Recipe: Wallis Lake Bonito in warm pickle of tarragon and garlic

A highlight of the national finalists produce tour through NSW this year was having the opportunity to cook for the fisher community of Wallis Lake at a pop up restaurant at the Forster Tuncurry race track. The young chefs chose from that morning’s catch thanks to the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op. Below is the recipe for the Wallis Lake Bonito the team of young chef Zack Furst; young waiter Morgan Golledge & young restaurateur Dave Parker put together for the dinner. Morgan recommends matching, ‘I would go an Italian white blend like Occhipinti Bianco. Something with texture but still great acidity and slight oxidative nuttiness. If you can get your hands on that it’s a winner otherwise Brash Higgins Zibbibo or anything premium with skin contact, depth and driving acid’.

Ingredients – serves 4

1 x whole bonito – you can ask your fish monger to gut & scale if you prefer

1 x cucumber

100g shallots

1 bunch tarragon

2 x garlic cloves

50mls olive oil

200ml sweet chardonnay vinegar

Pinch  sugar

Flaked salt to taste

Method

For the Bonito

* Wash and gut bonito
* Fillet bonito, then remove ribs and then slice down the spine separating the top fillet and belly.
* Finally carve out the pin bones wipe dry and sit in a stainless steel deep tray.

For the Finishing Salad

* With 50g shallots slice super fine and place in steel bowl.
* Then julienne the cucumber
* Fold through shallots and dress with a small amount of olive oil and salt

For the warm pickle

* Slice 50g of the shallots and the 2 garlic cloves thinly,
* Place in a medium size pot and cover with sweet Chardonnay vinegar and 100mls of water.
* Bring to a slow simmer, add tarragon, olive oil and allow to steep for 45 minutes.
* Season with salt and a small amount of sugar.

To finish

* Bring the warm pickle to a simmer then pour over bonito.
* Allow the bonito to steep for 20 minutes.
* Remove fillets onto paper towel.
* Finally place fillets neatly in the centre of desired dish
* Then cover fish in the fresh  finishing salad
* Add some flaked salt and serve with lemon slices.

The success and failure of the Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-Op is driven by its people

Wallis Lake Fisherman’s Co-operative by Andy Day & Cam Cansdell

Established in 1947 to become the voice of the local fisherman in the area of Forster Tuncurry and the central receiving depot to handle the daily catch & distribution, the Co-op members today are made up of the children; grandchildren and great grandchildren of the original fisherman.

The cooperative itself stands not to make a profit (and hopefully not a loss!) but to represent the collective will of its members and improve the profitability and welfare of the 50 active and 40 non-active shareholders.

Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

70% of the Co-ops activities on the water take place on Wallis Lake itself and its surrounding estuaries and this is where we find ourselves today, observing and absorbing the passion of the Co-op’s Operations Manager Suzie McEnallay, member Danny Elliott and the Co-op Chairman Greg Colby.

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Blessed with blue skies and crystal-clear water for the day it’s easy to be lulled into the belief that life’s a breeze here in paradise.

However, like many primary production industries the fishing community faces pressures. Several years ago the Co-op found itself on its knees in a state of financial disrepair, facing bankruptcy, and fighting to keep shareholders.

Droughts affect the Co-op just as badly as agricultural industries inland and on the coast. A lack of rain means a lack of nutrients entering the estuaries, in turn providing less food for the aquatic food chain and reducing fish stocks.

Commercial pressures and compliance with regulations are constantly evolving and can only be properly managed by a collective; “how do we market our 3 ‘U’s (undervalued, under fished, underused species)?”,”how do we best make people aware this is Australian fish, and not imported?” and “how do we do business with Woolworths and not get pressured?”

The most impressive lesson from today was learning not WHAT the challenges were but rather HOW and WHY the community took them head on.

Facing bankruptcy less than a decade ago the Co-op’s board of directors made the bold decision to effectively ‘freeze’ shares, meaning no member could sell their share(s) until 2019. This was a clever solution to secure what capital the co-op had at the time and create an ongoing commitment from their members (a large proportion of whom are now the non-active shareholders having since retired) that the co-op must endure and succeed for the individual shareholders to themselves survive. Beyond that the shareholders effectively bought more shares to build up the Co-ops capital and help it pay off debts. Only a tight community has the courage to band together at such times, and only an extraordinary one has the strength to survive it.

