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  1. Trippy Taco

    November 4, 2013 by The E.A.T. Team

    trippy taco-11

    ON THE MENU 
    Black Bean Tacos
    ON THE GLOBE
    Melbourne, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Simon Fisher, Trippy Taco Owner
    “It all started with a love of tacos!” answered Simon. The friendly and mellow owner of Melbourne’s beloved taco joint sat down with us to explain how his passion for fresh tortillas and tacos grew into the bustling business it is today. His shop is nested in Fitzroy, one of the hippest areas of Melbourne, and beacons hungry taco-goers with a bright orange sign set with black lettering. Trippy Taco filled our tummies and our hearts.

    What started out as a one-time taco party turned into a booming business, which has grown in popularity over the last 7 years. Read on to hear about the Trippy Taco’s background in festival life, hippies, and peace. It’s pretty radical, if we do say so ourselves.

     To see how it’s evolved over time and how it’s managed to maintain the essence of what it was when it first started, I’m pretty happy about that.

    collage - trippy taco

    Could you tell us a bit about Trippy Taco and how it started?
    I guess if you go way back, Trippy Taco started in about 2000. I had already been living in California and Mexico for a few years and I was addicted to tacos. When I came home there was nothing like them around but there was a central American community living in Australia who had the flour to make the tortillas. I had leant how to make them when I was living in Mexico and California and just kept making them when I got home. I gave them to friends and they liked them, my dinner parties kept getting bigger. One time, we were up in Byron Bay and my friend, who lived in a bus with loads of hippy types on a caravan park, suggested that we have a party. So we had a day party and I made tacos, from then on it was called Trippy Taco. We put out flyers and everything, it was a real fun party. We had Djs and I had tacos. About 50 to 100 people turned up and from that, me and a couple of mates thought that we should keep doing it. We started to look at festivals that were coming up and that’s when we did our first event. I don’t think we made any money for about 3 years but we just loved doing it. We travelled around to all of the festivals and paid for ourselves to keep going. I did that for 5 or 6 years until we gradually got more popular. It was also getting more exhausting so I thought about getting a shop and making it a bit more stable, that’s when I bought the shop around the corner. We ran the business from there for about 5 years and then moved here 7 months ago. That’s it in a nutshell really. It all started with a love of tacos!

    So the idea originated in Byron Bay?
    Kind of, yeah. It just grew organically.

    What were you doing in California and Mexico?
    I was pretty much surfing and snowboarding. I was doing photographs for surf and snowboard magazines and also working at sporting events. In between events I would go surfing. I had a truck in Mexico and would go camping on the beach. I basically had a surf board and a gas stove, it was good fun. I met loads of people and just loved the food. I love all kinds of street food. I’m addicted to Vietnamese food too. These days there’s a lot of it around, you can even buy tortillas in the supermarkets. It’s pretty interesting to see all of these taco shops popping up everywhere. It’s good because it’s more tacos to eat!

    Do you go out to restaurants and order tacos?
    I don’t have much time. I make my own a lot at home. My place is vegetarian, but I’m not vegetarian.

    Why is Trippy Taco vegetarian but you’re not?
    I was just easier as we were doing a lot of festivals where people didn’t really want to buy meat. It seemed to work better that way so I kept doing it. There’s a different market for it. In some ways it’s kind of limiting but in other ways it works really well.

    What’s the best selling taco that you make at Trippy Taco?
    The black bean one. That’s probably the most popular. We also do a char-grilled Tofu taco and that seems to sell well. I love the breakfast taco with scrambled eggs and salsa. I just like the fresh tortillas! We’ve always made our own and you can’t beat it.

    Is it a Melbourne twist on traditional taco recipes?
    I guess so. I would say there’s traditional elements to it but I never really call it Mexican. I just learnt it while I was travelling and wanted to keep making it.

    Did you grow up in Australia?
    I grew up on the Gold Coast. I’ve lived in Melbourne now since about 1990. For most of my 20′s I was travelling around but would always come back to Melbourne. The Gold Coast is like Miami or something, it’s very American.

