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Editor’s Letter

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Editor’s
Letter

 
 

In this issue we put some weight behind a word frequently aired but often difficult to define – and explore what sustainability looks, and tastes like, through the red meat supply chain.
 
In his People Places Plates section, Pat Nourse talks all things sustainability with Josh Lewis of Fleet, La Casita and Ethel Food Store in the picturesque Brunswick Heads – a chef and restaurateur walking his own path and shaping a sustainable model that works for him.
 
Mark Best takes sustainability to the taste buds in his Spotlight On section, speaking with various beef brands with a claim in the sustainability space – from carbon neutral to highest animal welfare – and asking the question, what does sustainability taste like?
 
We head to Orange in NSW for our second episode of What’s Good in the Hood with Myffy Rigby. A hop skip and a jump from Sydney, this regional food and wine hub is brimming with good times and exceptional local produce plated up by passionate people. Do yourself a favour and add Orange to your hit list.
 
Our Cut Two Ways shines a light on the lamb neck and it certainly glows in the capable hands of Rob Cockerill from Bennelong and Daniel Puskas from Sixpenny who turn this humble cut (from Grant Hilliard at Feather and Bone) into dishes that dazzle.
 
This issue’s Young Gun is farmer Tim Eyes. Based on the NSW central coast, Tim’s number one priority is the environment and this impressive young beef farmer is keen to connect people back to the farm and show that agriculture can mitigate climate change.
 
What does sustainability mean to you?
 
 

Mary-Jane Morse
 
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

 

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Editor’s Letter

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Editor’s
Letter

 
 

If 2020 has shown us anything it is that nothing is certain and whilst it is impossible to predict what will happen moving forward in relation to Covid-19, we can assume that the foodservice industry will continue to be impacted for the foreseeable future and beyond.
 
The foodservice community has demonstrated its resilience – your determination, your diligence and camaraderie are the true measures of hospitality. But if Covid-19 has taught the industry anything, it is that the model needs to adapt, offerings need to diversify and those with the ability to change will be the ones that survive.
 
The Australian red meat industry has itself faced a raft of challenges with foodservice shutdowns not only locally but around the world in every export market. Increased demand at a retail level somewhat softened the blow but demand for mince products led to carcase imbalances as premium cuts diverted from foodservice and into mince and sausages.
 
Moving back through the supply chain, livestock prices are at record highs as producers seek to restock herds and flocks after widespread rain brought some reprieve to long term drought conditions – meaning less livestock are available for processing.
 
The last few months have given me an opportunity to rethink what we bring you in our quarterly publication, to reconsider what matters and why. We have done some adapting of our own and this issue brings with it some exciting changes.
 
Firstly – I’m proud to welcome two incredible contributors to the Rare Medium family, each with their own dedicated sections. Pat Nourse, one of Australia’s most accomplished food journalists, takes on our new People | Places | Plates section – sharing the stories of chefs, venues and menus; while industry legend Mark Best brings us his Spotlight On section – an exploration of various components of the Australian red meat supply chain.
 
Our new What’s Good in the Hood section reflects the importance of community dining and celebrating neighbourhood favourites. First up we explore Sydney’s Inner West with the fabulous Myffy Rigby. If anyone is going to show us around town then it may as well be the editor of the Good Food Guide!
 
We also have a new Cut Two Ways section – featuring a different cut each time cooked by two different chefs and our Young Guns section that explores the stories of young professionals through the red meat supply chain.
 
The value of supply chain relationships has never been more apparent and I look forward to continuing to connect you with our wonderful Australian red meat producers, to grow and prosper together with whatever comes next.
 
Following your journeys over the last few months has at times been heartbreaking but more often than not it has been empowering. I hope that the stories of this issue inspire you as you have me – as together we come to terms with this strange new world.
 
 

Mary-Jane Morse
 
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

 

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

People Places Plates

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In each issue, Pat Nourse brings us People | Places | Plates – a look into the inner workings of chefs, venues and menus around the country.

 
 

Josh Lewis at Fleet in Brunswick Heads.

On the Road Less Travelled

 

Josh Lewis

Fleet | La Casita | Ethel Food Store

 

For Josh Lewis nose to tail is just the beginning. He is all about the 360, paddock to plate, root to stem. He likes the road less travelled.

 
 
In opening Fleet in Brunswick Heads on the north coast of New South Wales and sibling venues Ethel Food Store and La Casita, Josh Lewis and Astrid McCormack have built businesses around how they want to live their lives. They’ve created a situation where, rather than trying to snatch a few hours of life around the edges of work, it all works together. If the waiting list for seats and the acclaim heaped on Fleet from authorities near and far are any guide, Josh Lewis’s road less travelled is proving irresistible to more and more people every year.
 
Back when guides still offered ratings in Australia, Fleet scored two hats from The Good Food Guide, two stars from Gourmet Traveller, and four-and-a-half out of five stars in The Australian. The New York Times described it as one of the toughest reservations in Australia, and in August of this year Fleet was named one of the best restaurants in the world by Food & Wine, alongside Noma in Copenhagen and Dan Barber’s Blue Hill at Stone Barns in upstate New York. The magazine described Lewis’s cooking as “thoughtful and ingenious” and the restaurant as “everything wonderful about modern Australian dining”.
 
Coming out of kitchen traditions where air-freighted truffles and caviar were mainstays, Lewis flipped his training to fashion a very personal understanding of luxury that is all about small and local, and trades elite for community. This is a very different understanding of what sustainability can be in Australia. And it tastes good.

Lamb neck taco at La Casita.

Lamb neck taco at La Casita.

At Fleet, prawn legs become a course in themselves and the parson’s nose from the chicken provides a textural foil for oyster and watermelon rind. The Cheeses Loves You blue cheese that Deb and Jim Allard make with milk from the herd of Jersey cows they run northwest of Brunswick Heads, shows up at the end of a meal paired with the tropical fruit jaboticaba, cooked down with spent coffee.
 
At La Casita, onion rings are dusted with cricket salt, and cobs left over from the wood-grilled corn are used to make lemonade. Lamb neck appears at the taqueria, slow-roasted under coals and topped with a zucchini pico de gallo and a salsa morita of grilled and smoked chillies and tomatillos. It will also show up at Ethel, where it will take an Italian turn with chef David Lovett’s Nonna’s eggplant and pine nuts, alongside the likes of cavatelli with ragù alla bolognese and beef rump served with cacio e pepe potatoes.
 
Perhaps most famously of all, no one in Australia has done more to turn veal sweetbreads into an Instagrammable object of desire. Crumbed, fried and made into a “schnitty sanga” laced with anchovy mayo, they have been lusted after for the last five years not just by chefs and offal enthusiasts, but a legion of linen-draped holidaymakers and Byron locals.

The Veal Sweetbread Schnitty Sanga - a Fleet menu mainstay for five years.

The Veal Sweetbread Schnitty Sanga – a Fleet menu mainstay for five years.

If you think that’s something, wait until you see what he’s doing with beef tongue on the menu now.
 
Tongues are sourced from Hayters Hill Farm, where Dave Trevor-Jones and his brother Hugh run 150 head of Hereford x Brahman cattle on 350 acres looking out over Byron Bay. The farm is chemical-free and has an on-farm butchery – employing farming practices that are sustainable and focused on the welfare of the animals. “It’s a family-run farm and they’re really nice people to deal with,” says Lewis. “It’s all grass-fed, they raise their animals really well, and they do all the butchery there. They’re a really good bunch of guys.”

Tongues are first brined then braised for seven hours and peeled.

Tongues are first brined then braised for seven hours and peeled.

Lewis takes the tongues, brines them and then braises them simply in water with onion, garlic, thyme and pepper at 120 degrees for seven hours. He then peels them while they are still warm, cools them in the cooking water, then once they are set, runs them through the slicer.
 
The fat settled on the top of the tongue’s cooking liquor is mixed half-half with clarified butter then brushed over purple and white wombok that Lewis buys from Palisa Anderson at Boon Luck Farm, down the road at Tyagarah. He grills every slice of tongue over charcoal, then layers the slices with the wombok and presses it.

Fleet’s beef tongue terrine - a labour of love but worth every moment.

Fleet’s beef tongue terrine – a labour of love but worth every moment.

At Fleet, discs of the tongue terrine are pressed out for service then just warmed and served with a sauce of fresh kampot pepper and a splash of the tongue stock. But the tongue good times don’t stop there. Not on Josh Lewis’s watch. All the terrine trimmings from service go to La Casita, where chef Saffron Brun-Smits will grill them and daub them with a pasilla chilli salsa and bung them on a taco.
 
Josh Lewis is very much the guy who lets the work do the talking. When the business has the likes of his partner, Astrid McCormack, as its face, and latterly manager Olivia Evans in the same role, and with Rob Mudge on cocktails, it is easy to let these very talented front-of-house people do the talking and carry the story. But Lewis is a smart guy, with plenty to say that’s worth listening to. He does what he does and keeps it sustainable – his way.

Tongue terrine trimmings at Fleet are used for La Casita’s tongue taco.

Tongue terrine trimmings at Fleet are used for La Casita’s tongue taco.

Life

Of

Lewis

As a teenage pub-kitchen apprentice in the southern suburbs of Geelong, sustainability wasn’t on the agenda for Josh Lewis. “It was all about food cost,” Lewis says. It was one of those big pubs where the management reporting each week went down to “the point-point-point percent”. Fighting food waste was important, but it was framed in terms of saving cents rather than the planet.
 
A chicken-parm and mesclun-mix pub kitchen, it nonetheless was a place where beef was bought in big pieces and portioned out with a bit of in-house butchery. “Pretty basic stuff, but when you’re 16 and you’ve been dying to get into the kitchen, it was pretty good at the time.”
 
The next gig was at the Geelong Sheraton. Not a lot of talk of sustainability there either, but it really depended on who was in the kitchen at the time. Lewis says when Matt Dempsey, a chef respected for his work in regional Victoria in recent years at Gladioli, Tulip, and The Belfast, came on for a while as sous, he brought with him ideas about breaking things down from scratch.
 
 
 

“Using the whole animal. Doing a bit more of the process himself rather than buying things in. That was probably the first time I had really looked at things from that angle in the kitchen, thinking there are other parts that can and should be utilised. That was good for me.”

 
 
 
Lewis had come to the kitchen already passionate about hunting and fishing – he and his older brother had been fishing competitively for years – and getting hands on with the product just made sense to him. “Even as an apprentice I had that interest, even if they were laughing at me at the time,” he says. “Looking back now, I can see that it was always the stuff that I was drawn to.”

Menu development involves thinking about other parts that can and should be used and letting quality produce do the talking - like this beef shin braised in red wine and garlic and served on grilled sourdough at Ethel.

Menu development involves thinking about other parts that can and should be used and letting quality produce do the talking – like this beef shin braised in red wine and garlic and served on grilled sourdough at Ethel.

Hard work and natural talent play their part in any success story, but so does chance. While he was working larder at the Sheraton, his teachers at trade school suggested he enter the Melbourne Culinary Pro-Am, a cooking competition that teamed apprentices up with celebrity chefs. Lewis’s team faced off with a team led by chef Shannon Bennett, and while Lewis’s team didn’t win, it gave him a chance to talk to Bennett, who offered him a trial at his restaurant.
 
In France they say you don’t want the three-star kitchen, you want the two-star kitchen that’s gunning for three. Back in 2003, Shannon Bennett’s empire was a single 50-seat restaurant in Carlton, but he was by no means short of ambition. The two-hat review in the 2003 edition of The Good Food Guide wrote, “while most others are doing laid-back Mod-Oz, Vue de Monde strives for the refined perfection of a Michelin-starred restaurant” and nothing the 19-year-old Lewis had seen in Geelong prepared him for it.
 