They face the distinct possibility of running out of fisherman over the next 30 years with an average active shareholder age of 54. This is further compounded by a stemming of generational fishing families; the next generation are either told not to or don’t want to become professional fishermen.

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With almost no young, skilled fishermen coming through the ranks in the next decade it was vitally important for the Co-op to assist 18 year-old Jack in securing a grant from the Rural Assistance Authority to begin the process of acquiring fishing license endorsements so that they could build up and sustain their shareholder base. The process to obtain a commercial fishing license in NSW is quite a lengthy & intricate process. Even the governments’ own guide to commercial fisheries says that ‘due to the complex nature of the NSW commercial fishing arrangements it is impossible to produce a simple guide that is guaranteed to fully explain all aspects. The law and policies are also subject to change, so anyone who wishes to fully understand all elements of the current arrangements must not rely solely on this guide’.

And by working with the FRDC (Fisheries Research and Development Corporation) the Co-op can more effectively influence, through education and research, the market factors that create the “3 U’s” and can generate a better revenue stream by successfully marketing species like Luderick and Mullet that are in such strong supply in Wallis Lake.

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The Wallis Lake Fishermans Co-operative is blessed with a wealth of pristine resources and hard-working, passionate individuals that form a sum greater than all the parts. Their methods and resourcefulness is the key to their success and is something to be admired and imitated by any business willing to create a more collaborative and egalitarian environment for business.

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my insider’s guide to eating/drinking – aaron ward

Ever wondered where those in the biz head to for great eating and drinking? We’re often asked so we asked our #youngexcellence for the lowdown and the insider’s guide to eating/drinking….Sydney with Aaron Ward, sous chef at sixpenny, Stanmore.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Four ate Five in Surry Hills. It’s a busy little cafe on Crown Street. The salmon bagel is delicious and something I usually order. St Jude in Redfern is just around the corner from my house so it’s easy for a quick breakfast, the avocado smash with poached eggs is something light and delicious. Bourke St Bakery, Surry Hills – again just around the corner, if you miss the lines of the early morning rush it’s a great place to get a pastry or a tart.

Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?

LuMi in Pyrmont. I love spending a Sunday night at LuMi, watching the sun set over the harbour is magic. The food is always delicious and the staff are amazing. Ester in Chippendale. If I ever have a Sunday day off I love going to Ester for lunch, I can sit there all afternoon with a couple of wines and graze on the food they cook. It really is delicious. LP’s Quality Meats in Chippendale. I usually go to LP’s with a few friends, this way we get to try more of the food. I have never walked out of LP’s hungry as there’s always dishes on the menu I want to eat.

Best bars to head to after work and on your days off?

Shady Pines in Darlinghurst. Walking downstairs into Shady Pines is like walking into another world. I go here for a few late night drinks, their style there is nowhere like it in Sydney. The Dolphin Hotel in Surry hills. After the new refurbish of the Dolphin I have been a few times already, it’s a good place for a beer or a wine and some delicious Italian food. Salisbury Hotel in Stanmore. This is the local pub near Sixpenny, so we will usually head down the road for a beer after work.

Where do you go for fresh, seasonal produce and market bargains?

I go to the Flemington Markets in Sydney every week for our fruit and vegetables. It is a good way to see what produce is coming in to season and what is at its peak. Also it is good way to meet the producers and the farmers that grow the fruits and vegetables and get an insider’s view on how they are produced and where they come from.

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

I visited the Hunter Valley a few weeks ago and dined at Muse Restaurant, it was one of the best experiences I have had. The dining room is beautiful and the food is just as good. The staff made me feel welcome as if I was part of their family. To have a restaurant like Muse only 2 hours outside of Sydney the valley is a must visit.

See where else our #youngexcellence alumni go to in ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWA

the insider’s guide to eating/drinking central coast with cameron cansdell

Ever wondered where those in the biz head to for great eating and drinking? We’re often asked so we asked our #youngexcellence for the lowdown and the insider’s guide to eating/drinking….Avoca with Cameron Cansdell chef/owner of Bombini restaurant in Avoca.

