Macarena Erbs

Operations Manager

“My ultimate goal is to create a sustainable program for SisterWorks… I always go back to what my grandma and mum taught us, make everything at home, go for the natural things and it tastes much better.”

My name is Macarena and I aa from Chile. I arrived in Australia in January 2016. I am an industrial engineer, and I was working one day a week when my friend said ‘let’s travel in Asia’. I said I would leave my country, I had been thinking about that for three years, so it took me six months to organise everything, sell everything, and leave my job.

After one year travelling in Asia, we started in Australia, travelled to all of Australia, visited different cities, and I decided I liked Melbourne. I decided to move to Melbourne to live.

I needed a visa, so I have been studying an MBA. In December, a friend of mine who came to SisterWorks invited me to the Lord Somers camp over Christmas. I met all the women and I understood the program I thought ‘this is amazing I want to be part of that’, but I didn’t know how. At the start, we didn’t know what to do, so we started with face painting at a market in January, we did very basic face painting

At the second market someone at SisterWorks said we are going to make a cooking project. I love cooking, I have a blog, so I asked to take part in the cooking program, I think in that program I will be good. I was then invited to take part in the SisterWorks Food Label project

In April we developed some recipes from our countries. Mine was traditional chilli sauce with banana chilli. We only use banana chilli in Chile, as we don’t really eat spicy food. We used Bird’s Eye chilli to adapt the taste so it’s spicy.

It was my grandmother’s recipe, she cooked it once a year when all the chillies are fresh, she jar them for the whole year, her recipe became very popular between friends. Every year she started to make more and more. The funny thing is I never tried it because I don’t like chilli. Everyone would run out of the house while she was cooking, chilli smell so strong, chilli cooking day no one was in the house. She would make more and more jars. You know how grandmas are, they give love with food. People remembered her chilli. Guests of my mum for instance, they recognised it. For that reason I thought that if everyone said the recipe was good, it must be.

So I called her one day, I told her that her recipe is going to be very famous in Melbourne. She gave me all the instructions, told me everything, she said don’t destroy the recipe, I always change them when she gives me them. When we were cooking I called her for advice, I sent her pictures, told her the colour is very nice. And then I changed the recipe!

The process was so long, we needed something more efficient. When I call her and said I know you will be upset but I changed it, she asked if it worked. So next year she will try it. I’m travelling to Chile in December and take her some. My grandma involved us in cooking since we were very young. Christmas cookies, jam, in my house we used to make everything at home, we never bought processed food, grandma would make everything for the year.

Maybe four years ago I got a food allergy, and I became much more interested in food, understanding the differences in food, how to mix things, discovering new agreements. Chile is very traditional, so much different food and ingredients here. In Chile just use oil, don’t vary the ingredients, the cooking in Chile is very traditional, meat with carrots and rice. Very simple. With allergy I learnt to cook with new things using tahini, coconut oil, things that people don’t eat in chilli.

We did a cooking class in every country we visited. You learn so much, how to mix flavours, what is behind the Thai or Vietnamese flavour, why they use that ingredient and for what, why they eat it and what. They eat so different. Here in Melbourne you can enjoy the real flavours because it is multicultural. People from everywhere cooking the real recipes. I have to say I don’t each or cook Chilean food, it’s a mix of every country. I really like cooking.

Now I’m going to help in a different way, be an external consultant for production in all the procedures, and provide all the skills to the women to have their own business in the future. My ultimate goal is to create a sustainable program for SisterWorks. We need to create a sustainable chain where we make profits. I always go back to what my grandma and mum taught us, make everything at home, go for the natural things and it tastes much better.

I want to stay here, so I’m doing everything to achieve that goal. I have been travelling a lot in my life, and I never felt I wanted to live anywhere. I knew I wanted to choose a place, when I came here it didn’t feel like a holiday, it felt like a city to live. I was right, it is a very nice city to live.