Table Talk: Dr Sandro Demaio

Table Talk: Dr Sandro Demaio

Dr Sandro Demaio is VicHealth’s chief executive officer and a public health expert with a focus on and passion for food.

Sandro is also founder of the Little Food Festival — Australia’s first and only festival for kids! It’s a free annual event that takes over Federation Square in Melbourne to educate kids on food systems and healthy eating.

Ahead of this year's Little Food Festival, we spoke to Sandro about his day on a plate, favourite food memories and what we would always find in his pantry.

What are you most excited about for this year’s little food festival?

It’s hard to choose just one thing — from Costa and Beci Orpin, to planting and sharing food with Stephanie Alexander’s team, jumping on the smoothie bikes, and learning from CSIRO or OzHarvest! The festival is bigger than ever, and of course completely free.

I am really excited to have Free to Feed joining us in 2024. They’re a great social enterprise connecting culture and food. They’ll be cooking with kids for the first time!



The festival is all about sustainability in food, what are some sustainable choices to make when it comes to food?

The festival celebrates food, and connects young people with the food system. Through food, we explore health, sustainability and culture!

Growing food is a great place to start. Even just a pot of herbs on a window sill, or a few veggies on a balcony. Learning where our food comes from is great for our environment, and for our wellbeing!

Cooking with kids, and eating together, are not always simple in busy households. But finding time to connect over food creates fun memories for young minds.


What do you hope that kids and families take away from the festival this year?

The festival hopes to ‘engage and inspire’! As kids explore all six stages of their food system — meeting scientists, growers, cooks and more — I hope they’ll become inspired to love food and its power to benefit community health and the health of our planet!



Can you share your best tip on how to get kids engaged in the kitchen? 

Start young. Keep it simple. Make it tasty! 

The more you can involve them in growing, harvesting, preparing and serving food — the more they will feel ownership! It doesn’t have to be complex. Even starting with making breakfast together on a Sunday. Talking about where eggs come from, or the importance of supporting our farmers, or embracing a zero-waste approach!


What are 5 things we will always find in your pantry/fridge at any given moment?

Good local olive oil. 

Homemade passata. 

Pasta in bulk. 

Fresh veg from the social enterprise, Community Grocer. 

Thick, natural yogurt. 




Take us through an average day on your plate. What does breakfast/lunch/dinner/dessert look like for you?

 Breakfast is a yogurt and a coffee… or three.


Lunch is often combined with meetings. Sometimes a banh mi, otherwise a hearty grain and pulse salad. Anything with chickpeas or cannellini beans and I am happy. I have to just grab what I can, though.


Dinner is usually simple, seasonal and hearty. With tomatoes abundant at the moment, we’re making a fresh pasta with feta cheese, basil, garlic, olive oil and chilli. There’s no cooking involved for the ‘sauce’, so dinner is on the table in the 11 minutes it takes to boil the pasta.



What is one of your happiest food memories?

I grew up in a big Italian family. So my happiest food memories as a child would be making the passata at the end of each summer. Three generations of family, long tables covered in tomato seeds and juice, big pots filled with hundreds of bottles, and lots of laughter. It was always a hard work, but the day would end with a huge meal all together.


What sort of food did you eat growing up?

All sorts! Food was a big deal in our family, and both my parents are great cooks. My brothers and I would also take a turn preparing dinner each week, and we liked to explore and experiment. Our staples were definitely Mediterranean recipes though. We had chickens and a big veggie patch too, so we got involved in growing food from an early age. 



The Little Food Festival is on Wednesday 10 April - Thursday 11 April at Federation Square. Find our more via