Where do you go for coffee before work/after work/not at work?

I have two places, Likeminds in Avoca or Loo Loo’s Coffee Shack in Macmasters Beach.

Favourite places for breakfast and brunch?

Bambini Trust on Elizabeth St, Sydney. They do a great coffee, omelette and a glass of champagne for breakfast, whenever I stay in the city I make it a must to drop by there.

Favourite restaurants in your home state for special occasions?

For a special occasion Biota in Bowral, chef/owner James Viles for his creative and inspiring food. Or Ormeggio at The Spit in Mosman, delivers modern Italian food by Alessandro Pavoni.

Best bars to head to after work and on your days off?

On the Central coast, Pocket Bar Terrigal for a great Negroni or the bar at Bells Killcare do a very good Espresso Martini

Where do you go for fresh, seasonal produce and market bargains?

Locally I grab fresh locally caught seafood from Fisherman’s Wharf in Woy Woy or fresh crayfish from Seacoast Fishing in Macmasters Beach. When in Sydney, I often stop by the Fish Markets, Franks Fruit Market in Haberfield for some interesting finds and Victor Churchill butcher for great meat.

Where have you had the best interstate dining experiences?

Cumulus on Flinders lane in Melbourne is great time and time again. I like to sit at the kitchen bar and order small dishes. They do great charcuterie & oysters. Their wine list is also extensive and with a very interesting selection.

See where else our #youngexcellence alumni go to in ACTNSWNTQLDSATASVICWA

Marilyn Annecchini says be a leader who is respectful, motivating and encouraging of staff…

by Dominic Rolfe

2017 applications are now open until 03 April 2017. See why you should consider entering!

What does the word hospitality mean to you and how has it changed since you started?

It means making customers our priority, looking after their every desire and taking care of them, making sure their expectations are not just met but wowing them. Treating all guests in a warm, friendly and generous manner.

I think the younger people in our industry don’t always see it this way.  Sometimes it’s more about themselves and their egos rather than putting customer’s first.

Did you have a mentor?

We had a number of older restaurateurs who had been doing it for a long time as our mentors. We’re an Italian restaurant so it was a lot of the more senior members of the restaurant game such as Armando Percuoco and his wife. And we’re a husband and wife team as well so we looked to them as a way of doing things.

We used to spend a lot of time with them and they were great with advice. As you get going and the business matures you obviously make your own mind up about things but in the beginning they were really inspirational because you go in blind.

A lot of the young restaurateurs that we interview for the Appetite for Excellence program are so green and a bit naïve to the realities of running a business. It’s not all doom and gloom, we try and make it positive but it’s always good to have someone there that has done it before.

What was the goal when you opened and is it different now?

The goal was always to just continue to improve. We always wanted to be really successful at it, we didn’t want to do it just to pay the bills. We wanted to be an example for others in the industry and to create a place where people were proud to work.

That’s something that evolved. When you open it’s really about keeping your head above water. We’re at the stage where we want to give something back and really nurture a new generation. And to hand things on and create more opportunities for the next lot coming through.

Do you have a piece of advice for restaurateurs starting out? Did you have a piece of advice that you’ve carried through?

The previous generation always said: “Work really hard and don’t spend a lot of money.” They drum it into you that it’s going to be hard, it’s long hours but that it was really enjoyable and if you didn’t do it for that reason then it wasn’t worth doing.

In this economic climate, the best advice is to have a plan, having working capital is really important. Having a passion, having ideas and the creativity is great but you really need some money behind you! That’s the reality of it.  And be prepared for things you never thought you’d have to pay for like Workers Compensation and strata fees – it’s more than the food and wages. That’s where people come unstuck.

Be a leader who is respectful, motivating and encouraging of staff – firm but fair, and you will get the most out of your team.

The ‘fishscape’ of the australian dining scene is changing..

#AppetiteAlumni

applications are now open until 03 April 2017. See why you should consider entering

As a 20-something year old young chef Josh Niland entered into our Electrolux Australian Young Chef in 2013, cooking his way to Highly Commended.

At the time Josh was working as head chef at Fish Face Sydney. Fast forward 3 years, after a stint as head chef at the now closed Cafe Nice in Sydney; Josh along with his wife Julie have opened their own restaurant, Saint Peter in Paddington.