    How was it seeing your initial idea materialise in to a shop?
    It’s funny, isn’t it? It’s grown so organically! Basically it came from me borrowing things from my friends for festivals. I’d borrow cookers and all sorts. To see how it’s evolved over time and how it’s managed to maintain the essence of what it was when it first started, I’m pretty happy about that. On both shops, my Dad and I did the whole fit out so my parents are really proud to see how it’s grown too.

    Have you got a hospitality background?
    I’ve worked in a lot of kitchens and I love cooking. I’m not a chef, I just cook a lot. I haven’t got a huge repertoire, just tacos and burritos!

    That’s all you need huh?
    Yep!

    In Asia we noticed that street sellers would only have one item on the menu but they’d do it really well…
    Yeah, that was my idea for Trippy Taco I guess. In Melbourne we didn’t have the concept of ‘street food’. Even when I first opened the shop, everyone would eat their taco with a knife and fork. I gave up after while of saying they didn’t have to.

    Did you advertise the shop at all?
    I hadn’t ever advertised until very recently when I was approached by a couple of people. Before then it was always word of mouth. Back when I had the other shop it was just me in there cooking, people would have to come and wake me up! I would literally fall asleep reading at the back of the shop and people would come in for a taco and be like, ‘Excuse me, are you making food?’ and I’d say, ‘Yeah! What would you like?’. Now I’ve got about 25 staff so it’s totally different.

    Before I die I want to find true peace.

    Do you still cook?
    Sometimes. Not much, only when I’m training people. I like the food to be a certain way so I’m trying to get in there and train people.

    How do you make an authentic tortilla?
    Tortillas are pretty easy. I think the trick is to get to know how the flour behaves. It’s like anything, if you make it enough you just get to know that once you’ve finished mixing the dough it should be wetter than what I need it as it’ll keep soaking up water. It has to be a good thickness and the pan has to be a good temperature. They’re best when they bubble up and separate. When you see them puff up on the grill, that’s when you know you’ve got a good one. We make them everyday and stack them up.

    How many do you make a day?
    I don’t know. It’d be 100 or so.

    How did you go from making no profit at festivals to funding the shop?
    Just gradually I guess. It was made possible through borrowing money from my parents. They don’t have much money and I couldn’t get money from banks as I don’t have any assets. Even when I moved to this place and my books were looking really good they didn’t lend me anything, so I had to ask my parents. In some ways it’s better to self-fund it although it takes longer. If you get other people to invest you can do things more quickly but you’d have to make more compromises.

    Has it been hard work?
    Yes!

    Has it been worth it?
    Yes! At festivals, even though we didn’t make so much money, at one point we did a few weekends of festivals in a row and got a bunch of cash. That’s when I realised that I could make money from it. The next season I got a bit more serious and my friends thought it was too much like hard work. I got other people in to help but it’s always been fun.

    Do you still do festivals?
    No. Now, the hardest thing is managing people. There’s so many elements to keeping it all going.

    Where do you get your ingredients from?
    From different places. There’s Casa Iberica (http://casaibericadeli.com.au/) near here and another place called Aztec Products (http://www.aztecmexican.com.au/). Casa Iberica is a little Spanish deli and they’ve got lots of really good ingredients, they do really big sandwiches for about $5 so it’s great for lunch. You can choose whatever you want on it, they’ve got so many hams and salamis. I get a lot of my hot sauces from there too. That was another thing; nobody put free condiments on the table, it just didn’t happen. You always had to pay 20c for a sauce but I want people to be able to splash around hot sauce all over their stuff. At Trippy Taco I put different hot sauces out.

    Surely it’s a big decision to accompany your food with someone else’s product, how do you choose which sauces to offer?
    I just put my favourite ones out. There’s Tapatio, a chipotle sauce and a couple of others. A couple are hot but won’t kill you like some hot sauces, you can still taste it.

    Are you familiar with Byron Bay Chilli Company in Byron Bay? John the owner is so passionate about chillies!
    That’s how I was about tacos. I was trying to educate people, they had so may questions. People know now, through me and other people pushing it.