 
 

“I walk past this place and the music is absolutely pumping, and I thought, ‘oh my god, this is the restaurant. It was crazy. It was hard. But I fell in love with it.” Lewis was supposed to be there for the weekend; he ended up staying five years.

 
 
 
Sustainability was a mainstream conversation in the 2000s, but engagement with it in top restaurant kitchens was a mixed bag. At Vue de Monde, which moved to the Melbourne CBD the following year and went on to win its third hat, on the one hand flew in ingredients from around the world, but on the other was ahead of the game with a lot of its kitchen tech, being an early adopter of kit such as BottleCyclers. “But maybe I was also just too busy being in the shit to notice,” Lewis adds. The food was complex and demanding. The truffle risotto, he said, literally gave him nightmares. “The recipe for that one is probably burnt into my memory forever.”

Josh won an Australian Overseas Foundation Scholarship and used it to do a six-week stage at Mugaritz.

Josh won an Australian Overseas Foundation Scholarship and used it to do a six-week stage at Mugaritz.

As Lewis was finishing up his apprenticeship, his TAFE contacted him to say they’d nominated him for an Australian Overseas Foundation Scholarship. He won, and used it to travel to Spain to do a six-week stage at Mugaritz in 2008. Bennett was opening a restaurant in Oman, meanwhile, and offered Lewis his first head chef role at the new venue, so Lewis went straight from Spain to Muscat to set up Vue.
 
Not far into his time in Oman, Ramadan happened to fall in the summer, which put the whole restaurant on pause for the month. Lewis hopped a plane to Denmark, where he’d landed a stage at Noma.
 
 
 

“I stepped into the kitchen and said, ‘I’m not really interested in days off, I just want to get the most out of this that I can,’ so I worked pretty much every single day till I flew out.” It proved to be a game-changer.

 
 
 

“I still remember the first time we went to put on the stocks and there was no mirepoix, no aromats, just bones and water. The stockpot was left on the induction overnight and you hardly touched it,” he says. After years in French-style kitchens where things were done because that’s how they’d always been done, it was a revelation. Tasting the stock the next day made him realise there were different ways to get results. It made him look at his work anew.
 
 
 

“I think I’ve gotten rid of a lot of arbitrary processes from my cooking because of those few weeks at Noma,” he says. “That was a turning point for me.”

 
 
 
When Lewis got back to Australia, one of his best mates was working at Loam, the restaurant Aaron Turner and Astrid McCormack had opened in 2009 on the Bellarine Peninsula, about an hour outside Melbourne. Lewis joined the small team in the kitchen and stayed until 2010.
 
At Loam, sustainability was one of the founding principles of the restaurant. It was designed to be a close reflection of the landscape that it was part of. “There was a real emphasis on local ingredients, sustainability and a lot of foraging and working closely with small producers in the area,” Lewis said. By now, working with local producers had become a real passion for Lewis, something that Noma had galvanised, and his time at Loam confirmed.

Working at Noma taught Josh to get rid of a lot of arbitrary processes from his cooking.

Working at Noma taught Josh to get rid of a lot of arbitrary processes from his cooking.

Finding

His

Fleet

At only 14 seats - the essence of Fleet is small and local.

Small and local is the essence of Fleet’s identity. Lewis and McCormack opened the restaurant in March 2015, and at 14 seats, they are not joking about the small part.
 
More than a few people told them at the time that the site was too small to sustain a restaurant business. “We still get a few of those now,” says Lewis. Brunswick Heads back then was not the sort of place you’d think to open an eatery serving highly ambitious food with natural wine to match.
 
 
 

“People thought we were pretty crazy, and subconsciously maybe we believed them a little bit and that’s why we made the restaurant really small,” Lewis says.

 
 
 
But that was the plan: to make a restaurant where, if all else failed, they only had 14 seats to fill. “Astrid could do the floor and I could be in the kitchen, so we wouldn’t have too many wages if things did get bad. We planned worst-case-scenario.” But worst-case wasn’t the scenario. “We didn’t have reservations when we first opened, and in those first couple of days it was crazy, 30 or 40 people waiting out the front for the doors to open, so we had to change that idea quick-smart. We were busy from the get-go.” Ethel followed, and then La Casita.

La Casita - Lewis’ third venue to open in Brunswick Heads.

La Casita – Lewis’ third venue to open in Brunswick Heads.

Busy as it may be, there’s not a lot going in the bin at Fleet. Partly because the food is delicious and the plates come back clean, of course, but also because Lewis works hard to eliminate waste at every step.
 
 
 

“We have compost, we recycle, we eliminated clingfilm from the kitchen quite a while ago now, which has been a big one,” he says. “The spent vegetable oil from the fryer at La Casita gets picked up by people who use it to fuel their vehicle.”

 
 
 
Scrunchable plastic remains an issue, as do things like used bones. The thing that Lewis thinks might make a huge difference to the footprint of restaurants in Australia is a service that would take care of organic waste. “That would be huge for us, a game-changer.”
 
The benefits to chefs in working small and local are many, says Lewis. “There’s food miles, of course, but you’re also supporting the local community where you live and work, you’re building relationships with people, and then you can work towards using different things as a result. We have people now who grow things just for us, and that’s something that you can’t necessarily do from further afield. It’s beneficial both ways.”

Service at La Casita.

Service at La Casita.

And that’s before you get into really basic, concrete things that make a big difference to your bottom line and the quality of the food on the plate: your ingredients being in better condition, tasting better and lasting longer. “I spend a lot of my Wednesday mornings going out to collect ingredients from smaller producers that may not deliver, that may not be able to get in to sell their things at the market. It’s very different to just ordering something in. The quality is definitely a lot better.”
 
Lewis says he doesn’t see the time in the car visiting these farms as a trade-off for a chef so much as a responsibility. ‘If I want these things for my restaurant, I need to go and get them for myself.” Mondays and Tuesdays are for making the calls, Wednesday is pick-up day, then Fleet opens for service from three until 11, Thursday through Sunday.
 
“You get inspiration out of it too,” he says. “When you see how things grow, you’re not just thinking of one part. There might be something you’d normally get rid of, but you’ll try using it and sometimes a dish is born out of something like that.”

Lewis says when you get out and see how things grow, you’re not just thinking of one part and sometimes that’s how a dish is born - like his tongue terrine using Hayter’s Hill beef tongues and wombok from Boon Luck Farm.

Lewis says when you get out and see how things grow, you’re not just thinking of one part and sometimes that’s how a dish is born – like his tongue terrine using Hayter’s Hill beef tongues and wombok from Boon Luck Farm.

And then there’s the other key part of the picture: this is how Lewis likes it. Sustainability and working small isn’t the price to be paid for the lifestyle he and McCormack have chosen: it’s the reward and it can be one of the best parts of the job. Having these ingredients makes his work more pleasurable, as does the community connection.
 
 
 

“You see it when you go to the farms,” Lewis says, “and many of them run by couples who are doing all the labour themselves. Knowing that you’re supporting local people is good.”

The Story of Fleet’s Veal Sweetbread Schnitty Sanga

 
 
About that schnitzel. “I’ve always leaned more towards the fun things like sweetbreads and tongue rather than the bigger cuts of meat,” says Lewis. “I like to present them to people who might not normally eat them to show them how delicious they can be if you give them the chance.”
 
He’d always loved working with veal sweetbreads at Vue de Monde, and when he was opening Fleet it didn’t seem like that many chefs were using them, so he wanted them on the menu. But how do you sell veal offal in a beach town like Brunswick Heads, population 1,737? Everyone likes a sandwich, Lewis thought, so maybe that would be the trick to making sweetbreads more approachable. “I didn’t want to alienate anyone with our food. I thought calling it a schnitzel would help, too.”
 

Veal sweetbreads being prepared at Fleet.

Veal sweetbreads being prepared at Fleet.

When Fleet opened in 2014 he got his sweetbreads – both thymus and pancreas – from the Casino abattoir in northern New South Wales. (The pancreas, which is firmer, he says, gives best results.)
 
“I vac-packed them and cooked them very gently in a little bit of salt, olive oil and thyme, which is a little bit different to most of the ways I’d seen them prepped – a lot of poaching and doing things with milk – but I did a lot of trials and didn’t see the need to be doing any of that. I’d take them out, peel off all the membrane and then slice them into centimetre-thick rounds.”

Then it was flour, eggwash and panko crumbs. “We’d fry those, and then get two rounds of soft white bread from the Ocean Shores bakery, and then a mayonnaise with parsley, anchovy and Dijon mustard. Anchovies go with most things, so it just made perfect sense for me. Super-simple.”

Cooked sweetbreads are floured, dipped in eggwash, crumbed then fried.

Cooked sweetbreads are floured, dipped in eggwash, crumbed then fried.

People Places Plates

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In each issue, Pat Nourse brings us People | Places | Plates – a look into the inner workings of chefs, venues and menus around the country.

 

Here, Pat talks to three vastly different hospitality leaders about how they’ve rolled with the pandemic punches.

 
 

Adaptation:

The New Normal

 
 
This is not a feel-good story. It’s a ‘do what you have to do and keep doing it’ story. It doesn’t wrap up tidily with all the answers and there’s no group-hug at the end. Not yet, anyway.
 
This is the story of three different restaurant businesses that have kept their heads above water and their lives moving forward in the middle of the greatest period of global upheaval in generations. The backgrounds of the people who run them are different, as are their businesses – one is an owner-operator chef of an acclaimed 40-seater, another a publican at a century-old boozer with a Chinese restaurant on the side, and the third oversees a dozen venues and hundreds of staff serving thousands of covers daily.
 
The things they have in common? They’re all leaders in their fields and their communities, looked to by their peers not simply for the quality of their food (which is high) but for their standards in hospitality across the board. And now, in the midst of this pandemic, they’ve also shown themselves to be united in their determination to prevail, and to embrace change to make it happen.
 
We’ll say it again: none of them claim to have the answers, some of their observations are at odds with each other, and all of them think we’ve still got a way to go before we’re clear of this thing, but here’s what’s been working for them so far.

Pull No Punches

 

O Tama Carey

– Lankan Filling Station, Sydney

 
 
What makes sense to O Tama Carey in the New Normal?
 
“Nothing. It’s f****d up,” she says. “Yeah, we’ve adapted and we’re still going and it works to a certain point, but it’s only because we have to. This isn’t what I want to be doing with my business right now. None of it.”

Lankan’s beef pan rolls – a menu mainstay.

At Lankan Filling Station, her celebrated East Sydney restaurant, Carey does things her way. One early rave review said it might be useful to think of it “less as a Sri Lankan restaurant and more an O Tama Carey restaurant”, and that rigour has come in handy in the pandemic.
 
At Lankan, she says, they’ve done pretty well with adapting, even if it has sometimes been a forced-march at times, and a challenge.
 
 
 

“The first struggle was having to get everything online to do takeaway orders, and that was a big head-f***, that was a good two weeks of quite tense work trying to figure it out, and then we suddenly said we were going to take bookings, so that was another two weeks where it was ridiculous.”

 
 
 
The food, Carey says, is the one thing she had confidence in. “One of the things that did make it easier was that we could stick our stuff inside a container. It was one of about a million things you had to think about. The packaging – that was insane. Even the eco-stuff still comes in plastic sleeves.”
 
“We’ve made a shortened menu, but the beef pan rolls will never go.” Pan rolls are a crêpe wrapped around a filling of spiced minced beef which is then crumbed, deep-fried and served with a fiery fermented-chilli sauce. Carey calls them the Sri Lankan response to the spring roll, and they’ve also been compared (favourably) in the press to the mighty Chiko. White, red and black curries have also remained at the core of the Lankan Filling Station menu. Black curry is the base of choice for red meat: shoulder of lamb or goat, for instance, cooked down without water or coconut milk in a mixture of spices rich in clove and nigella that’s been roasted hard and hot.

Lankan has evolved from a no-bookings model to three sittings and a banquet menu.

