Food editor of Vogue Entertaining - hers are the sensitivities that sift through the "tastes of ..." to dictate how this season will taste.
She says: "People are essentially voyeurs and they love to know how other people live."And that is what she does so well - culinary snapshots of other cultures: "You want to just do something very simple like having prawns and put - what I call the taste of Thai is just quick - just a toss of it, really and have a bit of lemon grass and ginger and ... we have quite a lot of Italian stuff here and I'm not talking about dead serious Italian stuff I'm talking about 'tastes of' - people love the 'tastes of' - they love those roasted peppers, polenta's madly fashionable now ... we've tried Mexican and cast it out ... we've tried Cajun and cast it out and we've tried a lot of stuff - got bored with them, wrong tastes - I mean like that blackened red fish - that just ruins fish."
She doesn't think that the home cook: "is very interested anymore in making demi-glace, whereas they used to think it was wonderful to do all that ... they use balsamic vinegar, don't make a proper sauce, just a salsa." But, she says, a good grasp of the basics is essential: "it all leans on something else and the basics of everything are the same - you've got good basics you just change the flavours, with a good bavarois, you change fifty-seven flavours.
"I've come to the conclusion that chefs really aren't very interested in cooking these things [that require technique] - there's only a very few people who are and those are the ones that are trained."
What are they interested in cooking?: "Well salmon or something with salsa or char-grilled - I mean we are too far away [in Australia] to get real training."
Do a lot of them get away without learning the basics?: "Well this is the saddest thing because I mean they have got to have the basics - everybody has to have the basics because everything is a play on the
Leo Schofield questioned that: "Oh, but Leo's not a cook - he'd kill me for that - he does the best tomato salad out of Elizabeth David but that's where it ceases."
Joan is now Director of Food Vogue Publications. Her eye is undimmed and her importance increases.