Her parents, both from the Greek island of Kythera, emigrated to Australia where she was born and raised in the country town of Casino, New South Wales. Her father, Andonis Calopades arrived in Australia at the turn of the 20th century as an 11 year old, and worked in the famous Kominos cafe in the central business district of Sydney. In 1919, he moved to Casino, where he ran the Marble Bar Cafe. Her mother was Calliope Manolliaras.
Tess began her writing career in cooking as a freelance food consultant in advertising, creating and writing recipes for a wide range of food as well as preparing food for photography. Her first book in 1976 was the Greek Cook Book, which featured familiar recipes from her Greek heritage. Many books followed featuring recipes gathered from cuisines in the Mediterranean, Middle East and North Africa.
Tess worked as Food Consultant to the Australian Meat Board, where she has written editorials on meat cooking for some 80 publications throughout Australia, and 20 overseas countries. She has also demonstrated her recipes in cooking segments on a number of Australian television cooking shows.