Going from a restaurant open regular dinner hours to a takeaway where orders started at five and then stopped cold at 7.30 was a curve-ball and, to Carey’s surprise, delivery didn’t take off. She promptly complemented the takeaway menu with a retail offer, packaging up a lot of what’s on the menu, like the devilled cashew nuts, as well as basic provisions and preparations such as curry powders and tea blends as well as a selection of LFS merch, including coconut-shell spoons, tees and totes.
 
Navigating back into dine-in trade has had its challenges. Lankan had previously been a no-bookings restaurant; now it does three sittings for a banquet menu, with à la carte only for walk-ins. They’ve been full since.
 
 
 

“But ‘full’ isn’t that full, and now takeaways have dropped off,” Carey says. “If we were doing as many takeaways as we’d been doing and serving people in the restaurant, we’d be doing quite well, but when one happened the other stopped.”

 
 
 
The idea that this pandemic will inspire wholesale change in hospitality isn’t something she buys into. Come spring, she says, and it’ll look very normal again: “People have short memories.” But at the same time she plans to take this opportunity to rethink what she really cares about. “Being open all the time was a big thing for me at Lankan, but I might not care for that anymore,” she says.
 
What has the situation taught Carey about adaptation? Some people are better at it than others. “It freaked a lot of people out, but adaptation doesn’t freak me out. I haven’t loved doing what I’m doing, but adaptation hasn’t scared me,” she says. “You’ve got to be ready and you’ve got to be adaptable.”

Staying Ahead of the Game

 

Palisa Anderson:

– Chat Thai Restaurant Group, Sydney

 
 
A director of Chat Thai, the restaurant group founded 31 years ago by her mother, Amy Chanta, Palisa Anderson is across a dozen businesses, including six branches of Chat Thai, plus Boon Cafe and Jarernchai grocery, and Boon Luck, an organic farm outside Byron Bay.
 
Her influence extends beyond Thai cuisine. She’s been a collaborator in the kitchen everywhere from Contra in New York City to Hija de Sanchez in Copenhagen, and in 2018 she cooked at the MAD food conference at the invitation of Noma chef René Redzepi. Boon Luck Organics, meanwhile, supplies the top-flight likes of Quay and Momofuku Seiobo.

Palisa Anderson: don’t whinge, just get on with it.

Chat Thai expanded their delivery from two avenues to five with two of their outlets delivering direct.

If there’s anything that can sum up her approach to restaurants it’s that change is continuous and essential. “We’ve always been agile. I don’t want to go into racial profiling but I’ve just come back from Thailand where survival is about being agile, and you have to roll with the punches no matter what.” Having what she calls the “immigrant business mindset” really helps, Anderson says; you don’t whinge about it, you just get on with it.
 
 
 

“You don’t ever take it for granted that you’ll always have these customers, so that’s why we always constantly put on seasonal specials. If you’ve got the ability to do it, you should do it, and that’s how we’ve always run.”

 
 
 
COVID-19 has been a real wake-up call, Anderson says, for people in the food world who have only ever done things one way. “To keep trade going we’ve done all sorts of things to stay competitive in this market.” The Chat Thai app has come into its own. They’ve expanded their delivery from two avenues to five, and two of their outlets deliver direct. They’ve upped their online advertising spend, and become much more targeted about how they do it, something Anderson says she’s surprised more food businesses don’t explore. Dark kitchens are already in the pipeline.

Khao Soi Nuea – egg noodles with beef brisket in a Northern region coconut curry with smoked chilli oil.

Anderson has also been every bit as analytical in adapting Chat Thai’s menus to the new circumstances, scaling the 100-plus items on some down by a third. “Thai food is actually not that great for takeaway when you think that anything that has fresh herbs in it just oxidises the moment you put it into steaming boxes.” Anything more labour-intensive or with higher-cost ingredients, like whole fish, also went. “We went over every product cost and refined from there.” The slimmed-down menus combine punch with pragmatism.
 
 
 

“We had to do this very quickly, and we had to do this not knowing what was coming next.”

 
 
 
On the red-meat side that translated to the likes of the fiery salads of char-grilled rump, with roast chilli and soft herbs, or nahm dtok-style, with smoked-chilli jam, as well as the comfort of curries – gaeng nuea yang, the hot coconut curry of grilled beef with betel leaves, and the classic massaman, hunks of beef shin braised with potatoes and peanuts.
 
A lot of people are starting to understand that this business isn’t about perfection, Anderson says, but about adaptation and working in progress. “You don’t have to follow trends but you do need to follow the market; where you stay true to yourself is in your core ethics and the quality of your product. But the way you do business has to change, otherwise you can’t survive.”

Chat Thai’s Massaman Nuea – a curry of slowly braised beef shin and potato.

Until COVID-19 hit, The Lincoln had not had to close its doors for an extended period since opening in 1854.

Moving Forward Together

 

Iain Ling

– The Lincoln, Melbourne

 
 
The Lincoln probably hasn’t closed its doors for any real length of time for more than 150 years. Or at least it hadn’t until COVID-19 came along. Built in 1854, it has a classic Melbourne back-street boozer facade, but its influences extend beyond Carlton. Its publican, Iain Ling, grew up in Liverpool, cut his teeth in hospitality in London and worked at MoVida before he and his wife, Stella, took over the pub in 2014.
 
Since Ling took the reins, the Lincoln has become the kind of pub that takes the care to make the buns for its burgers in-house, and puts fresh horseradish in the slaw that goes with the grilled hanger. The kind of pub that does a whole lamb shoulder to share, and smokes the Béarnaise that accompanies the T-bone with Yorkshire pudding. The kind of pub where a sour beer from Two Metre Tall and a whey stout from Bruny Island are on tap next to the Carlton Draught.
 
Two doors down is Super Ling, a small restaurant that Ling also opened. And like The Lincoln, there’s more to it than meets the eye. It’s not your classic Cantonese-focussed Australian Chinese restaurant, for one thing. Chef Mike Li was raised in Mauritius, and the Hakka Chinese flavours of his mum’s cooking are front and centre on the menu.
 

Iain Ling sums up the COVID-19 experience in one word: Panic.

Ling has a reputation for candour. Ask him what the process of adaptation looked like back in March across the two businesses, he doesn’t mince words: “Panic”. When you pivot into something, Ling says, you can’t lose sight of your original reason for going into business.
 
 
 

“It’s very hard to do it just because you have to. For us, letting the pub lay dormant for a while turned out to be the better thing to do.”

 
 
 
Ling himself was anything but dormant. He and Mike Li streamlined Super Ling for takeaway, pressing pause on such signatures as the tartare of peppered tri-tip with garlic stems and spring-onion mayo, and the mighty meat platter – beef tongue, tendon, shin and honeycomb tripe piled high with chilli oil, house pickles and peanuts. They turned instead to Hunan-style topside with snake beans and a classic (ish) beef with black bean. “A lot of our à la carte menu just didn’t work for takeaway. That’s why we called our delivery model Super Ling Express – to give it two separate identities.”

Hunan-style topside with snake beans – one of the delivery menu adaptions at Super Ling Express.

Ling and some hospitality mates also started a charity, the COVID-19 Employee Assistance Directive, or COVID-19 EAD, to feed the hospitality workers that got left behind when JobKeeper was announced. “When the internationals were told to go home,” he says. They started cooking for about 100 people a week, which quickly snowballed a week later to 600 people, and now they’re sending 2,500 meals a week. “And even though we’re back open now, the demand for that is still pretty high.”
 
To reopen the pub to diners, Ling decided the menu had to be more focused. “We decided to go with homely stuff that you don’t want to cook at home.” Classic favourites that you associate with a pub: like a “really good, big” Flinders + Co porterhouse with duck-fat potatoes and Cafe de Paris. He even reduced the physical size of the menu down to A5 so there wasn’t too much empty space on the page, “the plan is to keep the offer reduced and move through stock in a more concentrated way for a while.”
 

Flinders & Co porterhouse, duck fat potatoes and café de Paris at The Lincoln.

Somehow Ling still finds time for one-off initiatives like creating a pop-up grocery with Michael Ryan, owner and chef of Provenance, the acclaimed restaurant in Beechworth, in Victoria’s northeast. For a day, Super Ling was packed with jars of miso butter, pine mushrooms picked in soy, and an exceptional beef jerky. “I know we’ve had it hard here, but f***, Michael has had it harder at Provenance. He had 90 per cent cancellations in December.”
 
 
 

“I’m a big believer that we all get ahead together,” Ling says. He lives for a challenge. “The question now is, how can we help the guys around us?”

HOT PLATES

Great red meat, to go.

Beef Lasagne

 

Attica, Melbourne

 
Three-hat lasagne? The Melbourne fine-diner may not yet be taking guests, but Ben Shewry’s cooking is still up for grabs, from the tasting menu to go, through to this very homey all-beef lasagne, replete with pull-apart garlic bread.

Lamb Ribs and Cacao

 

Gauge, Brisbane

 
Bringing new definition to the words “finger-lickin’ good”. The smoked shoulder with urfa chilli is no slouch, either.

Wood-grilled Rib Eye

 

Totti’s, Sydney

 
A serious 800 grams of prime, primal goodness, delivered to your door from one of Sydney’s busiest openings of the last 18 or so months.

Photography: Sarah Hewer

Beef Wellington

 

Heritage Wine Bar, Perth

 
The house signature: 300 grams of Harvey beef fillet wrapped in mushroom duxelles, swaddled in crêpes and then wrapped again in puff pastry. Oh yeah!

Grilled Ox-Tongue Khao Jee Pâté

 

Anchovy, Melbourne

 
Slices of tongue hot from the coals, stuffed into Laos’s answer to the bánh mì: what’s not to like?

Editor’s Letters

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Editor’s
Letter

 

There is nothing like fully immersing yourself in a sensory exploration of the flavours, textures, trends and traditions of another country’s culinary landscape. In January this year, Rare Medium took a very special trip to the USA where we were fortunate to meet with some incredibly inspiring and talented chefs – and plunge ourselves face first into cuisine-ala-Americana.

The chain-heavy USA may conjure images of hot dogs, burgers and pizzas – and that is completely justified – but it is also a country with a rich culinary history influenced by a vast and multicultural population, years of generational traditions and a wave of new world innovators.

Relive our USA adventure with us as we explore beef, lamb and goat on menus from LA to El Paso, Miami to Chicago, Phoenix to Philly – and a bunch of places in between – to bring you a healthy dose of inspiration from the home of the brave.

We catch up with one of our finest Aussie exports Curtis Stone in LA, take a Mexican themed road trip with the wonderful Claudette Wilkins and literally put our bodies on the line to taste, shoot and snap our way around the country.

Inspiration is born of many places – be they physical or emotional – and we hope that you find something that inspires you within this issue.

 

Mary-Jane Morse
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Guest Chef Profile

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Curtis Stone at his restaurant Maude in Beverly Hills.

He is the blue-eyed boy next door whose laid-back charm has flooded Aussie televisions for almost two decades – first with the successful ABC series Surfing the Menu, then as produce poster boy for supermarket giant Coles since 2010.
With a prolific media profile encompassing global publishing deals, regular international TV appearances, celebrity ambassadorships and his own cookware range – Curtis Stone is the epitome of the modern celebrity chef.

 

He also happens to be a successful restaurateur juggling not one but five restaurants – two in Los Angeles where he lives with his family and three on-board Princess Cruises. It is not lost on him that his media persona can often overshadow his chef credentials – particularly in Australia where he has never had a restaurant.

 

“Working as a television chef can portray a certain image of you and most people probably have a very different perspective on what my life is really like. Half the time my day starts at Gwen digging out the coals from the night before and lighting the fire or opening the door at Maude and cracking on with the guys getting ready for service.”

