Currently not working
Born in Sudan to an Eritrean mother and South Sudanese father, Akuc is the eldest girl of 11 children. Her family fled to Egypt when she was just six years old and lived there for nine years before moving to Australia as refugees when Akuc was 15. Akuc attended an Arabic school and now speaks five different languages. One of her greatest challenges was arriving in Australia as a teenager and having to attend school without knowing the language and how to read or write.
Akuc’s earliest memories of food are from Egypt. Growing up as the eldest daughter, Akuc had a lot of responsibility placed on her to look after her siblings, and food was always a central part of the family being together. They lived in a huge share house with several other families in Egypt. “I don’t remember much of my childhood. We didn’t have much but there was always a lot of people in our house and everyone got along.”
Her greatest influence is her mother, who fled Eritrea on foot, joined her husband’s tribe in Sudan without knowing the language, then brought her children up on her own with very little support.
“It’s a given that women are taught to cook, but my mum was an inspiration because of everything that she went through.”
“The best time I have ever had in the kitchen is with my mum and now she asks me things, rather than the other way around. Our roles have reversed and that makes me proud.”
Akuc studied commercial cookery at TAFE before beginning her apprenticeship at Spice Temple, where Neil Perry rated her among the best junior talents across all his kitchens. She finished her apprenticeship at Lochiel House in the Blue Mountains.
Akuc lives with her boyfriend Ricky and is still very close to her family, who she sees often. She enjoys the outdoors, camping and motorbikes and she loves braiding the hair of her family and friends – African style.
Akuc recently returned from a visit to Africa where she visited her father and met her extended family in South Sudan. “The visit deepened my connection to both the place and the people…especially my father.”
Akuc is working on her own range of hot chilli sauces and dreams of opening a home-style African restaurant where her mum, aunties and sisters would work and where people would feel happy as soon as they walked in. “I want to stay connected to the cooking traditions from Africa.”