Australia's Food and Wine Trends 2014
Australia’s key food trends for 2014
Written by Jill Dupleix – food columnist, restaurant critic, author of 16 cookbooks and editor of The Sydney Morning Herald Good Café Guide.
Australia may be “down under”, but it’s right on top of the food trends on the global agenda for 2014. Restaurants from Perth to Parramatta have quinoa and kale on the menu. We’re dusting off our granny aprons and pickling, preserving, jamming and marmalading, smoking and curing. We’re fermenting everything that moves. We’re loving bowls of Japanese ramen noodles and rolls of Vietnamese rice paper and prawns. We’re into meatballs (from Mexican to Moroccan), flavoured salts, smoked chillies and anything served small-plate, share-plate and planked. We’re artisanal, modern Jewish, traditional Italian, spicy Sichuan, Middle Eastern and farmer’s market-fresh, all at once. Our cafes are cold-dripping small-batch, single-origin coffee and, yes, our baristas have beards.
But there’s more happening in Australian food and wine than the wholesale adoption and adaption of what’s happening elsewhere in the world. A generational shift has brought new energy to the eucalypt-scented air that’s changing what we eat and how we eat it.
Here, then, are a few of the trends Australia will be seeing in 2014, according to major shapers of our food and wine futures (a talented panel of communicators, chefs, retailers, artists, designers and entrepreneurs, listed below). Flavour researchers, come on down to discover riberries, wattleseed and lemon aspen (so good with a gin and tonic).
Trend-spotters, ready your radar for wallaby and goji berry dumplings, crowd-farmed conferences, cocktail trolleys and zero-waste cafes. It’s all going to peak in 2014 as technology meets craft, creativity sleeps with tradition, and everyone falls in love with Australia, one of the oldest and newest food and wine destinations in the world.
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.
Try it at Billy Kwong, 355 Crown Street, Surry Hills, NSW 61 2 9332 3300
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 newOrana 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 dustbowl of a land is, in fact, home to thousands of plants, herbs and sea grasses that flourish throughout the six aboriginal seasons of the year.
Try it at Orana Restaurant, 285 Rundle Street, Adelaide, SA 61 8 8232 3444
In a world-first for public catering, the innovative ideas forum TEDxSydney crowd-farmed the produce for a lunch for 2,200 people. The food, pledged by hundreds of local backyard, window-sill, balcony and community growers, ranged from Aberdeen Angus cattle to small bags of home-grown chillies, and was transformed by ARIA chefs Matt Moran and Simon Sandall into a communal feast at the Sydney Opera House in May 2013.
“It’s a powerful statement by the people of Sydney that they care about where their food comes from, and it changed people’s perceptions of catering forever,” says TEDx Sydney director Remo Giuffre. It also planted a seed in the minds of many Australians – by the end of 2013, the movement had spread to Melbourne with a crowd-farmed growers’ feast at the Queen Victoria Market masterminded by Grow It Local activist Jess Miller, where chef Adrian Borg transformed grower contributions such as heritage pigs, local asparagus and rooftop honey into a community feast.
Getting hotter – the Great Australian Barbeque
Our fascination with fire, that most primal of all cooking methods, will continue to burn. Home kitchens are opening up to the great outdoors as the barbecue increasingly becomes the most-used cooking tool at home. Walls are dissolving as pizza ovens, barbecues and home-smokers live half-inside and half-outside the home on terraces, balconies and decks.
“Many chefs have been looking to America and their southern-style barbecues, rubs and the impact of smoke, and we’re now seeing Aussie chefs turn inwards for their inspiration,” says butcher to the stars Anthony Puharich, of Victor Churchill Meats. “We’ll see a distinctly Australian flavour permeate the barbecue through the use of native woods such as mallee root, macadamia wood and eucalyptus leaves.”
Australia’s most awarded chef, Neil Perry of Rockpool, has long been a champion of Asian-Australian flavours. “I think we integrate Asia better than anywhere in the world, unhindered by cultural ties and traditions,” he says. “We’re a part of Asia, after all. For me, that is what sets us apart.”
His Sichuan-inspired Spice Temple restaurant has been joined by dozens of hot new modern Asian diners, most notably the Merivale Group’s Mr Wong, a vast urban Cantonese temple of yum cha and Peking duck banquets. “A lot of very talented Asian chefs used to cook modern French food because they didn’t think the Australian audience would appreciate their traditional food,” says entrepreneurial Merivale owner and restaurateur Justin Hemmes, tucking into chef Dan Hong’s raw sea scallop with lup cheong sausage and wood ear fungus, and lightly smoked eel, with silken tofu and century egg. “But Australians love variety, we love travel and we have great palates. We get it.”
And also… Asian Hipster Food
Terry Durack, Australia’s leading restaurant critic, says hipster Asian food is coming, whether we like it or not, as Asian food continues to evolve and be celebrated in a uniquely modern Australian way. “Expect mash-ups of hot dogs with kim chi, “salt ‘n’ pepa” squid, Peking duck burgers, Korean short rib bings (Chinese pancakes) and Singapore Slang cocktails,” he says. “We understand Asian food, we’ve grown up with it. Now we’re applying great produce to it and understanding what bits and pieces of tradition and authenticity we need to keep, and what we can do without.”
