A new kind of perfect

Andrew Levins had a birthday this week, like no other. The DJ, writer and former chef tells us about the joys of life at home with the kids, offers a tip for Dads – and a recipe for a delicious Easter treat. By Shane Green.

Andrew Levins turned 35 this week. The celebration was like no other, and something of a revelation.

Andrew is a well-known DJ, writer, ex-chef and restaurant owner. Inevitably, his birthday would inevitably include an event of some kind, or running a restaurant, or heading out on a writing job.

But not this time. ‘My kids brought me breakfast in bed and then we played outside for the entire morning and then we came in for lunch and then we played games in the afternoon,’ says Andrew.

‘Then we had dinner. There’s something to be said about how many weird moments there are during his isolation period where I just think, oh, this is kind of perfect and I don’t think I would want to be doing anything else but this right now.’

The perfect 35th birthday was, of course, delivered courtesy of the retreat to our homes. Despite the different stresses that it has meant, it is also producing moments of meaning, such as a whole day of fun with the kids.

Andrew is no stranger to life as dad-at-home, having made the shift when his son Archie was born in 2014. He and his wife Bianca sold their Sydney restaurant The Dip, and Andrew pivoted to working from home.

Since then, Tilly, now three, was born, Bianca went to university and became a teacher. Along the way, Andrew had his first children’s book – Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliens – published. The book’s hero is a bored, vegetable-hating kid who discovers that vegetables give him superpowers.

We thought Andrew was the perfect person to speak to during these days of isolation, particularly given his experience as a work-from-home Dad – as well as his food expertise. He provides a delicious recipe idea at the end of this article for homemade crumpets with caramel sauce infused with the flavours of hot cross buns.

As it did for everyone else, the coronavirus derailed the best laid plans for Andrew and his family. He’s a big believer in part-time work for couples raising children.

‘Until the coronavirus thing happened, this was stepping up to be our best year ever as a family, because we finally figured out that perfect balance,’ he says.  ‘I think when you are a family, you shouldn’t be working five days a week. I think you should admit that raising a family is a job in itself.

‘And when you become a couple that is the head of the family, you both shouldn’t be working full time. Neither of you should be working full time. There should be some kind of compromise.’


Get creative, Dads

Get creative, Dads

Despite greater sharing of raising children, for some Dads isolation means spending much more time than before with the kids. Given his experience of the past five years, does Andrew offer any advice?

He doesn’t want to hold up his way of parenting as the best way. Rather, he points to his own Dad. His Dad worked for the National Trust, Monday to Friday, while his Mum, a nurse, worked weekends.

So on weekends, it was Dad. His favorite memories involved his Dad creating characters, writing books and illustrating them with photos – loose leaf pages tied together with ribbon.

There was Kate Starts Her Day, which was the story of his sister getting ready. Dad took photos of Kate brushing her teeth, eating her breakfast, saying hello to her family, patting the dog and then waving goodbye out the door.

When Andrew was old enough to help him draw, they created the characters called Rags and Scruff, which was the story of two dogs who went on adventures, such as a trip to the beach.

‘I just have the fondest memories of being so impressed with my Dad’s really simple drawing and ability to kind of tell this simple story where he took ideas from us as kids,’ says Andrew. ‘Whenever we’d be asked what book do you want to read for story times at night, we’d always choose the books that Dad would write with us. We loved Rags and Scruff.’

So the message to Dads is this: get creative with them, and have fun. A little lame is good.

Given his life as a chef, food is playing an important part in the household these days. He’s someone who hasn’t enjoyed baking, preferring creating tastes – some more of this, a little less of that.

But now he’s baking with the kids. It involves precision – and is a great way to cook with children. ‘Explain to them, ‘Oh you know, you measure out this much of this and then add it to this big bowl and then stir it’. Those are really, really easy.’

His Easter-inspired recipe idea jumps off the homemade crumpets his wife made him for his birthday. Andrew suggests pairing them with a caramel sauce, made with Maple syrup, and infused with Hot Cross Bun flavours – some star anise and some cinnamon quills, and a little bit of nutmeg.

Homemade crumpets with Hot Cross Bun spiced syrup

For the crumpet recipe, try this recipe from Gourmet Traveller

Hot Cross Bun spiced syrup

1 cup maple syrup

1 cinnamon quill

2 star anise pods

4 cloves

3 pieces of orange skin

  1. Pour the maple syrup into a small pot and add the other ingredients.
  2. Bring to a gentle boil over low heat and let simmer for 15 minutes.
  3. Pour everything into a glass jar and leave in the refrigerator overnight.
  4. Strain the syrup and serve over crumpets.

Nelson 1: Pumpkins and Aliensis published by Penguin.

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