    So you’re job is done?
    Yeah! Which is good because it took a lot of energy. Just having to explain over and over. When Mad Mex (http://www.madmex.com.au/) first started, they put up a ‘How to eat a burrito’ guide! People just didn’t know but now they’re street food savvy.

    Why do you think Mexican food has become so popular here?
    It’s a fun thing and Mexican food suits our climate and way of life, it’s appealing. We’ve always liked beer and beers like Corona go hand-in-hand. We’ve got a good beach and surf culture. It’s fresh and has got wide appeal. Even when we were growing up here, our Mum’s would make us tacos from the hard shell packs. We all knew what tacos were but didn’t know what a fresh tortilla was.

    People in Melbourne seem very supportive of independent businesses, do you think that has been a factor in the success of Trippy Taco?
    Yeah, and that’s the reason why Melbourne is such a vibrant place, it’s not exclusive. In Sydney real estate was really expensive in the 90′s and for someone like me to go and start a shop, you just couldn’t! Down here the licencing laws were more relaxed. You could have a little bar, like a few people could get together and open it. I guess a lot of people had ideas, wanted to do them, and it was easy here. That’s the good thing about Melbourne and what makes it really interesting. One area seems to get a bit tired and then another little area will pop up, it’s real hard to keep track of as there’s a new place popping up everyday.

    If you were going out for food, where would you go?
    Last night I went to Izakaya Den (http://www.izakayaden.com.au/index.html) I love it there. There’s so many places, I don’t even know where to start!

    Is that what you do in your spare time?
    I don’t have much. When I do we go out to different places for dinner. We do a lot of cooking ourselves. I go through phases, so I’ll find somewhere that I really like and stick to it. At the moment I’ll have Pho from I Love Pho (https://www.facebook.com/ILovePho264richmond) everyday, it’s real nice. Ahh, Pizza! I love pizza as well. I Carusi (http://www.icarusipizza.com.au/) do the best pizzas.

    What do you cook at home?
    My girlfriend is Chinese so she cooks a lot of Cantonese, but she does anything really. She can get a recipe, cook it and it’ll be awesome! She cooks different stuff all of the time, so that’s amazing. I cook a lot of breakfasts, tacos, sometimes pancakes – I’m the breakfast guy.

    What do you want to do before you die?
    That’s a good question. Before I die I want to find true peace.

    Do you get stressed out?
    I guess I get stressed out as much as everyone else. I’ve been in to Buddhism for years now and they say that the moment of death is the moment of truth. Two things matter when you die; how you’ve lived your life and the state of your mind at the moment of death. They believe in reincarnation, so how your mind is and how you’ve lived will effect your re-birth. I guess my goal is to work towards that and learn to be peaceful.

    You seem pretty peaceful!
    Yeah, I’m doing all right but there’s always room for improvement.

    Do you hope that Trippy Taco gets kept in the family?
    In some way or other, yes definitely. It’s only been me really but I’d like to keep growing it. It’s just a project but I would like to see it keep evolving, like a Pokémon.

    ———————————————————

    http://trippytaco.com.au/

    234 Gertrude St, Fitzroy, Melbourne 3065
    03 9415 7711

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  2. Chin Up with Chin Chin

    September 8, 2013 by The E.A.T. Team

    top photo chin chin

    ON THE MENU 
    “Chin Chin Pork Roll Ups” red braised suckling pig with pancakes, slaw and Asian herbs.
    “Stud City” Jungle Curry with wild boar, pickled garlic and ginger.
    ON THE GLOBE
    Melbourne, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Ben Cooper, Executive Chef at Chin Chin
    Downstairs in the dark GoGo Bar, we met with Ben Cooper, Executive Chef at Melbourne’s premier Thai restaurant, Chin Chin. We heard about his vast experience in the food world, as well as gleaned some serious tips for living the good life. What struck us most about Chin Chin (other than the incredible food) was the omnipresent sense of fun and gratitude–every employee seemed to be enjoying themselves. We stayed for hours watching the young sous chefs chopping deftly with our mouths agape in awe. By the time we left, all the tables were full and the line outside was snaking far around the corner. Read on for Ben’s wisdom.