Named for the patron saint of fisherman, Saint Peter features Australian sustainably sourced seafood. On a rare day off from the restaurant Josh kindly took the time to catch up with us and spills the beans on what it was like opening his own place; the process of dry-ageing fish and his particular fascination with ‘fish & bits’.

What was opening your first restaurant like?  

Nothing like opening anyone else’s that’s for sure! It’s been really exhausting but we are extremely proud of what we have been able to produce so far. Paddington locals along with friends & family have all been very supportive and it’s wonderful to be seeing familiar faces returning each week. Our staff are amazing and have made the whole process less stressful then I thought it was going to be.

What do you think has been the biggest hurdle?

Biggest hurdle has been discovering the ‘hidden joys’ of a heritage Paddington terrace, the continuing small issues that arise in the beginning were tricky and required a lot of patience.

Do you have 3 pieces of advice for someone who is thinking of opening their own venue?

  1. Don’t spend too much money on the fit out or be smart about the choices you make and consider every purchase.
  2. Stay off Gumtree for important equipment purchases.
  3. Make time to go and say thank you and hello to your customers and the same to your staff/ look after staff during those first gnarly weeks.

Your focus is primarily on fish specifically the overlooked and under-utilised parts like offal. Have you always been interested in using ‘fish bits’ and why?

Since I was about 19 or 20 I’ve been fascinated that the yield from a fish is so poor and the loss is so high. Fish is so expensive and the shelf life is so slim so if that isn’t motivation for a chef to think out of the box then I’m not sure what is! Having worked in restaurants that sell a lot of fish, I began to keep all the bits.

The obvious method to start with was burying the fish roe from all of the different fish in salt, allowing them to harden then using them as a seasoning. Since then it has been a constant ambition to come up with delicious & different ways of cooking or serving these bits. From pan fried fish livers & parsley on toast, smoked fish heart, salt & vinegar fish scales, poached & rolled head, puffed swim bladders to aged and marinated milt served back with the fish that it came from.

I’m also aware that as Australians we aren’t overly keen on eating ‘fish guts’ but I hope to at least get them to try it!

Can you tell us about the process behind dry ageing fish and how you came about this?

In Japan and even locally in good sushi bars, there are chefs ageing mackerel & tuna and many other fish to heighten the flavour characteristic & texture of the fish.

We start by buying a perfect fish that is wonderful and firm, no imperfections and dry. We process the fish being sure it is thoroughly clean and again kept dry. We then place a butcher’s hook at the tail end and hang in our fish cabinet. Every day we wipe the fish with paper towel to remove any possible surface moisture. Come day 8/9 we remove the fish from the cabinet and place on the second rail we have in the cool room that is in the room with the fan blowing, we allow the fish to hang for another full day and allow the exterior to really dry out. Then it’s just a matter of application, raw/cooked .

We are fortunate to have had a fish cabinet custom made for us that allows us to hold fish between 0 & 1 degrees Celsius. This allows us to hold most fish (depending on the type) for up to 15/16 days. It takes quite a bit of trial and error to find the ‘sweet spot’ of different species but slowly we are getting very good results. In particular the albacore we have on our menu is hung & aged whole for 7 days in our static cabinet and then brought out to our main cool room area to hang for a further 2 days with the assistance of the cool room fan to dry further. By doing this we have found the fish tastes more savoury and the texture is far firmer than it was as a ‘fresh fish’.

My main reason for wanting to do this is mainly to extend what is usually a very small window of time to use fish and try to really hone in on what a particular fish species really tastes like so that we can pair it better with garnishes and wine.

Do you get the fish in whole and clean it? At Saint Peter we buy everything in guts in, scales on & head on. We then dry process the fish, we go to great lengths to be sure that our fish is well maintained and looked after.

What does dry ageing do to the flavour of the fish?

We’ve noticed that in oily fish like Spanish mackerel, albacore & wild kingfish that the unique flavour qualities of the fish begin to become more defined after approx 4-5 days. After 9-10 days the flavour is really promoted and it is like cooking and eating a totally different product.

