffirmed why I love my side hustle and more broadly, food. I struggle sometimes finding the balance in life between working, blogging, and spending quality time with Jeremy, friends, family and our dog Hugo. And yet getting away and having this taste of being Set for Life helped me reset and reconnect. Which to me, is utterly invaluable.
Returning from this trip away I have so much joy in my heart. It’s like my factory button has been reset and I’m now able to see clearly the importance of chasing your passions (and doing it with the ones you love). An adoration of food is quite intrinsic for us all: it’s embedded in the fabric of life and underpins so many important celebrations and milestones. Everyone loves food in their own way, and I’m really elated to have reconnected with my own love and respect for it. I feel focused, refreshed and know that it was all made possible by this taste of a Set for Life win.
This post is a paid collaboration with Lotterywest.