Case in point: the banh xeo (Vietnamese omelette) taco of pork, prawns, coconut, turmeric, bean shoots and spring onions at Melbourne’s irreverent Saigon Sally. As a result of this trend, says London-based Australian restaurateur Bill Granger, we’ll see a lot more interesting craft beers and spirits filtering through. “They’re more suited to street food such as ramen, burgers and tacos than wine,” he says.
Try it at Saigon Sally, 2 Duke Street, Windsor, Victoria +61 3 9939 5181
Those who have too much food, waste much of it. Those who have too little, waste nothing. Enter Joost Bakker, artist, environmentalist and now café-owner, who wants Australian restaurants to aim for a zero-waste future. He has recently built the world’s first zero-waste café in one of the atmospheric laneways that criss-cross the heart of Melbourne. “I’ve designed the café in reverse,” says Bakker. “My dream has always been to build restaurants that create no waste, so I’ve started at the end; assessing the waste production, and working back from there.”
Locally grown organic grain is milled onsite for baking, biodynamic milk for coffee comes in returnable stainless steel pails, and the Gaia food-dehydrator turns all food waste into clean, nutrient-rich fertiliser overnight, that then goes back to farmers to feed their crops. And there’s not a single rubbish bin in the place.
Try it at Silo by Joost, 123 Hardware St, Melbourne, VIC +61 3 9600 0588
Cocktails to go
Inventive, high-tech, foraged and fusioned, cocktails are being matched to food in the hippest joints around the country. Now, they’re even coming to your door. Christopher Thomas and Byron Woolfrey are first in the new drive towards portable, mobile cocktail services. Utilising quaint recycled airline trolleys from Australia’s long-defunct Ansett Airlines, and dressing in vintage pilot uniforms, their “Trolley’d” service is on-call for corporate and private functions. “We made a conscious choice to use what was available, such as the trolleys,” says Thomas. “Hence we source all our botanicals locally, from lemon aspen to blue flax lilly, and pre-batch our riberry Manhattans in recycled 220ml bottles.”
Rise and Shine – the all day breakfast
Need breakfast at 3pm? Make sure you wake up in Australia. “Australia’s sunny-side-up cafes are going from strength to strength,” says critic and industry observer Terry Durack. “The past 10 years have seen more than 3000 new cafes and nearly 30,000 new employees sign on across the nation.”
And the best-sellers in almost all these cafes is the egg and bacon roll, baked egg shashouka (eggs poached in spicy tomato sauce) and crushed avocado and lime on sourdough toast, available at any hour of the day. No wonder café revenue is projected to increase by 19 per cent to $6.3 billion in the next five years in Australia.
Try it at Ginger Brown, 464 Macquarie Street, South Hobart, TAS +61 3 6223 3631
Other hot trends for 2014:
Here’s what some of Australia’s top food and wine influencers had to say about trend nuances for 2014:
“The merging of health [superfoods, organics and wholefoods] with ethics [sustainability, free-range, alternative proteins] into a more general trend of mindful eating will be key. Think green juices and smoothies, grains and raw foods.”
Danielle Oppermann, ABC delicious magazine.
(i) for indigenous.
“The symbol [i] for indigenous will start appearing on hotel restaurant menus, to be seen in the same light as [v] for vegetarian and [gf] for gluten-free. This will help travellers and diners identify and experience something that will be uniquely Australian and can’t be replicated anywhere else. In a world where pasta carbonara appears on every room service menu in the world, this will stand out.”
Michael Hodgson, Brand Events Australia.
“We’ll see even more Korean food in Australia – it’s fresh, healthy, packed with vegetables and spice and it’s the perfect accompaniment to craft beer.”
Bill Granger, restaurateur.
“The humble, domestic lamington – a small square of soft cake dipped in chocolate and rolled in coconut – has always been deeply unfashionable… until now, as legions of Aussie café-owners and baristas spread the word in London, Paris and New York. In Sydney, check out the highly seasonal, creative, super-rich lamingtons from LusciousKiki in NSW, with their flavour riffs on double espresso, white chocolate, cranberries, and caramel. Just as well there’s a National Lamington Day on the calendar for 2014.”
Jill Dupleix, Sydney Morning Herald Good Café Guide.
“Fermentation and all things pickled, cured and smoked are taking on more of an Australian flavour, and chefs such as Luke Burgess of Tasmania’s Garagistes and Sydney’s Luke Powell [formerly of Tetsuya’s], Brent Savage of Monopole and Nathan Sasi of Nomad are, like us, using the best Australian produce coupled with the finest European traditions and techniques. Our culinary landscape is the richer for it.”
Anthony Puharich, Vic’s Meats and Victor Churchill.
“It’s the logical place for all my favourite current trends to meet – at the local pub. You’ve got craft beer, steamed dumplings [going off in Australia], fast-casual service and higher spice and chilli thresholds meeting Gen Y chefs who want to explore their own Korean, Thai, Cantonese, Singaporean, Japanese and Malaysian roots in their local neighbourhood hangouts. It’s an Ozzie izzy, ay.”
Terry Durack, Sydney Morning Herald.