For example the wild kingfish when fresh tastes wonderful and clean and has a mild acidity to it that tastes like fresh lemon juice. The idea then was to push it to a point (6 days) where the fish had a distinct acidity to it that it made your mouth water, the skin was dry – making it extremely crisp when cooked & with a firmer texture.

Can you serve it raw?

Yes definitely we have served 9 day aged raw wild kingfish with great feedback, the only thing to be conscious of is the red muscle oxidising giving the appearance a less then perfect look. This is maintained by constant love & care.

How do you train your FOH staff on the processes of cooking & ageing your dishes?

We ensure that we all taste the fish that we serve each day and discuss the length of time potentially that it may have been aged and why we wanted to do that then why we decided to pair it with a certain vegetable or sauce.

As the menu is changed every service our FOH staff have a very important roll to play at Saint Peter. Ensuring that the customers are fully briefed on what they are getting if they have any additional offal coming with their dish or if it is aged and then what best wine to pair it with.

What are three pieces of advice you can give about seafood that people may not know?

Never wash fish under water – use plenty of paper towel when cleaning up a whole fish to be sure it’s thoroughly cleaned before storing or cooking.

Never wrap fish or any seafood in cling wrap as this will cause the protein to sweat and it will deteriorate very quickly – invest in go between!

In my opinion avoid flexible fish knives and go for a long slender hard no flex knife, you’ll achieve better more consistent results when cutting whole fish.

Thanks to Josh, Julie and their team for taking time out of their busy schedule and for allowing Appetite to film behind the scenes… Keep an eye out on our website for more of Josh’s how to dry age fish in the coming weeks…

Saint Peter 

362 Oxford St, Paddington

02 8937 2530

food for thought charity event for beyondblue

SYD Dinner: Mon 14 Nov         MELB Dinner: Mon 21 Nov
7 chefs, 7 courses                    7 chefs, 7 courses
Tickets $155 pp                                                              Tickets $155 pp
SOLD OUT                                                                                BOOK NOW

details of the chefs cooking below this article

Over 3 million Australian’s suffer from the effects of anxiety or depression and is extremely prevalent across all sectors of the hospitality industry. Long, anti-social hours, easy access to drugs and alcohol; highly pressurised work environments coupled with the stigma attached to talking about your mental health concerns are all contributing factors to this worrying statistic. 

‘Mental health is a big, unspoken problem in the hospitality industry. The mentality of kitchens is that if you are not dying then you are not sick, or if you have not broken a leg then you can come to work. Kitchens don’t recognise anyone with mental health issues and those with mental health issues are perceived to be weak and soft because they are not able to “push on”. It’s something that the industry needs to recognise and address collectively,’ Thi Le chef/owner of Anchovy restaurant in Richmond, Melbourne.

A recent article, We Need to Talk About Mental Health in the Kitchen by Tim McKirdy on Vice Magazine’s Munchies website indicates that it’s chefs who are the most affected in the industry, after the death of ‘the best chef in the world’, Benoit Violier, back in February 2016 again highlighted the issue. This week prominent American chef Daniel Patterson wrote an open letter Speaking Out, to MAD, about his struggle over with depression over the years and his recent diagnosis. He concludes his letter by saying ‘And what’s really going to happen if I say publicly that I had some screwy brain chemistry and I took care of it? Will people stop coming to my restaurants?’ Socially, speaking about mental health and your own mental health has never been easy, especially in an environment where you are expected to ‘handle’ the tough working conditions, because this is what you signed up for when choosing the hospo life.

In Australia only 35% of people affected seek help from beyondblue, an Australian organisation that was established in 2000focusing on raising awareness of depression and reducing the associated stigma. Food for Thought founder and young chef Mal Meiers says For me, I know how important it is that we break down the stigma surrounding mental health, many people suffer often in silence or isolation, with the help of some great young chefs Food for Thought is about raising awareness, coming together and taking on this stigma to show there is help’.

Breaking down barriers and giving people in the industry a place to share their thoughts and feelings has come in the form of ‘Chefs with Issues‘ an online forum launched in 2015 by Kat Kinsman editor at large of Tasting Table in America. While based out of the States, the website gives not just to chefs but to all of those involved in the service industry the opportunity to write about their own feelings; read about other people’s experiences while offering resources and support to those who need it.