    I honestly believe that Melbourne is the food capital of Australia. The guests are so educated about the food scene, they are adventurous and open to new things.

     

    collage - chin chin

    How did you get involved in Chin Chin?
    It was by coincidence really. I had been Exec Chef at another place for 4 and a half years and it was time to move on. I had potentially taken a job elsewhere and Chris had spoken to me before about maybe working together, one thing led to another. I came on board as Head Chef and when the Exec Chef left 3 months after we opened, I took his role.

    So there were two Chefs that started Chin Chin?
    Yes, it was myself and Andrew. I came on board just as it opened. Andrew had written the original menu and whatnot and 3 months after opening he moved to Byron Bay.

    Where are you originally from?
    I started my career in Sydney. I worked with some amazing Chefs there; Neil Perry, Kyle Kwong, Janni Kyritsis. I went from Sydney to London and spent 5 years there. I was Sous Chef at Lobu, worked with David Thompson at Nahm, Smiths of Smithfield with John Torode. I came back here and moved to Melbourne. I was Head Chef at a couple of restaurants, Exec Chef at St Ali for 5 years, and now here.

    How has working in Melbourne kitchens been compared to the rest of your career?
    Each city is different, every city has got it’s own feel. When I started my career in Sydney it felt like there was always Chefs from other kitchens dining in your restaurant. You know, all of the big name Chefs, and because I worked from Neil Perry he constantly dined with other big name Chefs, so it felt like you were always cooking for a special crew. Down here it doesn’t feel you’re cooking for other Chefs that often. I don’t know whether that’s because they’re too busy in their own kitchens or what.

    Was that stressful or did you enjoy the pressure?
    I loved it, it was a thrill! To know that you were cooking for the people that you aspire to be was a real thrill. In here, we do get a lot of industry in. Here at Chin Chin probably more than the other restaurants I’ve worked in. I guess it’s the new kid on the block so everyone’s coming and checking it out. I think that was the main difference. There seemed to be more of a community up in Sydney, but I don’t know what it’s like there now, it might be completely different.

    Are there a lot of differences between the food culture of Melbourne and Sydney?
    Yeah, maybe. I think Sydney is a city going through a lot of changes in it’s industry. There are a lot of restaurants that have closed down, there’s a lot of change happening up there. It has a lot more high-end restaurants but there’s a lot of upper-mid-range restaurants in Melbourne.

    Melbourne seems to cater for a wider range of budgets, which is important when you’re feeding a city. Everyone is using their creativity to create new and exciting things but it’s not too out of everyone’s price range…
    I honestly believe that Melbourne is the food capital of Australia. The guests are so educated about the food scene, they are adventurous and open to new things.

    Do you think a restaurant like Chin Chin would have worked in Sydney?
    Yeah, I think this would work in Sydney. The energy and the effort put in to Chin Chin at the start would make it work anywhere. The reason why a place works is the people who work in it. They strive to make it a place that people want to come, and that’s definitely what happens here; the front of house, the bar, the management team, the kitchen, even the guys that are taking the rubbish out or washing the dishes, everyone puts in 110%. That’s an important part of what makes a business work. People can feel that energy.

    We read about the Thai Sydney versus Thai Melbourne rivalry, do you know anything of this?
    In any country, the top two cities are always going to compete. It’s like Manchester and London, or LA and New York. They will always compete for who has got the best of what. Sydney has always had a better Thai scene, or a bigger Thai scene, like it was natural. Melbourne had a really strong Vietnamese scene, Victoria Street is predominantly Vietnamese food. Whereas you go to China Town in Sydney and there’s a massive Thai area and I guess that’s the difference. I would agree that there’s more top quality Thai restaurants in Sydney than here in Melbourne, but that’s changing.

    Are you leading the frontier?
    I started my career in Sydney, so for me it’s hard as there are so many amazing Chefs there.

