Rayleen Brown’s story is a story of humble beginning, hard work and passion. Born in Darwin the oldest of 6 children. Travelling up and down the Territory with her parents and siblings to follow the work. From Wave Hill to Adelaide River to Leanyer to Humpty Doo Alice Springs. Learning all the while.
Inspired by the Putupi walk-in 1980s to become involved in land rights through activism and supporting families and anthropologists with recording genealogies to protect land rights, Rayleen’s passion to preserve knowledge and connection to country grew.
Her passion for cooking and food came from both her mother and father who were both very good cooks. Growing up she was always helping her mother with the cooking. Her father’s marinades were heavenly. Fortunately her father hand-wrote all his recipes to be passed on to his kin.
Rayleen’s and Gina’s first catering job were for 100 Warlpiri women at a big meeting at Laramba to support Indigenous teachers. Rayleen and Gina Smith (Co-founder) cooked 300 meals a day out of a domestic kitchen. After the meeting, which was a success, the women thanked the two cooks for their beautiful food and suggested they should start a cooking business. And so Kungkas Can Cook was born. Their next catering job – their first professional job was for 1000 people at the Yeperenye Festival. They didn’t even own a knife or fork or plates to serve the food on. That was 23 years ago. Kungkas catering and café has recently closed its doors but has now diversified into Bush Foods Products and Tourism.
Rayleen Brown and Kungkas Can Cook are known throughout Australia and many parts of the world where Central Australian bush foods are increasingly receiving due recognition as unique, speciality, gourmet and delicious. Rayleen has contributed and shared her unique recipes in publications such as the Great Australian Cookbook (now a tv program on Foxtel) and an ABC publication Australia Cooks, BBC Great Rail Journeys of the World highlighting the journey of the Ghan Adelaide to Alice Springs and recently on Channel 10 MasterChef and guest judge and the project.
Rayleen’s insistence on using only wild harvest bush tucker sourced directly from the women who gather the food, as a way to support livelihoods and the continuation of connection to story and country, is well known and respected. Rayleen has also contributed to much research in her region around the growth and development of bush foods and their potential. Rayleen is continuing to help raise the profile of bush foods, opportunities for people on country using bush foods and wants better protection for the ecological knowledge rights of people to the food that has sustained their communities for thousands of years.
Rayleen currently the Chair of the First Nations Bushfood and Botanicals Alliance Australia. A body that was created in 2019 for Indigenous Business/organisations to strengthen their capability, participation in the industry and creating self determination in remote and regional areas.