“When we opened Maude, people came in not expecting the food to be as good as it was. It never really bothered me to be honest, I’ve never been torn up by what people say or think. Maybe you have a bit of an ego, but in some ways, it has made me try harder. The other stuff is fun but what I love most is cooking in a restaurant – I love the craft of being a chef and it’s what I’m most proud of,” he said.

Curtis prepping his beef tartare dish at Maude.

Maude is his 24-seat restaurant in Beverly Hills. Open for five years; it was his first foray back into the restaurant world after taking a break to pursue his media career. The original concept was a 10-course degustation focused on a single ingredient that changed every month.

 

“Maude was kind of a selfish project really – a place where I could challenge myself and continually develop and create. Everyone had done farm to table but no one had put a single ingredient under a microscope. It was really fun, we did it for four years which is about 50 menus, it was like being on a creative treadmill, constant groundhog day – it was bloody crazy and it nearly killed me.”

Australian beef tartare on the Western Australia menu at Maude.

Over the last 12 months, the format at Maude has evolved so the creative centrepiece of the menu is now a wine region. With four menus a year, the pace has slowed a little but Stone’s commitment to the creative process has not.

 

“In 2018 we did Rioja, Burgundy, Central Coast of California and Piedmont and in 2019 we’ve started with Western Australia. We take a development trip to get inspired by the food, the culture and the history of the regions we feature. Basically we drink too much wine, eat too much food and then we come back and create a menu,” he said.

 

Gwen is Stone’s second restaurant and a collaboration with his brother Luke in the heart of Hollywood. Featuring a fully functional butcher shop and an in-house dry ageing facility – it is an ode to the craft of butchery and the art of live fire cooking.

“At Gwen we do a couple of hundred covers a night – it’s big, robust and fun with lots of energy – but it is a butcher shop first and that is the heartbeat of the place. We have six full time butchers, dry age all our beef and lamb and make our own charcuterie in-house. At lunch we serve up some incredible butchers sandwiches – house made pastrami, classic steak and meatballs to name a few.”

Butcher’s sandwiches on Gwen’s lunchtime menu – house made pastrami, steak and meatball.

One of the wood-fired grills at Gwen.

“At night it’s completely different. We roast everything from whole animals to beautiful steaks over fire including Australian grass fed, grain fed and Wagyu beef, which is something I’m really proud of. Humans have been cooking meat over a fire since the beginning of time – effectively since we found fire. It is a beautiful way to cook beef, imparting that smoky flavour into it and sometimes it turns out that the simplest things in life are the best.”

 

Stone says that cooking has always been his passion – he always loved to eat and how things tasted. Whilst passion plays a huge role in the success of any chef, he was fortunate to have strong mentors to inspire and guide him, first in his grandmothers and later in Marco Pierre White.

“My grannies were both instrumental in getting me into the kitchen and I was inspired from a young age watching them cook so we named the restaurants after them. Gwen was mum’s mum and Maude was Dad’s mum – Gwen was totally different to Maude and so the restaurants are too.”

He commenced his apprenticeship at 17 at the Southern Cross Hotel before moving to Europe at 22 where he started cooking for Marco – a lifelong mentor for Stone and instrumental in shaping his career.

 

“My first day in Marco’s kitchen was a real highlight – he was the sort of chef that led from the front and that was the most beautiful way to learn. He was in the kitchen before anyone else; he worked faster and was more precise than anyone else was. I think I was spoilt with a mentor like that and I think it has made me who I am in the kitchen.”

Butchers working in-house at Gwen in Hollywood.

“When you see someone work like that, as a young chef you just know that you’re still not there, you’ve got to push harder, you’ve got to work hard. ‘Shut your mouth and keep your head down’ was Marco’s big piece of advice – and we did, we all cracked on. With Marco, we were able to do things a little differently and it was an exciting atmosphere to work in. He taught me a lot and I am grateful for it.”

Despite the outward appearance of a seemingly shiny and at times indulgent career, Stone worked hard for his success. Driven by a strong dedication to the craft, he made his way up through the ranks of Marco’s kitchens but it was not without challenging times.

 

“You go through some pretty dark times as an apprentice chef but I think at the end of the day if you ultimately love what you do, you can get through it. But you’ve got to love it, otherwise you shouldn’t do it.”

 

“I went through tough times for sure, a few different times in fact and I actually walked away from it for a bit. I probably partied a bit harder than I needed to and looking back I was probably throwing off a bit of stress because the industry’s known for that too,” he said.

Slicing beautifully marbled bone-in ribeyes at Gwen.

Beef in the dry age cabinet at Gwen.

Now operating five restaurants of his own, his leadership reflects that of his mentors – with little established hierarchy, he strives to offer a working environment that provides opportunity for his teams to learn, teach and benefit from one another.

 

“I’ve worked for incredible chefs throughout my career and learnt from chefs who actually cooked and I’ve always wanted to be that for my guys. I want to be on the line with them, I don’t just want to waltz in and talk to the guests and be a businessman; I want to be a chef.”

“We treat each other fairly and with lots of respect but we work hard and are proud of that. We don’t suffer fools in our restaurants, if they don’t have the same attitude and care for what we do, they don’t last very long.”

 

Key to the Stone success story is his continual drive to understand and respect where produce comes from – and openly sharing that knowledge to generate awareness amongst his chefs, his front of house and his customers.

“I firmly believe that the more you understand something the better you are at cooking it. I think traceability is the biggest trend right now and the most important thing for the meat industry. Understanding where the animal came from, how it was bred, what it was fed, how old it was when it was processed – all of that stuff is really important for people to understand.”

“It is what we try and do at Gwen, it’s small and contained but it’s important. People walk in and they see a whole carcase hanging in our meat locker and we can talk to them about it – we know very clearly what happened to that animal and we can talk about its attributes. The more we demystify and the more transparent the industry is the way better off it is going to be,” he said.

 

For a chef whose career to date has left no stone unturned – what is next for Curtis Stone?

 

“I’m a dad, I’ve got two boys and I am enjoying all elements of it. I don’t want to just focus on my career and not be a good dad but I also want my kids to see that you’ve got to work hard to get good stuff in life, so I think that balance is important for me. I’m having a lot of fun doing what I’m doing and I don’t want to do a tonne more,” he concluded.

Gwen offers a range of beef through the butcher shop and restaurant.

United Tastes of America

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With more than one million foodservice venues generating USD $800 billion in sales annually – the USA restaurant industry is big business. Whilst fast food may spring to mind, it is not without merit, with over 307,000 chain restaurants dotted across the country including 14,000 McDonald’s.

However, beyond the burger and hot on the heels of the hot dog is a vibrant food scene born of cultural diversity and hundreds of years of history with no signs of slowing down at the hands of a new wave of culinary trailblazers. Here’s just a taste of the States that we experienced in our travels.

Goat head and steamy consomme at Birrieria Zaragoza in Chicago.


 
 
 

1. Single and ready to mingle

 
 
Taking a singular focus and executing it with absolute precision. It could be an ingredient – think Curtis Stone’s degustation menus at Maude featuring a single ingredient – or an entire concept like Chicago’s Birrieria Zaragoza where the focus is on one thing and one thing only – incredibly good goat tacos that utilise the whole goat carcase.

2. If it ain’t broke

 
 
In a world where we are constantly searching for something new – there is something romantic about the notion of tradition. Julio’s Mexican Food in El Paso maintains the original recipes from its opening in 1944 while Philippe’s in LA has been roasting, dipping and dishing out their famed French Dip sandwiches for over 100 years.

Philippe’s French Dip Sandwiches since 1918.

All you can eat BBQ Brunch at Edge Bar & Steak at the Four Seasons in Miami.

3. One meal to rule them all

 
 
Call it middle-class fancy but weekend brunch is big in the USA and it’s Bloody Mary beautiful. From weekend brunch offerings in leading restaurants to full on brunch-only concepts, an increasing number of chefs are dedicating culinary skill and creativity to brunch menus. Edge Steak & Bar at the Miami Four Seasons does an all you can eat brunch BBQ with bottomless beverage packages whilst at dedicated brunch only HunnyMilk in Portland you choose a drink, a savoury course and a sweet course for $20.

4. A little bit of history repeating

 
 
Chefs and historians are teaming up to create meals just like our ancestors used to make. At the Michelin starred D.C. eatery Plume the team developed a six-course tasting menu featuring dishes the country’s founding fathers feasted on in 1776 while Twain in Chicago serves contemporary interpretations of dishes from an extensive collection of heritage spiral-bound women’s club cookbooks.

The Surf & Turf burger at Stiltsville Fish Bar in Miami.

The Goat Birria at El Jardin.

5. Getting sentimental

 
 
While global instability and uncertainty abounds, people are looking for a little reassurance and where better than in the comfort of food. Nostalgia is playing a leading role in the development of dishes as chefs look for ways to connect the diner with their dinner. At El Jardin in San Diego, Claudette Wilkins masterfully prepares dishes that tell the stories of her Mexican heritage inspired by the matriarchal figures of her childhood. Her unique take on a birria taco from Jalisco involves marinating and smoking whole goat then wrapping it in agave leaves and slowly roasting until the meat is fall-off-the-bone tender. Lovingly made tortillas are then stuffed with the goat meat and served with a broth of beans, onions, coriander and lime for decadent dunking.
 
Chef Jeff McInnis at Root n Bone in Miami, elevates dishes from his Southern upbringing with a modern riff on Southern classics like his meatloaf made with braised short rib – while at Stiltsville Fish Bar he brings together two nostalgic favourites in Surf & Turf and a burger – with a decadent execution of a mixed cut patty and lobster tail.
 

6. Retail therapy

 
 
Comfort food or retail therapy? Let’s do both. Savvy retailers are using food to lure new customers and keep them in store longer. Capital One bank has dozens of bright in-branch cafes offering up locally baked goods with a side of complimentary life-coach sessions. Cinemas are replacing popcorn with fancy restaurants like iPic in Houston where the Tuck Room serves filet au poivre with your film. Even homewares stores are upping the shopping experience like Restoration Hardware in New York whose slick restaurant is serving truffle pappardelle and unrivalled city views.

All bone everything – the menu at Osso Good in LA.

7. Down to the bone

 
 
In what can double as sustainable carcase usage and no waste, chefs and retailers are finding ways to utilise bones, marrows and collagens. From a health and wellness perspective, bone broth retailer Osso Good has opened a café in LA serving up bone broth waffles and collagen smoothies. Or Nancy Silverton indulges all your senses at her latest venture where she takes theatre to the table with a meltingly memorable bone marrow pie.

8. 3D food

 
 
It’s common knowledge when travelling that you avoid the restaurants with photos of the dishes on the menu – but what if you could view the dishes in 3D before ordering? At Boston’s Backyard Betty and various other venues around the country, diners can use mobile devices to experience 360-degree views of the dishes before ordering via Snapchat and unique QR codes on the menu.

Let’s Taco-bout LA’s Food Trucks

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Fast, cheap and delicious street food has been roaming the LA streets for decades and the birth of the LA food truck is largely due to the entertainment industry and its demand for on-set cast and crew catering – bringing food to the people where they need it.

 
 
 
 
 
 

Tacos Quetzalcoatl serves up thinly sliced tequila-cured beef tacos.

In 2008, a Korean-Mexican fusion truck called Kogi BBQ and the onslaught of social media came along and completely changed the game. The novelty of Korean beef short ribs in a taco and using Twitter to serve up truck locations soon fostered a cult foodie following and food-truck-frenzy swept the city.
 
Like any food trend, the food truck market was soon inundated and by 2013, the novelty had all but worn off and a truck tweeting its location had become a rarity. LA had grown used to the concept of food trucks – they were everywhere and people began to realise that food trucks could just as easily come to them.

The grill at Tire Shop Taqueria – the best tacos of the tour.

Suadero (rib meat) tacos from Tacos Zone food truck.

Vampiro – tender chopped beef and guacamole in a crispy tortilla coffin.