It was Mal’s own struggle with anxiety and depression and the help he received from beyondblue, that enabled him to start a conversation about his experiences which has been the driving force behind Food for Thought ‘my hope is to help broaden the awareness of the support that is available to not only my peers but to the wider community for all those who suffer in silence’. 

Reaching out to his close friends (& like minded chefs) they came together to develop Food for Thought, a collaborative dinner aimed at raising awareness and funds for and in support of beyondblue. The inaugural dinner with the support of Beer DeLuxe was held at Fed Square in 2014.

Jacob Furst executive chef of Beer DeLuxe said of his involvement & support of Food for Thought, ‘I’ve witnessed mental health first hand in the work place and at home. I believe the work beyondblue do to support people with depression is outstanding, but they excel in equipping everyone with the knowledge and skills to protect their own mental health. Like with any illness, prevention is better than a cure. I can’t think of a better way than to show support than using our skills to create this experience for the very generous guests who attend’. 

In 2016, Mal and his fellow collaborators hope to expand awareness from the initial Melbourne audience by introducing the event into Sydney with a second dinner, one in each city. Headed up by Mal, the chefs will be collaborating on a diverse tasting menu where they will each create a dish to showcase their individual character & creative style whilst working together as a collective. Each dinner will be a 7 course tasting menu with matched beverages by sommelier Kate Christensen, ‘Being involved with such a valuable event like Food for Thought enables you to connect to a cause bigger than yourself. It provides an opportunity to give back; not only time and skills but to use our collective passion for our industry to partake in something that has the potential to invoke real change in the lives of those who suffers most’. 

beyondblue Food for Thought is supported by some of Australia’s leading producers including Flinders Island Lamb, Cape Grim Beef, Ora King Salmon along with Beer Deluxe.

Tickets are available from Lime & Tonic – Sydney & Melbourne and are $150 for a 7 course degustation & matched beverages. All proceeds will be donated directly to beyondblue. 

Melbourne beyondblue Food for Thought Dinner

21 November 2016 19:00 Beer DeLuxe Fed-Square featuring;

Mal Meiers             (Founder/Food + Wine pop up/Electrolux Australian Young Chef National Finalist)

Jake Furst              (Beer DeLuxe)

Peter Gunn            (IDES/San Pellegrino Asia Pacific Young Chef 2015)

Matt Boyle             (Attica)

Stevie Nairn          (ESP – Estelle Scott Pickett)

Thi Lee                    (Anchovy)

Florian Ribul        (HOST)

melb-chefs

Sydney  beyondblue Food for Thought Dinner SOLD OUT

14 November 2016 19:00 Beer DeLuxe King St Wharf featuring;

Mal Meiers         (Founder/Food + Wine pop up/Electrolux Australian Young Chef National Finalist)

Aaron Ward       (Sixpenny/Electrolux Australian Young Chef 2016)

Troy Crisante    (Bennelong/Electrolux Australian Young Chef Runner-up 2016)

Jake Furst          (Beer DeLuxe)

Rhys Connell     (Sepia)

Tae Kyu Lee       (Ex- Quay)

Paul Farag         (Monopole)

Food for Thought Dinners Sydney & Melbourne
Food for Thought Dinners Sydney & Melbourne

About beyondblue

Established in October 2000, beyondblue initially focused on raising awareness of depression and reducing the associated stigma. As our knowledge and impact on people’s lives broadened, through research and community engagement, we added the key issue of anxiety conditions in 2011 and, more recently, suicide prevention to our core purpose.

Despite depression being the leading cause of disability worldwide and predicted to be the leading cause of burden of disease by 2030, ahead of heart disease, few countries had attempted a national response to depression. Other national programs that tried to get the wider community to change their attitudes to mental health were met with limited success.

Head to beyondblue.org.au to find out more about the organisation and for ways you can help/support.

it’s a pigs life at melanda park

Melanda Park by Aaron Ward, George Papaioannou and Kelvin Shaw

From potatoes to pigs, that’s how farmers Matt and Sue Simmons have spent the last 13 years of their lives, on the farm that has been in Sue’s family for almost 100 years. Located in Ebenezer just outside of Sydney, Melanda Park began its life as a citrus farm, before floods; market crashes and ageing orchards gave way to cattle in the latter part of the last century.

