Australia’s growing reputation as a food destination just got better as top chefs strive for a unique Australian cuisine based on Indigenous produce, seasons, culture and native flora.
In Western Australia chef Jed Gerrard uses locally foraged foods like sea parsley, saltbush, samphire, beach mustard and peppermint tree leaves.
Winner of the ‘Restaurant of the Year’ in Gourmet Traveller’s Restaurant Guide Awards 2018 Adelaide chef Jock Zonfrillo serves Kangaroo, smoked wattleseed miso, avocado and emu bush.
While Melbourne chef Chris Wade teams up with the Australian Trade and Investment Commission (Austrade), and Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade (DFAT) to showcase Australian produce across Africa.
“I think Australian native ingredients are contributing to a new style of Australian cooking,” says Wade.
“We’ve borrowed from a lot of cultures when it comes to cuisine and it’s time that we incorporated the things that are unique to us, so we can enhance and build on our solid reputation as a food destination.
“On my tour around Africa this month I’ve seen just how popular these Australian native products are.
“Chefs and diners are always excited to try something new and I think by integrating the ingredients into my dishes I’ve really managed to build excitement for native Australian produce.
“I use our native lemon myrtle – the leaves have a beautiful citrusy, earthy aroma – to season a lamb cutlet.
“I serve it with green peas and smoked goats cheese, and my ‘peppercorn’ sauce, which uses the native freeze-dried mountain pepper from my range,” Wade says.
Used for thousands of years by Australian Aboriginal people before British colonisation, native foods offer nutritional, medicinal and cosmetic benefits.
Research into just 14 of the 6500 native food species found in Australia reveals the nutritional and medicinal benefits of: finger lime, lemon myrtle, anise myrtle, desert lime, Davidson plum, bush tomato, muntries, mountain pepper, quandong, Kakadu plum, lemon aspen, riberry and wattle seed.
“People continue to be amazed by our native finger limes,” says Chris Wade.
“They’re quite strange little citrus fruits that look a bit like green caviar, but customers always fall in love with them.
“I’m always shocked by how some of these great native products fly under the radar for so long, so my mission now is to raise awareness.
When Danish chef Rene Redzepi, of Copenhagen’s Noma opened in Australia, native produce found its international platform.
First Food Co Director, Karen Perks says Redzepi changed attitudes by highlighting native ingredients throughout his $485 degustation menu.
“Chefs are always trying to find something new,” says Ms Perks.
“When Redzepi came to Australia with Noma Sydney, we supplied him with our native products.
“Now we see a lot more chefs embracing bush foods and the different flavours that they bring to dishes.
“Sometimes it takes a world renowned chef to change attitudes in the industry and Australian native foods offer the most incredible flavours that you just can’t get anywhere else,” Ms Perks says.
Indigenous chef Dale Chapman of First Food Co has specialised in native food catering for over two decades, serving favourites like Oysters with champagne finger lime pearls and black sesame pickled pigface and Lemon myrtle cheesecake.
Recently invited to the Commonwealth Games in Queensland First Food Co gave cooking demonstration and tastings to international athletes.
“We served kangaroo with Tasmanian pepperberry and blueberry sauce,” says Ms Perks
“Everyone came back for seconds of the Bunyan nuts in a basil pesto pasta and the wattleseed and chocolate brownies went really quick.
“The athletes especially loved the lemon myrtle dukkah,” Ms Perks says.
As Australian cuisine reflects stronger ties to the land, produce, people and history it is time for us all to experience the real taste of Australia.