Now, food trucks serve the same purpose they initially did – to bring food to the people – and most have the same weekly route with a regular schedule and frequent locations. Success is no longer about having the best park in the hottest location or Tweeting your location to an eager bunch of foodie thrill seekers – what makes or breaks a truck today is food quality.
 
There was only ever one type of food truck that we planned on tackling while in LA and that was taco trucks. The USA is obsessed with Mexican food of all types – with LA being the Mexican food capital of the country and with tacos being well tacos; we braved the traffic and spent a day on our very own taco-trail.

Editors’ Letters

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Editors’
Letters

Mary-Jane
Morse

This issue brings us into the regenerative season of spring and with it, peak supply of succulent Australian spring lamb. Spring is a time for transformation and new beginnings – so maybe now is the time to begin to rethink your menu in preparation for the warmer months ahead.
The Spring Lamb issue takes us on quite the literal journey – from our visit to lamb producer Michael Craig in western Victoria where Paul learnt to ride a motorcycle and mustered his first mob of sheep; to an epic road trip with my mate Mike Eggert exploring lamb on menus from Geelong to Goulburn.

We delve into the hearts and minds of the magical Momofuku Seiobo, voted number 6 in Australia’s Top 100 Restaurants – from the sassy smiling assassin in the front to the belly laughing Barbadian in the back; it’s a hell of a good time.

With a visual feast of lamb dishes to savour, we hope this issue inspires you to explore the endless opportunities of Australian lamb – because really, what spring menu is complete without a delicious spring lamb offering?

 

Mary-Jane Morse
Foodservice Marketing Manager
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

Paul
Carmichael

Sydney is an amazing city, so much so that you can easily forget how beautiful the Australian countryside can be.

Enter Harrow, a small and beautiful town nestled somewhere in western Victoria. The farms were lush and green with so many old trees, the type of scenery that makes a city boy like me forget about the city.

It was my first time to a sheep farm in Australia and I was stoked to see and learn about the farming systems here. There I met Michael Craig the farmer and his wife Jane Craig who is an all-around badass.

Michael is extremely passionate about his industry and is the type of forward thinker that gets you excited about farming and where it can go. He is an innovator and focuses on making each of his farming practices sustainable. I totally geeked out and I learned so much about the industry, things like his theory of moving from a supply chain to value chain, and the crash course in mustering a mob of sheep was also epic.

I hope this issue can inspire you to look into the industry as a whole. Knowing where your food comes from is one thing, knowing how it gets there and how it all comes together is another. I am so grateful for all the hard work farmers put in. Thanks Michael and Jane for your hospitality and for sharing your knowledge and passion. So glad I got to tag along.

Big ups to MJ. Shout out to Macca.

 

Paul Carmichael
Executive Chef
Momofuku Seiobo
@momofukuseiobo

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Roadies

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Who do you take on a Mexican inspired road trip through Southern USA? Well, only the award winning, big grinning, taco-slinging matriarch herself chef Claudette Wilkins will do!

 

The ultimate addition to the Roadies shotgun seat – Claudette Wilkins from El Jardin in San Diego.

Mexican food has influenced American cuisine for centuries and found its way into every corner of the country. Alongside traditional Mexican, an emergence of dishes that blend Mexican with various regions, cultures and cuisines infiltrates the spectrum of foodservice outlets from fine dining to fast food and everything in between.
 
From Tijuana tacos to Tex-Mex, Chihuahua to chimichangas, New Mexican to Navajo tacos – we hit the road from San Diego California to El Paso Texas, by way of Mexico, to experience the magic of Mexican food and its incredible impact on American food culture.

Mexican beaded steer’s head at El Jardin – Tijuana for tacos with Claudette.

Famed for Mexican food since 1939 is ‘La Posta’ in New Mexico – Tacos + Fresca in San Diego – Tacos Al Vapour in Tucson Arizona.

Editors’ Letters

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Editors’
Letters

2019 Appetite For Excellence winners Luke Piccolo, Olivia Evans and Bianca Johnston with MJ from Rare Medium and Lucy Allon from A4X.

This issue could just be my proudest to date. Focusing on the next generation of foodservice leaders, it tells the stories of a swathe of young, passionate and incredibly talented individuals who I cannot thank enough for the energy and enthusiasm they have poured into its pages.
 
Fostering the next generation is essential in the forward trajectory of any industry and the Australian foodservice community looks set to flourish in the hands of those featured within this issue and other young professionals like them around the country. Their ideas, their ethos and their inherent care for food, food production and each other paves a new way for the future of food.
 
Just as inspiring has been our journey into regional areas for this issue and the dedicated celebration and championing of local produce we have found there. As much of the country continues to struggle with one of the worst droughts in Australian history, never has it been more vital to support our regional communities and with the exceptional hospitality on offer, never has there been more reasons to go and do so.
 
Our guest chef editor, 2019 Appetite for Excellence Young Restauranteur of the Year Luke Piccolo, effortlessly brings together both key themes of this issue – an extraordinarily talented young chef and restaurateur bringing elevated dining to regional Australia while shining a spotlight on seasonal and local produce the way nature intended.
 
We visit one of Luke’s local suppliers, lamb producer Sally Jones, whose approach to regenerative farming to foster soil health and promote multi species plant growth – ensures the quality of her flock of Dorper sheep despite the incredibly difficult seasonal conditions. Sally and Luke have worked together for four years, maintaining an open dialogue of feedback that has allowed Sally to continually improve her end product. Again, this connection between chef and producer is such a crucial component of supply chain success and cannot be underestimated.
 
Finally – the crowning glory of this issue was the opportunity to bring together the three winners of the 2019 Appetite for Excellence program – Young Restaurateur Luke Piccolo, Young Chef Bianca Johnston and Young Waiter Olivia Evans for a special collaborative dinner in Griffith. This culmination of next generation talent worked together to pull off a faultless evening that showcased regional lamb, produce from the Piccolo Family Farm and locally sourced beverages in a stunning event that sold out in under two hours.
 
Here’s to the next generation of our fabulous foodservice community – this issue is for you. A celebration of and a nod to your commitment and passion to your chosen career paths and your enthusiasm and interest in understanding and championing producers and farmers.
 

Mary-Jane Morse
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

What a pleasure to be co-editor of this great mag. I knew from the first conversation I had with MJ that this would be a heap of fun.
 
This year has been a whirlwind for my team and I, being named the Appetite for Excellence Young Restaurateur of the Year was an unexpected highlight. The Appetite program was the start of my relationship with MJ and Rare Medium and it’s been great to foster this further through the making of this issue.
 
MJ’s idea to highlight this year’s Appetite for Excellence alumni shows her amazing commitment to the next generation of our industry. Seeing the quality dishes from each of the chefs affirms that they truly are a talented bunch. Being able to work with Bianca and Olivia on the collab dinner was a buzz, to share our restaurant with them and have it come alive with their energy and ideas. They worked with our team seamlessly and I’ve never seen my staff brimming with excitement like they were that night.
 
I’m passionate about regional areas and it was an absolute blast hanging with MJ and Macca on the Roadies tour seeing first-hand the considerate and driven people producing quality lamb dishes and delivering extraordinary hospitality. A couple of highlights were munching on one of the best lamb pies I’ve ever tasted over an ice-cold Reschs in the Binalong pub and a night at the Sir George in Jugiong, a town of 150 people that pulls people off the Hume highway in hoards to check out their immaculately renovated venue and eat their delicious food.
 
There was one common theme for me in the making of this issue, it’s that food and hospitality are the mesh that hold together our regional communities. It’s evident locally in our community of Griffith and we are proud to be doing our bit to create a strong dining and food culture in this vibrant area.
 
Cheers to MJ and crew for inviting me on this journey.
 

Luke Piccolo
Chef & Owner
Limone Dining
@lukepiccolo_

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Editors’ Letters

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Editors’
Letters

 

I am constantly inspired by the innovation and drive of the Australian red meat industry and proud to be able to share its stories with you here.

In this issue, we visit 2018 Farmers of the Year, Tom and Phoebe Bull, who passionately believe that farming is about much more than what happens in the paddock. Driven by customer insights, cutting edge research and savvy marketing, the Bulls are paving a way to take lamb from a commodity to a premium product – identifying and breeding sheep for lucrative marbling traits.

Our guest chef editor Peter Gunn certainly made for a lot of laughs putting together this issue. Getting to know him and his team, the ins and outs of transitioning from a renowned monthly pop up to a fine dining restaurant, and his unwavering quest to deliver an experience that goes beyond just dining was definitely a highlight.

As always, this issue explores a range of venues, ideas and inspiration for you to remain informed, engaged and inspired by Australian lamb, its prospects and its place on menus today and into the future.

Enjoy. We sure did.

 

Mary-Jane Morse
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

I came to Australia 10 years ago but haven’t had the chance to travel much. Coming on board as guest chef for this issue was so much fun but it also meant I got to get out of my day to day, experience different parts of Australia and meet so many awesome people along the way. I really enjoyed meeting and talking to all the different chefs at the cafes and restaurants we visited on our Roadies trip from Broadbeach to Bellingen. Just hanging out with them and learning about different ways they are using lamb as well as talking about their businesses was great and something I’d like to do a lot more of.

As chefs these days, most of the time we are just cutting meat out of a bag and we are missing out on so much of what actually goes into that meat before it gets to us. Visiting Tom & Phoebe Bull on their sheep farm and learning about all the science and technology that goes into the lamb they produce and how much work goes on every day made me realise just how complex it actually is. I really had no idea how much goes into producing this incredible lamb and it was really inspiring to learn and I think everyone cooking with lamb should make an effort to know more about where it is coming from. It makes me really value the produce and want to do a better job with it out of respect.

This experience has been a real eye-opener for me meeting and learning from so many professionals working in this industry, from the farmers to the butchers and of course all the great chefs. Lamb is such an iconic Australian ingredient that people already feel connected to but working on this issue, visiting the farm, our butchery masterclass with Troy at Meatsmith and all the tasty lamb we got to try along the way makes me feel even more connected and inspired and I hope it inspires you too.

 

Peter Gunn
Chef / Owner
Ides
@petergunn501

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Spotlight On

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WHAT DOES SUSTAINABILITY TASTE LIKE?

 
 

The current global population sits at 7.8 billion – an estimated 800 million do not have enough food to sustain them daily.
 
The objective of agriculture is to feed the world now and into the future – but with the population already stretching available arable resources and heading towards nine billion by 2050 – feeding the world is a colossal task.

Listen to Mark’s audio reading of this story.

 

Feeding the world creates a tension between agriculture, efficiency and the economy in being environmentally sensitive but without sacrificing economic viability. Can we be economically viable without cost to the environment? It is a tension between the past, present and future and a question for our livelihoods.
 
In recent decades, there has been enormous growth in livestock production, driven by increasing demand for premium brands from a burgeoning middle class in developing nations, which is putting additional pressure on agricultural systems.

A selection of beef from premium Australian brands passionate about sustainability.

A selection of beef from premium Australian brands passionate about sustainability.

In agricultural terms, sustainability is the pursuit of economic growth without depletion of environmental resources. It is also, in a holistic sense, about the human factor. It is about the ongoing ability for farmers to provide for our very existence; an ability under threat from the degradation of arable land through human activity that continues to deplete our most valuable resource; the soil.
 
The twentieth century saw increased pressure of population growth and the implementation of post-war industrial agricultural. Practices like fertilisation and use of pesticides; monoculture cropping and intensive livestock production; urbanisation, deforestation and increasing use of fossil fuels – designed to feed and fuel a growing world – have stressed the world’s arable lands to the point of failure.
 
 
 

The World Economic Forum’s top five long-term global risks are all environment-related. With that, sustainable agriculture, and perhaps more pertinently regenerative agriculture, is set to take centre stage. The concept of sustainable agriculture is not new – but it is the essential ingredient in feeding the world.