In 2003 they started producing certified organic vegetables like potatoes and leafy greens and in keeping with organic farming principles they introduced pigs to the farm as a way to remove the excess waste and vegetables left behind and also to prepare the soil for the next round of planting. It was using these industrious animals to clean up the paddocks that inspired Matt and Sue to actually start breeding free range pigs as well as their organic vegetables.

The pigs are all free range and pasture raised and roam as they please, for 365 days of the year. They’re are able to dig for grubs and potatoes, wallow and interact with other pigs.

The pigs at Melanda Park fatten at a slower rate but have a much more flavoursome meat because of it.

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We were fascinated at the speed of which the pigs grow and at the age they’re able to reproduce. After only 4 weeks a sow is able to give birth (farrow), having up to 10 piglets in a litter. The sows have special hutches designed with straw stoppers to farrow in as the 1 or 2kg piglets need to be protected from natural predators like eagles and foxes as well as their mothers.

When we first walked onto the farm I thought it was just about rearing a pig and sending them off to the abattoir but there is so much more. Matt and Sue constantly have to check the soils, check the PH levels, the hydration levels and continually throw seeds to grow grass, not just for the pigs to graze but to keep the neighbours happy with keeping the dust levels down. Having that strong base in a nutrient rich soil is a fundamental part to being able to rear a pig at such a high standard, as Matt and Sue have accomplished.

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The Simmons have carved a niche in the industry by rearing suckling pigs, averaging a weight of 15-18kg at just 8 weeks old. Through their care and dedication to free range farming and a superior tasting product they have found their way into the Sydney fine dining restaurant scene. Their passion for what they are doing on the farm really shows in the pigs they produce and constant high standard of the farm they work.

At Melanda Park you can hear the wind coming up the valley, no pig squeals, the occasional barking Maltese terrier, but no stress and a relaxed feel. The open fields and paddocks where the pigs graze or lay in the hutches where they farrowed smell clean, like a farm, grassy green with a scent of manure, whipped up with the wind but an expected aroma of a farm.

 

We visited Melanda Park as part of the 2016 National Finalists Produce Tour of NSW.

Appetite for Young Swines Lunch

The Old Clare Hotel and the site of the old Carlton United Brewery seemed a fitting venue for the Sydney leg of the Appetite for Young Swines event – an Appetite for Excellence and PorkStar project to help foster a community of young like-minded hospitality professionals, where they can see; hear & learn from the rising stars of the hospitality industry.

The event kicked off with a welcome cocktail shaken (not stirred) by Gerald Ryan, restaurant manager of Oscillate Wildly in Newtown. Gerald was the Electrolux Australian Young Waiter in 2014 and had carefully selected the beverages to match the dishes our alumni Aaron Ward of sixpenny, Jake Davey of est. & Troy Crisante of Bennelong had collaborated on. Rounding out the team with her ever professional front of house flair was Brooke Adey restaurant manager of The Paddington Inn & Electrolux Young Waiter 2015. A special mention & thanks to Dan from sixpenny who came to help out the lads in the kitchen. You are a superstar!

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In between the courses and throughout the day we hit each of the Appetite for Young Swines up with some hard hitting questions about the industry; their commitment to hospitality; why collaborations are important for the industry and what advice they would give to a younger version of themselves. 

What inspired you to become a sommelier Gerald & a chef Aaron?

Gerald: My Colleagues. Working in a fine dining restaurant as a food runner as my first proper job in hospitality, and hearing the Sommelier’s talking about wine, using language I’d never heard intrigued me, and I immediately became the pest, asking all of the annoying questions of them, until they pointed me towards a couple of books, and I was away.

Aaron: I have always been interested in food as cliché as it sounds, but I would read recipes as a child and watch the cooking shows on TV. I think the fact that this industry is always changing, with new ingredients, techniques, and equipment being available also interests me. There is never a dull day or moment, it all just depends on how far you want to take it.

What motivates you and inspires you daily?

Gerald: Again, the people I work with. Seeing small business owners constantly at the helm of their operations, steering it in the right way, is motivation enough. Watching Karl Firla and Dan Hunter run their business’ so efficiently, but tirelessly changing menu’s, and market runs at the crack of dawn, all the while balancing restaurant life with a life outside their venues, has been a constant inspiration.

