Trends in Australian produce and food
Discover the current trends that are making an impact on restaurants and producers across the country
Balmoral Beach, Sydney, NSW
Trends that are currently making an impact in Australia have been bubbling under the surface for a while. It has been key individuals such as chefs, producers and industry spokespeople that have truly brought them to foreground. From superfoods to locally grown produce, these are the trends that are rocking the Australian food world.
Healthy and sustainable
People are passionate about good food, but they want it to be good for them. Food safety is a global concern, and a key trend is in provenance - understanding where your food is grown and by whom, which is a philosophical and ecological issue as much as gastronomic. Seasonality is big and food miles matter. Food lovers want to be close to their food source. It is about being more connected to the soil, the land and the process of eating. As a result backyard and balcony vegetable patches are booming.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape, Margaret River, WA
Whether it’s craft beer, cheese or jam, there is increasing demand for handmade produce. And they are giving the big guns a run for their money. Beer is a good example: beer consumption as a percentage of total alcohol sales is down to a 60 year low of 44%, yet craft beer from microbreweries is booming. Now more than 1500 brands vs 500 a decade ago.
Our most famous Aussie/Chinese chef and sustainability activist Kylie Kwong suggests more and more chefs, restaurateurs and home-cooks will be cooking and eating edible insects, as a healthy and available source of protein. “The 2013 UN Report on why developed countries should be eating more insects is absolutely riveting,” she says. “Besides, they’re delicious, sustainable to produce, super high in nutrition, an excellent alternative to protein and, for me, a very deep part of my traditional Chinese heritage.”
Kwong is leading the way at her Chinese diner Billy Kwong by serving adventurous diners stir-fried crickets with chilli and blackbean, and Cantonese fried rice with roasted mealworms, crushed wood cockroaches and chilli cricket sauce.
High Country Harvest Festival, VIC
Australia is home to thousands of plants, herbs and sea grasses that flourish throughout the six Aboriginal seasons of the year.
Australians are getting more Australian in the way they eat, looking ever closer to home for a real taste of their sunburnt country. Cue wild plants such as iron-rich warrigal greens that Indigenous Australians have known and enjoyed for centuries, now at a farmers’ market near you. Wallaby and kangaroo have been the hit proteins at Australian-themed dinners by and for visiting chefs such as Copenhagen’s Rene Redzepi, and the country’s beautiful, austere, acidic native muntries and quandongs are on the menus at Melbourne’s Attica, 2013’s highest new entry (at number 21) on the World’s 50 Best Restaurants list, and Peter Gilmore at Sydney’s Quay (number 48).
“I believe we are on the cusp of discovering our own identity,” says Jock Zonfrillo, creator and chef of Adelaide’s new Orana restaurant and more casual Street-ADL. “Australians have a responsibility to sustain the oldest culture on this rock and to grow ourselves by learning from the custodians of the land, not the owners.”
Zonfrillo’s obsession with native ingredients and immersion in Indigenous culture have resulted in dishes such as hot-smoked kangaroo shoulder sandwiches and fire-charred Coorong mullet with flax lilly and sweet apple berries.
It’s a delicious way to learn that this ancient land is, in fact, home to thousands of plants, herbs and sea grasses that flourish throughout the six aboriginal seasons of the year.
It’s back to nostalgia, with the granny trend being played out in cooking (and interiors). And it’s not so much grannies who are into it, more 20 and 30-somethings who are obsessed with rediscovering the skills of their forebears. Traditional skills such as baking the perfect scone, pickling cucumbers, curing meats, finding the perfect setting point for jam are becoming highly sought after.
Chihuahua Bar, Melbourne, VIC
There is a strong trend for Mexican, South American, Peruvian and Argentinian is all the rage. Everywhere, from bars to pop ups to restaurants, we are seeing tacos, enchilladas, tostadas, salsas and tequila. This food is fun, cheap and unpretentious, perfect for the relaxed culture of Australia.
Go with the grain
As part of the trend of becoming more health aware, Australians are embracing grains: quinoa, freekeh, chia seeds, amaranth, wild rice and burghul, for example. They are seen all over the country in restaurants, salad bars, cafes and home pantries as awareness of our health grows. Some are seen as “superfoods” with serious health qualities, adding to their appeal.
Australia has become a serious coffee nation, baristas are the new rock stars and much of the country’s socialising, and even business, is conducted in cafes. Australia’s own flat white is colonising the world, and coffee-making equipment becomes ever more scientific as consumers become more discerning. Coffee growers and roasters, too, are among the world’s best.