 
 
 
Regenerative agriculture is a set of farmland management practices that go beyond sustainable farming to rebuild soil health, a key solution to combating climate change and recapturing carbon. There is a broad agreement that weather patterns are changing and that agricultural systems must evolve to meet the challenges of an increasingly volatile climate.

Regenerative agriculture rebuilds soil health - a key solution in capturing carbon.

Regenerative agriculture rebuilds soil health – a key solution in capturing carbon.

Beef production, like any agricultural activity, has an environmental footprint and is a contributor to CO2 emissions. However, the Australian beef industry believes that it can not only improve the operating environment, but also actively reduce emissions to operate in a carbon neutral capacity. In fact, the Australian beef industry has set the ambitious goal of being carbon neutral by 2030.
 
I spoke to several leading Australian beef brands about what sustainability means to them – what does it look like in practice and ultimately, what does it taste like?
 
The Australian beef industry, through its Australian Beef Sustainability Framework, defines sustainability as the production of beef in a manner that is socially, environmentally and economically responsible by caring for natural resources, people and the community, ensuring the health and welfare of animals, and driving continuous improvement.

Greenham, the business behind brands like Cape Grim, follows the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework’s definition of sustainability throughout its operations.

Greenham, the business behind brands like Cape Grim, follows the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework’s definition of sustainability throughout its operations.

Many Australian beef producers feel that a regenerative approach to pastoral management and grazing is part of the solution. Regenerative farming is rediscovering the benefits of traditional practices and awakening to land management techniques suited to our environment, not those we inherited from our European forebears.
 
This new generation of farmers have a conscious radical pragmatism that comes from generations on the land. Rather than being evangelical outliers, they recognise that without immediate change, the future is finite. These farmers are using tradition, technology and science to ensure the long-term viability of their families, the industry and their largest financial asset, the land.
 
Three years of drought tested the capacity of agricultural systems and their ability to withstand such a prolonged dry spell. The choice was two horned – maintain stock levels though the purchase of feed and continuing to graze [to the point of degradation] or maintain the natural feed and soil holding capacity by selling stock at record low prices and restocking when things turned around. Both choices hinged on the desperate hope that seasonal rains would return.
 

Rob Lennon of Gundooee Organics.

Rob Lennon of Gundooee Organics.

Rob Lennon runs a herd of grass-fed wagyu at Gundooee Organics located about an hour out of Mudgee NSW. Despite three years of the worst drought in living memory and savage bushfires destroying his pasture, they were able to regenerate quickly with the return of seasonal rainfall.
 
 
 

“It is pointless to sit there hoping for rain. You have to be prepared for wind or dry or rain. That is a big part of what regenerative agriculture is. It is about resilience. I’m a microbe farmer. I don’t grow beef, I grow soil,” Rob said.

 
 
 
This mercurial statement can be taken literally, as Rob Lennon, like many like-minded farmers, recognises that biodiversity starts at a micro level and that soil is the fundamental basis of a successful agro ecosystem.
 
Rob puts this ability down to the 15 years he has spent ‘growing his soil’ – giving them the capacity to recover and allowing the farm a relatively quick return to positive cashflow.

Organic grass-fed wagyu on Gundooee farm.

Organic grass-fed wagyu on Gundooee farm.

Founded in 2017, Provenir holds the belief that the best quality meat comes from livestock that are raised to the highest of welfare standards. Their farm gate business model utilises a transportable, fully integrated meat processing plant that not only eliminates unnecessary stress on livestock, it gives them a rare insight into practices across a variety of properties and allows them to make an objective assessment on beef quality.
 
 
 

“What we are doing is not new – we are practicing an ancient tradition of processing at the point of production. In our experience the regenerative farmers we have worked with in southern NSW they are some of the most productive, economically viable farmers, and are also relaxed and happy people finding balance in nature, farming and life,” said founder Jayne Newgreen.

 
 
 

Provenir’s on-farm processing plant eliminates unnecessary stress on livestock.

Provenir’s on-farm processing plant eliminates unnecessary stress on livestock.

Flinders Island Meat was established by the Madden family in 2010 in the middle of Bass Straight. Now called Finders + Co, the multi brand meat-company supplies some of the best chefs and retailers in the country – along with the bold claim of being carbon neutral. On 1 December 2018, Flinders + Co became the first meat company in the world to fully offset all carbon emissions.
 
“We are about more than just meat, we want to ask the hard questions and tackle the big issues. Issues of sustainability, ethics and the environment. Questions of provenance, health and humanity. Ever since the advent of agriculture, humans have been rewarded when they work hand in hand with their environment. Equally, they are punished when they have not balanced the environmental ledger and caused damage to their own habitat,” said Managing Director James Madden.

James and David Madden of Flinders & Co - the first meat company in the world to fully offset carbon emissions.

James and David Madden of Flinders & Co – the first meat company in the world to fully offset carbon emissions.

“I believe the more we explore solutions with an open mind, the more likely we are to become more and more economically viable. Sometimes farmers can be cynical of new strategies or approaches – I know this first hand having grown up on a farm. Even if there is a more efficient, better suited approach to doing something, sometimes they are more comfortable continuing to do things the old way.”
 
 
 

“It is important that we continue to demonstrate that regenerative principles can drive greater profitability on farm. I think it is very important that we don’t characterise regenerative agriculture as a single mode of operation or a single set of rules. It is the principles that are important and everyone should be encouraged to pick and choose as many of them that suit their individual situation,” Madden said.

 
 
 
While yield has been the traditional metric for farmers and graziers it does not tell the entire story. Regenerative agriculture can increase profitability through a significant decrease in the cost of external inputs, such as fertilisers, chemical inputs and fuel costs, and an increased end market value. Increasing the value of the land asset at the same time is the financial cream on top.
 
Beef is big business. Australia is one of the world’s largest exporters and most efficient producers of beef – and was the world’s most valuable beef exporter in 2019 with total exports generating AUD $10.8 billion. However, producer profits tend to be low, affecting the ability to withstand unexpected shocks such as drought. Coupled with a range of social and environmental pressures – the Australian beef industry recognised a need to evolve the world-leading Australian Beef Sustainability Framework was established.
 
“As a major land user, the beef industry has a close relationship with the environment and is particularly exposed to environmental risks such as climate variability. The industry prospers through maintaining a healthy environment and thriving ecosystem, including soil, vegetation, water and air. The beef industry is committed to enhancing the ecosystems that foster productivity, while fulfilling its role as environmental stewards,’ part of the Framework reads.
 
While strict regenerative criteria may be challenging for large scale producers, the Framework does highlight the same issues and a similar response. The industry needs to adapt to the changing environment by improving land management practices through the mitigation of nutrient and sediment loss and efficient use of water as a means to mitigating and managing climate change risk.

Cattle on a NAPCo property in northern Australia - NAPCo launched Australia’s first carbon neutral certified beef brand in 2019.

Cattle on a NAPCo property in northern Australia – NAPCo launched Australia’s first carbon neutral certified beef brand in 2019.

Five Founders, launched in 2019, is a subsidiary of one of Australia’s largest and oldest cattle companies, The North Australian Pastoral Company. NAPCo manages a herd of 200,000 cattle, across six million hectares of land throughout Queensland and the Northern Territory [some 1% of Australia’s land mass].
 
Sales General Manager James Carson says that they have achieved improved productivity through carefully managing soils and grasses using appropriate livestock grazing practices and improvements to their cattle herd through an internal genetics program.
 
In 2019, Five Founders became Australia’s first carbon neutral certified beef brand, through their long-term approach to vegetation and land management, and are on a journey to continue to reduce their carbon footprint through many initiatives including the shift to renewable energy sources and biodiversity across stations and methane reduction through feed additives.
 
 
 

“Regenerative agriculture is more economically viable in some segments of agriculture than others. For a traditional grass finished cattle producer, regenerative agriculture throws up fewer challenges than a traditional grain grower for example. There is no doubt that regenerative agriculture is attracting more interest and as more participants enter this space, viability will become more common place.”

 
 
 

NAPCo's James Carson says that moving from traditional to regenerative agriculture requires a change in mindset, practices and inputs.

NAPCo’s James Carson says that moving from traditional to regenerative agriculture requires a change in mindset, practices and inputs.

“Moving from traditional to regenerative agriculture requires a change in mindset, practices and inputs. Consumers want to feel good about their purchase decision so by providing a sustainable option to them makes perfect sense. Customers in developed markets have the disposable income to pay for this attribute and it is a growing market,” Carson said.
 
Greenham – the business behind beef brands like Cape Grim and Bass Strait – works with the Australian Beef Sustainability Framework to follow its definition of sustainability in their operations. Their approach involves looking at the whole picture across animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental management and community.

Greenham looks at sustainability as the whole picture across animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental management and community.

Greenham looks at sustainability as the whole picture across animal welfare, economic resilience, environmental management and community.

“Grass-fed beef from sustainably grazed pastures reduces top soil erosion and decreases the emission of methane and greenhouse gasses, while removing carbon dioxide from the atmospheres. Our brand Cape Grim uses only cattle sourced from Tasmanian farms, which operate in a very sustainable environment with 80% of the islands energy requirements coming from renewable sources.”
 
 
 

“In essence, to regenerate is to renew or to restore. In beef production, our farmers are continually restoring their land and increasing welfare practices as this is fundamental to producing high quality grass-fed beef and ultimately their business productivity,” said Marketing Manager Jelena Radisic.

 
 
 
Provenir’s Jayne Newgreen is pragmatic that no matter how ‘sustainable’ a beef brand is, it will count for nothing if the eating quality is not there to back up sustainable practices. Jayne says that consumers will not sacrifice quality over the notion of sustainability.
 
“Consumers are looking for more than just a catchphrase and ‘sustainable’ is not a clear definition. The restauranteurs and customers that Provenir supplies are incredibly savvy, they want more and deserve more than a catchphrase. We give customers knowledge and empower them to make up their own mind as to how our vision of sustainability and regenerative farming fits into their ethos of sustainable beef,” she said.

Provenir’s Jayne Newgreen says sustainability will count for nothing if the quality doesn’t back it up.

Provenir’s Jayne Newgreen says sustainability will count for nothing if the quality doesn’t back it up.

James Madden believes there is a financial imperative to sustainable Australian beef and an opportunity to transform the market.
 
“Developed markets such as the US, Europe, Japan and Singapore are increasingly placing a higher and higher importance on the sustainability attributes of products. If we are able to differentiate ourselves within these markets, then it is just another step for our industry to continue to transform from a commodity based market to a branded product based market, with better premiums to match,” he said.
 
At the Wilmot Cattle Co in NSW’s New England Tablelands, manager Stuart Austin has a long held passion for holistic management and regenerative agriculture.
 
 
 

“We know that diversity in our system is critical and we have a commitment to the ecological improvement of our land. There is a symbiotic relationship between soil, plants and animals and our role is to enable that to ensure that our soil is active, functioning and healthy.”

 
 
 
“It is a constant learning journey what we are doing. I want to share with others for their betterment and for the betterment of our industry and fundamentally for the betterment of our world. We know that the more of our industry that can uptake regenerative agriculture principles that will put more carbon in our soils across Australia and across the world. And we will be contributing to the reversal of climate change,” Stuart said.
 
With leading brands and producers like these – and an industry committed to the continual improvement of itself across a suite of sustainability indicators – what does sustainability taste like?
 
It tastes like hope for the future.

What’s Good in the Hood

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Each issue we explore a new neighbourhood for the best eats and treats in the local community.

SYDNEY’S INNER WEST

WITH MYFFY RIGBY

 

If anyone is qualified to show us the best food in the neighbourhood it is Good Food Guide Editor and all-around fabulous food fanatic Myffy Rigby. We took to the streets of Sydney’s vibrant and vivacious Inner West to check out Myffy’s favourite local spots from epic Egyptian eats to “the best burger in Australia” on a sunny rooftop – here’s what’s good in the Inner West hood.