Aaron: Cooking to me is not just about food; it is also about bringing people together and creating a memorable experience. Sitting around a table with family and friends, having the opportunity to cook for them, and the feeling of gratification is something I love. Being able to achieve these same feelings and experiences in a restaurant setting should be what all chefs strive for.  Showing passion and pride in what I cook is always apparent, whether it is for guests in the restaurant, family at home, or a staff meal.

What advice would you give a younger version of yourself?

Gerald: Write notes on what you are tasting!!

Aaron: Travel and experience different cultures and cuisines as much as possible. Go and spend time in different countries of the cuisines that interest you, learn the techniques and how the local chefs are bringing their own modern take on the culinary traditions.

What three pieces of advice would you give anyone considering it as a career?

Gerald:

1. It is the small things that make the big things fall into place. Long hours on your feet can take it out of you. Moving heavy tables, cartons of wine, polishing glasses, all very un-glamorous. But it’s the little things that matter. The final detail of the room, final check of set up, that really make things actually tick.

2. You need to love it. At times, you will hate it, it’s just how it is, but it’s got to be an overriding feeling of satisfaction and love for your job that motivates you. If you don’t enjoy what you are doing, find a way to, or do something else!

3. You need to have work – life balance. As is true with anything, but especially with Hospitality, where the hours can tend to lean on the unsociable.

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Aaron:

1. Learn as much as you can from as many people as you can. The food industry is ever expanding, finding new experiences and opportunities to develop tastes and techniques. However, knowledge and understanding of the classics are pillars to building a successful and exciting career.

2. Keep your head down and work hard even with the long hours and little sleep, being a chef is a demanding career but if you embrace it, it is very rewarding.

3. Try to have a balanced work life and life outside of work. Having a balanced work/life is essential for mental health and productivity at work.

Do you think collaborations are important for chefs, FOH and the industry and why?

Gerald: I do, I think collaborations help shift every day routine, and challenge both front and back of house to think differently. If just for a once off, or a series of events, you learn how to operate in limited space and in different locations (kitchens, FOH spaces) which only broadens your experience and challenges the way you look at things.

Aaron: Yes, collaborations are very important as a chef.  The opportunity to meet and talk with other chefs about food, learning their different techniques and then bringing them back and putting them in use. Cooking and eating different cuisines give chefs a bigger perspective on how large and diverse the industry really is.

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How do you think we can inspire people to consider hospitality as a career?

Gerald: I’d like to say starting from the bottom, in school, and not making it seem a job for dropouts, but I understand how unrealistic this is. Honestly, I am unsure, except for constantly putting forward the best face of the industry, and showing how you can have a tangible reward for hard work and effort.

Aaron: The hospitality environment has drastically changed over the last 15 years. A career in hospitality is professionally recognised and accepted and there are many different channels of progression within this career choice which allows for constant expanding of skills and knowledge.  There are also not many careers which allow you to work anywhere in the world, whether being a chef or front of house you will never be out of work.

What do you think needs to change/be done in the industry to keep those within it motivated/inspired to stay?

Gerald: I think the industry has come a long way in the 10 years I have been involved, especially when it comes to motivating people to stay involved. As the industry grows, it falls on the people who have been involved in the industry for a while to nurture the new generation, and I can see that happening in Sydney at the moment, with small groups or individual restaurants expanding, and the teams within those small restaurants teaching the new generation and staff, and again turning that cog of motivation/inspiration.

Aaron: Flexibility with working hours and days – It is a given that as a chef you will miss out on many special occasions and the choice when taking your holidays. Most chefs are accepting of this fact, however, to inspire chefs to stay longer in the industry this may be something to consider especially as a chef grows older and family commitments become a priority.

You can read more from Appetite for Young Swine Brooke & Jake here.

As the lunch progressed the chefs along with Brooke & Gerald were able to speak to the group about their experiences within the hospitality industry; what inspires them in their careers; how the stay motivated; why the beverages were chosen for the dishes and how the dishes were cooked.

The food was amazing; the drinks delicious and the company even more so! Thanks to everyone who came along (and to those who had driven from regional areas especially for the event) and to the team behind the event. You can check out all of the event pics here!

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