Celebrity cook | Presenter | Entrepreneur | Founder, Nonna G’s
Gina Ottaway, better known as Nonna G, was born in the Italian province of Benevento, northeast of Naples, as the youngest of three children. She was just a toddler when her family arrived in Australia and soon began learning the secrets and traditions of her mother’s cucina at her knee.
Cooking became young Gina’s passion, one her mother actively encouraged by teaching her the basics of perfect pastas, rich sauces and biscotti baking. Yet Gina never considered it as a career – her path instead took her into retail management and, eventually, the disability sector.
When she married and raised a family of her own, Gina’s reputation as a home cook began to grow. Encouraged by friends and loved ones who enjoyed her food, the Wollongong mum of two entered a Super Food Ideas competition. She was declared Australia’s Super Cook 2011 on the strength of her recipe for stuffed gnocchi – or “gnoccheloni” as she dubbed her invention of gnocchi dough with a cannelloni-style spinach and cheese filling.
That recipe proved Gina’s lucky charm. She prepared it for the judges of MasterChef and won them over, scoring a white apron and her place in the 2018 season. Gina placed in the top 12, taking her home cooking to another level. Her orange cake with zablione made judge Gary Mehigan go weak at the knees; her chicken schnitzel was declared “the best in the world”; Nigella Lawson raved about her cavatelli pasta; and Gordon Ramsay raved about her Yorkshire puddings.
Supported at home by her partner Gavin, and with toddler grandson Kash as her kitchen apprentice, Gina’s life post-MasterChef is going from strength to strength. She has worked with Rick Stein in his restaurant at Bannisters in Mollymook, run a pop-up restaurant at Nardis Shellharbour and headlined at the 2018 Norton Street Festa. She has been embraced as a representative of the Official Federation of Italian Chefs Australia is in demand for live cooking events and demonstrations.
Channeling her entrepreneurial spirit, Gina is developing some delicious product lines under her Nonna G’s brand, due to hit Australian retail shelves in 2019. She is also compiling recipes for her first cookbook. Her dream is to one day have her own television show preserving the knowledge of other nonnas and grandmothers of all cultures.