Our What’s Good in the Hood guest host Myffy Rigby.

CAFE PACI

Beef Tongue Taco

 

Cafe Paci’s Pasi Petanen and the basis of their delicious taco – the beef tongue is brined, poached, shaved and then cooked over coals.

The final product – Beef tongue taco at Cafe Paci

MAPO GELATO

Avocado Sorbet & Fior Di Latte Gelato

 

Architect turned gelato god Matteo Pochintesta.

Avocado Sorbet and Fior Di Latte Gelato at Mapo.

CAIRO TAKEAWAY

Charcoal Lamb Pita Pocket &
Hawawshi – spiced mince flatbread

 

Cooked to order kofta over coals at Cairo Takeaway and Hawawshi aka crispy pockets of goodness – spiced mince flatbread with onions and peppers.

Cairo Takeaway’s charcoal lamb pita pocket stuffed with house pickles, salad and tahina.

OXFORD TAVERN

Brisket, Hot Links & BBQ Sides

 

In today’s edition of MJ and Myffy eating things – it’s brisket ladies and gentlemen.

Oxford Tavern’s Black Betty smoker pumps out deliciousness like this smoked brisket with hot links and classic BBQ sides.

LP’S QUALITY MEATS & BELLA BRUTTA

Beef Cheek with polenta and garlic & parsley oil

 

LP’s has reopened for weekend lunches in addition to the wholesale smallgoods business with products like this beef bresaola in the charcuterie room at LPs.

Bella Brutta’s beef cheek special – decadently tender beef cheeks with wickedly buttery polenta and parsley and garlic oil.

MARY’S ON TOP

Mary’s Burger

 

Jake Smyth spinning yarns and flipping burgs at the new Mary’s On Top on the Lansdowne rooftop.

The construction of burger condiments is an actual science.

The Mary’s burger – “the best burger in Australia” according to Myffy.

Editors’ Letters

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Editors’
Letters

This issue comes with mixed sentiment as we warmly celebrate our tenth issue and simultaneously come to terms with COVID-19, its impact on the foodservice sector and the flow-on effect to suppliers and producers.
 
From a red meat industry perspective – we are fortunate to remain operational, while the markets for Australian beef and lamb fluctuate with continual changes in demand and behaviour at home and around the globe.
 
Originally intended to align with Australian Beef the Greatest’s sponsorship of the Australian Olympic and Paralympic teams for Tokyo 2020, this issue has been through its own raft of changes. The postponement of the Olympics, an international travel ban and severely restricted domestic travel, saw us bring the focus squarely back home.
 
Our guest chef editor Josh Raine hails from one of the country’s most renowned restaurants – the tenacious Tetsuya’s, where many a successful chef has done their time. Before the impact of COVID-19, this national treasure was still at the top of the restaurant game, continually evolving and still, after 30 years, a drawcard for customers around the world seeking the ultimate in fine dining experience.
 
Sticking with the Japanese theme, we took a trip to Mayura Station, one of the beef producers proudly featured on the Tetsuya’s menu. Wagyu is the fastest growing breed of beef in Australia and Mayura Station has been a key player from the start. Their fully vertically integrated approach – with their very own on-farm restaurant – and a feeding regime with special ingredients like chocolate and lollies – makes the Mayura Station especially sweet.
 
Whilst this issue was to be filled with food, inspiration and tales of Tokyo – we are proud instead to bring you a wealth of Japanese inspired cuisine from our hospitality community right here at home. From time-honoured traditions to inspired innovations, the finesse of fine dining to the satisfaction of a stadium sandwich – we hope the stories of your comrades, their kitchens and their cooking bring you some ISO inspiration.
 
 

Mary-Jane Morse
 
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

Earlier this year, before COVID-19 changed the shape of hospitality, I went on an eye-opening trip across the rolling cliffs of the Limestone Coast in South Australia. The bushfires were raging at this point and after flying over much devastation to get there, it was incredible to see the lushness of the area.
 
My good friend MJ had invited me on this trip, to see how wagyu cattle are produced in Australia. I first met MJ traveling on a produce tour through Queensland when I was a finalist in the Appetite for Excellence program. Coming from a family of farmers, she is incredibly knowledgeable and her awareness of the beef industry is second to none. I remember coming away from that trip and feeling inspired, with a hunger to develop my own knowledge.
 
My first job was in a local butcher at the ripe old age of 14 – so you could say that the meat industry has been influential throughout my life and I learnt the tricks of the trade early on. When MJ presented me with the opportunity for a trip to delve deeper into wagyu – my ideal location was Mayura Station – a product that has been influential in my style of cooking over the past seven years.
 
When I moved from the UK and started working with Australian produce, Mayura Station set the benchmark high. I first discovered it as head chef at Urbane where I chose to work with the underrated oyster blade. This amazing piece of meat has an unbelievable flavour profile and people just kept coming back for more. It was on the menu for two years and over that time, Urbane went from two hats to three and I got to work with some of the best producers in Australia.
 
One of the first products I wanted to bring to Tetusya’s was Mayura Station beef – it truly is my go-to and the basis for our signature Ponzu Wasabi dish. I am exceptionally passionate and appreciative of this product and have now seen first-hand the dedication that goes into its creation. It’s not a job – it’s a lifestyle and Mayura Station has given me the most incredible artwork. All I have to do is frame it.
 
Visiting Mayura Station was definitely a highlight for me in the making of this issue and I highly recommend you check out the story and the video about this amazing beef.
 
Whilst I was obviously disappointed that we couldn’t travel to Japan as originally intended, our trip through Queensland trying incredible beef dishes at various Japanese restaurants was really fun and it was great to see the calibre of cooking and the range of cuts being used.
 
I hope you find some things in this issue to keep you inspired about your craft and your cooking during isolation and beyond.
 

Josh Raine

Executive Chef
Tetsuya’s
@chefjoshraine
@tetsuyasydney

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Editors’ Letters

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Editors’
Letters

Welcome to issue eight of our seasonal e-magazine. I feel incredibly privileged to share with you the stories of Australian beef and lamb from paddock to plate – from our inspiring producers and formidable chef editors to the exceptional beef and lamb dishes on menus around the country and the world.
 
This issue is dedicated to beautiful beef and the abundance of opportunities when utilising the whole bountiful beef carcase. Common themes weaved throughout the issue shine a light on the prospects and possibilities when communication and collaboration occur through the supply chain.
 
In planning for this issue, our guest chef editor Clayton Wells from Automata and A1 Canteen in Sydney, expressed an interest in finding out why he can’t always get the cuts he wants when he wants them and so we journey into the Australian beef supply chain for answers. What we find, which I think is more important than answers, are opportunities. With more open communication between producer, processor and customer and a willingness to action change – those opportunities are quite literally endless. It all starts with a conversation. So what do you have to say?
 
Our feature story on the Grand Hyatt Singapore’s Natural Fall program shows how things can be done differently – all it takes is an idea and an appetite to make it work. Now importing nine full Australian beef carcases every three weeks, including bones and offal, this story looks at a different procurement model for beef and the swag of benefits that come with it. This incredible story sets a benchmark for what is possible when passionate chefs collaborate with a proactive processor. It rewards producers for the exceptional work they do and provides customers with better quality, better value and a greater range of beef cuts on menu. Did we mention one price per kilo for beef?
 
This issue is literally packed from end to end – or more pertinently from tongue to tail – with ideas and inspiration for utilising all parts of the beef carcase. Our On the Menu section is an ode to the beef carcase with dishes utilising non-loin cuts from the tongue to the tail and everything in between. It’s inspiring to see so many chefs exploring life beyond the loin, getting creative with cuts and educating and engaging diners with the possibilities of Australian beef in the process.
 
We are all busy and sometimes convenience trumps creativity but how do we move forward if we don’t challenge the status quo? In this issue, we encourage you to think a little differently, collaborate and communicate more openly and create your own opportunities for change.
 
Don’t look back – you’re not going that way. The future is now and it’s bright. How are you going to shine?

 

Mary-Jane Morse
 
Meat & Livestock Australia
[email protected]
@_raremedium

When MJ and I started brainstorming, I wanted to understand why we chefs have issues obtaining less popular cuts on a regular basis considering the size of the beef industry here in Australia. Where does all the offal go? I have always wanted to be able to serve cuts like beef heart & veal sweetbreads to my customers, but I always end up at a roadblock when it comes to consistency in supply.

We headed up to Casino, NSW to the Northern Co-operative Meat Company (NCMC) where we met with Mark Manning and took a tour of their farms and processing facilities. It was inspiring to see the co-operative model working so well, especially in times of drought and seeing how they manage the land to still produce great consistent pasture-raised beef. Part of our conversations led us to discuss my issues as a chef with supply and I soon realised it really is just about establishing a relationship with people closer to the product.

A few weeks later we headed down to Tassie, which is one of my favourite spots, to basically try and eat every beef dish in the state. It started with a beef pie, then a bunch of excellent meals and good times and ended with…more pies.

I hope you enjoy this issue as much as we have enjoyed being part of it, I hope this opens up more conversations and opportunities for us all when it comes to our wonderful Aussie beef.

Love your work MJ & Macca.

 

Clayton Wells
 
Automata & A1 Canteen
@c_j_wells
@automata_syd
@a1canteen

Copyright: this publication is published by Meat & Livestock Australia Limited ABN 39 081 678 364 (MLA).

Guest Chef Profile

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Talented young chef Josh Raine follows a long line of leading chefs to head up the kitchen at iconic Sydney restaurant Tetsuya’s.
 
For 30 years, Tetsuya’s has set a benchmark for fine dining in the harbour city and helped put Australia on the map as a destination for world-class dining.

With a swathe of Australia’s best chefs coming up through the Tetsuya’s ranks including Martin Benn, Darren Robertson, Clayton Wells, Luke Powell and many more – Josh recognises he has big shoes to fill. But as they say, if the shoe fits, wear it – and the boy from Oxfordshire is certainly wearing it well.
 
We visited Josh at Tetsuya’s for a behind-the-scenes look into one of Sydney’s most well-regarded kitchens and the role Australian beef plays on the intricate and exquisite eight-course degustation-only menu.

“I would like to thank the farmers for their hard work and passion – it actually makes my job easier because you are giving me such an amazing product. All your hard work doesn’t get lost – we applaud you and thank you so much for your incredible product.”

Tetsuya’s executive chef Josh Raine.

Josh got his first taste for Aussie fine dining working with Shane Osborn – the first Australian chef to be awarded one and two Michelin stars – at his restaurant Pied-a-Terre in London. Josh arrived in Australia to work at Urbane in Brisbane where he was head chef for four years before moving to Tetsuya’s where he now manages a team of 17 who work together to keep the icon evolving.

Tetsuya’s utilises grass-fed, grain-fed and wagyu beef depending on the menu and the season but generally opts for high marbling across a range of cuts. Beef at Tetsuya’s is wet aged for two months then further aged for two weeks on Himilayan salt blocks to reduce moisture content and allow for quicker cooking whilst intensifying flavours.

At Tetsuya’s the focus is on Japanese technique with French influences – combining the best of both worlds to showcase premium Australian produce. The eight-course menu is heavily centred on seasonality – adapting to focus on the best seasonal produce – with a slightly different version offered across each of the three different dining rooms.

Rangers Valley Black Onyx Short Rib is brined for eight hours and cooked at 60 degrees for 30 hours, then pressed and portioned. For service, it is charred on the yakitori and finished with fermented pickled shiitake powder. Served with charred shishito pepper, enoki and baby leek.

Mayura Station Wagyu Sirloin is cooked over coals then topped with a ponzu veil and served with Tasmanian wasabi, eshallot, applewood smoked cipollini onions and marigold leaf.

Cape Grim Grassfed Tenderloin is cooked over the hibachi grill then left to rest in rendered wagyu fat before a final flash over the coals with miso butter and served with sugar snap peas, charred asparagus and pea tendrils.

Producer Story

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Originally used for labour in mining, forestry, transportation and rice farming in Japan, the breeding characteristics of wagyu cattle were focused on strength and endurance, resulting in large amounts of intramuscular fat stores which served as a readily available energy source for the cattle.

 
 
These characteristics now translate to the rich, decadent and tender beef that customers around the world have grown to love. The wagyu name has become synonymous with luxury – a breed of cattle renowned for its exceptional eating experience and unparalleled marbling.

Decadently marbled wagyu beef on the menu at Tetsuya’s in Sydney.

Identifying the potential of wagyu as a premium beef product, key players in the Australian beef industry diligently paved the way for the influx of premium Australian wagyu now on the plates of diners around the world.
 
These trailblazers were instrumental in importing closely-guarded wagyu genetics to Australia during a small window of time between the mid-1980s through to the 1990s. Names like Blackmore, Westholme (AACo), Sher Wagyu, Robbins Island, Hughes Pastoral and Mayura Station have made Australian wagyu the booming industry it is today.

95% of Australian wagyu production is derived from Japanese Black genetics – one of four breeds of Japanese cattle classified in Japan as ‘wagyu’ – which translates to ‘Japanese cow’. Pictured is a wagyu bull at Mayura Station.

Australia is now the second-largest producer of wagyu in the world – coming in only behind Japan. With highly integrated supply chains that optimise and ensure quality from paddock to plate, Australian wagyu is a trusted source of premium luxury beef. Wagyu is also the fastest growing breed of beef in Australia with our national herd expected to increase to 600,000 in the next five years.

Producer Story – Sweet Home Mayura

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Producer Story: The Way to Wagyu

Sweet Home
Mayura

We visited Mayura Station on South Australia’s Limestone Coast with Tetsuya’s executive chef Josh Raine to learn more about the Mayura Station story and its unique chocolate fed wagyu beef.
“At Mayura Station, we’re about producing a beef product with the ultimate wow factor. It’s not just about being really tender, my goal is to produce beef with a wonderful flavour profile and it all comes off the back of being focused on producing the best quality beef we can.”

 
 

Scott de Bruin, Mayura Station.

Wagyu demonstrates exceptional and consistent eating quality with 75% of wagyu graded by Meat Standards Australia in the top 5% of Australian beef while the remaining 25% graded in the top 1%.

Mayura Station is a family business first established in 1845 that has been specialising in full-blood wagyu cattle since the mid-late 90s. The business now runs just over 8,000 head of full-blood wagyu cattle.

Mayura Station is a fully vertically integrated business focussed on having its own unique provenance. The cattle are born and bred at Mayura Station, they live their entire lives on the property and the majority of the feed and fodder they consume is grown on the property. Here Managing Director Scott de Bruin shows Tetsuya’s chef Josh Raine one of the crops.

The Mayura Station breeding herd is split into two distinct herds – an Autumn breeding herd and a spring breeding herd – ensuring a year-long supply of calves to feed into its production process and provide consistent product year-round.

After Mayura calves are born they spend the first six months with their mother out on pasture before weaning. The cattle are then moved into a free-range feeding program to prepare them for the feedlot – this is called backgrounding. They are still free to roam out in the paddocks but have their nutrition requirements delivered to them daily. Over a period of 12 months, the cattle will graduate through three different feeding rations tailored to optimise their growing at different stages. Based on maize silage grown on the property, grain is slowly added to the rations until the cattle reach 18 months of age.

At 19 months the Mayura cattle enter the onsite finishing feedlot – the aptly named Mayura Moo Cow Motel. The large barn has sawdust floors and cattle can move inside or outside as they please. Three feed rations are fed over a period of eight months – a grower ration during the growth period, a marbling ration to facilitate and optimise the development of intramuscular fat and a flavour ration for the last three months.

Renowned for its uniquely flavoured beef, Mayura’s special flavour ration includes chocolates, biscuit meal and lollies (in addition to grains, silage and foliage) which gives the beef a pronounced sweetness and nuttiness.

Wagyu fat has a low melting point of around 28 degrees celsius and each cut has its own unique flavour profile and different levels of richness from the varying levels of intramuscular fat.

Mark Wright, Chef and Manager of Mayura Station’s award-winning onsite restaurant The Tasting Room, says the best thing about wagyu is being able to pretty much grill everything on the carcase. Pictured here is a chuck tail flap on the menu at The Tasting Room.

Guest Chef Profile

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It can be a fairly common sentiment across media and industry to lay blame on the younger generation for the chef shortage in Australia. We hear all too often how young people don’t want to put in the hard yards, that they are entitled or that the ‘Masterchef’ effect sees them chasing only a quick rise to stardom.
 
Much like any industry, sport or profession – within the foodservice community there will always be those with natural skills, those who work hard to learn and those who will get by on just enough. Then, there will also be the special ones, the future leaders, the inspired – those who will drive the future of food and the foodservice industry.
 
This is their story.

Appetite for Excellence 2019 winners – Luke Piccolo, Bianca Johnston and Olivia Evans reunite for a special collaborative dinner showcasing lamb at Limone Dining in Griffith.

In the regional town of Griffith, six hours south west of Sydney in the Riverina region of NSW, Rare Medium proudly brought together the three winners of the 2019 Appetite for Excellence Awards for a special collaborative dinner showcasing local lamb and regional produce.
 
The one-off dinner sold out in less than two hours – a testament to Young Restauranteur of the Year Luke Piccolo and the reputation of his restaurant Limone Dining and the appetite of the local community to experience the talents of the trio.
 
Limone Dining is an acclaimed 45-seat regional restaurant that has been open for four years. Built by Luke’s family from reclaimed materials, the stunning venue is constructed from old primary production buildings – aligning to the restaurant’s ethos of sustainability and locality.

“Our menu is about showcasing local and utilising what’s in season which allows us to really change with the seasons and work with what’s available to us on a daily basis. We’re fortunate to be surrounded by amazing producers where we can get super fresh, high quality produce at our doorstep and we showcase those producers on a daily basis with our regional cuisine.”

The stunning Limone was built over eight years by Luke’s family from reclaimed materials.

One such producer is the 20-acre Piccolo Family Farm – run by Luke’s parents Peter and Rosa who also own and operate local café Miei Amici. Just six minutes’ drive from the restaurant, the farm produces the majority of herbs, garnishes, fruits and vegetables used on the Limone and Miei Amici menus creating an authentic paddock to plate experience for diners.
 
“I think regional dining is really important and it’s the reason why I actually moved back to Griffith. I saw the opportunity to bring everything I’d learnt working at restaurants in Sydney and Italy back to Griffith and utilise all the produce and ingredients we have here. And to do it in a really nice, relaxed setting, which I don’t think you can really find in a city area.”
 
Luke’s passion for the local area and the people and produce it represents cannot be underestimated and the young trailblazer has set about ensuring more of the world knows about it. In addition to running Limone Dining, Luke also runs large-scale events at Piccolo Family Farm including A Day in the Orchard – a festival of food, music and arts and The Long Lunch – an afternoon of regional food and beverages.

Produce is picked daily from Piccolo Family Farm to be used at Limone.

“We’re always looking forward and we’re always looking to improve what we do. The growth of the restaurant and the business is really important. I honestly think we’re still just scratching the surface of this region, it’s quite an untouched area, not a lot of people know about it as a tourist destination. So for me I think it’s about building on that and drawing people to the region and really showing them what we do and the produce that we have.”

Luke and Bianca breakdown the lamb carcases for the lamb showcase dinner at Limone.

Smoked lamb leg, heart and liver – the collaborative menu showcased the whole lamb carcase.

Bringing together fellow 2019 Appetite for Excellence winners – Young Chef of the Year Bianca Johnston and Young Waiter of the Year Olivia Evans for a collaborative dinner at Limone was another opportunity for Luke to promote his beloved Riverina region whilst also showcasing the talents of two of the industry’s brightest young stars to his hometown.
 
The two-day collaboration began at Piccolo Family Farm with a day sampling home-grown produce and menu testing with two lamb carcases from local producer Sally Jones. Working through the carcase, Luke and Bianca devised a menu that showcased the entire lamb with a range of dishes designed to celebrate the diversity of the protein whilst Olivia hand selected a range of local wines to match.
 
“Using the whole carcase is really important in respect to the whole process and to the animal but also it’s vital as lamb is so valuable. For me personally, I think that meat should be expensive because of the effort that goes into producing it and it makes you value it more and utilise as much as you can. It’s nice that we can showcase the whole animal to our guests with this menu that we’ve created for the dinner.”
 
For Luke, the opportunity to collaborate with the girls and share their talents with his hometown community exemplified the importance of the Appetite for Excellence program.
 
“The Appetite for Excellence program has been really pivotal in what we do. The networking was fantastic; I was introduced to so many amazing people doing very similar things but all over Australia. Meeting the sponsors and the industry was a great opportunity to actually create relationships and now we are building off that and things like this collaboration dinner.”

 “It’s really cool to have Bianca and Olivia coming all this way to put on an amazing dinner using our local lamb. This area grows some super high quality pasture fed lamb and we’re lucky to be able to put that on a plate at this special collaboration dinner.”

Day two saw the trio come together at Limone for the first time, familiarising themselves with an entirely different kitchen and set up, a completely new team and an event that was entirely their own. Seamlessly they worked together throughout the day to put on a flawless event that was in such high demand that some guests had travelled five hours to attend.
 
Young Chef of the Year Bianca Johnston from Tom McHugo’s in Hobart saw the collaboration as a unique opportunity to be able to work with two like-minded individuals who live and work in completely different places to her.
 
“I’m really excited to come together and bounce around ideas with people who I normally wouldn’t be working with and to learn about the different produce that is so prolific here. Obviously the lamb is really different to the stuff I work with at home so just coming to a different region and seeing the community here and working with the produce is so exciting.”

Bianca on the pass with Limone apprentice chef Liam Sibillin.

Lamb loin and sausage in broth.

“The style of cooking at Tom McHugo’s is pretty simple, it’s all about how the food tastes and creating comfort and that sense of nostalgia and that’s what I’m trying to bring to this collaborative menu. It’s pretty daunting to go into a fine dining restaurant but I think this dinner is more about the community coming together and just celebrating what this region has to offer.”
 
“I’m just looking forward to having a fun time in the kitchen with Luke and success to me will just be seeing everyone out there having good times, smiling, enjoying the wine, enjoying the food. I think it’s all about fun.”

Snacks of lamb intercostal skewers and cavolo nero with fennel.

Young Waiter of the Year Olivia Evans from the tiny 12 seat Fleet in Brunswick Heads was excited to be ingrained into a new region and to discover regional nuisances outside those she is used to.
 
“I’m excited about being in another regional area because I live and work in a regional area and have become so used to my own network of farmers and producers. So it’s really amazing to see another part of Australia, another climate, another range of products that are being produced by a small and inspiring group of people.”
 
“At the event I will be looking after the wine pairing for the menu that Luke and Bianca have put together, working with some of the beautiful producers in the region and some of the local wines to find the perfect match for each dish.”

Olivia and Luke sampling local wines to pair with the lamb showcase menu.

“I think when we did the whole process with Appetite for Excellence, we all looked at each other and thought ‘imagine working together’ – the fact that we actually get to do that through this event is so amazing because it is not often that you get to work with a group of people who are like-minded like you are.”

Fried ravioli with spiced lamb.

For three young hospitality professionals to come together with little more than 24 hours to determine and test a menu utilising the whole lamb carcase, to match local beverages and to prepare, execute and host an entire event without fault – was an impressive thing to see.
 
Through their collaboration, their openness and willingness to learn and listen, their respect for the local and seasonal produce, their calm demeanours and skilled execution through every part of the process – these young superstars showed that the future of our food industry is in incredibly capable hands.