    So it’s more that you’re spreading the knowledge of what you’ve learnt along the way?
    Yeah, and as we do more, the ingredients become more readily available. I’m getting things this year that last year I had to chase. Things like green pepper corns, holy basil, the whole range of Thai ingredients. Things that most places in Sydney have got but here you would struggle to find.

    So the market is changing as people are bringing things up here?
    Yeah. Firstly because the volume we are using makes it worth having a supplier come and bring it to us.

    You are creating the demand, which will hopefully encourage people to buy and use them as well…
    I would never want to be as arrogant to say that it’s us causing that, but I think we have a positive impact on it. The suppliers are bringing it to Melbourne, and in doing so other restaurants are wanting to use it. I don’t like to think of it as we’re the leaders, but as we are making it easier for everyone else to get hold of certain things.

    How has Melbourne’s Thai community reacted to Chin Chin?
    The demographic is huge here. From older couples coming in late on Sunday afternoons, to tables of young Asian girls who have come from Uni to have a late lunch, families to businessmen having meetings at lunchtime. Overall, the response to this place has been positive. It’s been very well received.

    How was your one year party?
    It was amazing! I worked with David [Thompson] in London, he’s a genius! There’s no other way of describing him. He’s a genius, with a slightly dark sense of humour and everything else that goes with being a genius. To be able to cook with him again was awesome. To be able to show chefs what I have learnt from them is a really nice feeling, so it was a very special night.

    Success is entirely relevant to what you appreciate in life. If wanting to climb Mount Everest is something that you want to do then success is doing it, and that’s got nothing to do with work or wealth, but standing on top of Mount Everest and looking at the view makes you incredibly wealthy.

    What specific magic moments did David bring to the table? No pun intended…
    It’s an energy. A respect, you can just feel it. He questions everything to make sure that everything is the best it can be. His knowledge is just innate, ask him a question about food and he will answer it.

    Is it just a case of paying attention to everything and being alert to what’s going on?
    Yeah, which is something that I try to teach my staff, especially the senior management crew that work under me, so my sous chef and my junior sous. Nothing should leave without our approval. It’s an attribute that some people are born with, you know, an interest in what surrounds them. The ability to digest that information and use it effectively is something you learn from experience. It’s one of the things that travel teaches you as you are out of your comfort zone. The moment you get off the plane wherever you’ve arrived, regardless of what country you’re in, it’s not yours. I fly to Sydney and even though I lived there once, it’s not my city and the comfort zone is gone. That heightened sense of awareness teaches you a lot about yourself too.

    Do you travel a lot?
    I just had 3 weeks in Thailand with my wife and kids. Bangkok for them was just mind-blowing. The energy is so frenetic and it’s bordering on disorganised chaos. It just works, you feel like it might fall apart at any moment but it doesn’t. The kids were plugged in to it, it was amazing.

    Was it not nerve-wracking as a parent to bring your child to somewhere so crazy?
    My wife and I are very casual. I think if you go in to it with that mentality, you’re not constantly on edge. We did Bangkok down to Phuket, across to Koh Yao, back to Phuket and up to Bangkok. It was really good.

    How often do you try to go over to Thailand?
    We hadn’t been in 11 years. It was our kids first trip.

    Is your wife involved in the food industry too?
    When we were in London, she worked in the industry because otherwise we wouldn’t have seen each other. She’s now a naturopath. We have a 2 year old son, so for the last few years she has been a house-wife, which is a full-time job. We’ve been married 13 years this year and we’ve been together for 15.

    We see a lot of places with very small menus, and in Thailand there were restaurants that did very few things but did each item perfectly. Is there a reason why your menu is so large?
    At first it was a bit confronting to me. It’s a massive menu, partially because we’re so busy and because of the size of the place. It just works. With a menu that size, once it’s up and running, it’s just a case of maintaining it. It’s sort of irrelevant how many dishes you’ve got on there because you’re basically maintaining the prep work that goes into it. Whether that’s for 60 dishes or for 12, it doesn’t really matter.

    So it doesn’t make it more difficult?
    No, I don’t think so. It just works here and it keeps it interesting for the chefs. Every 3 months we change several of the dishes, it’s constantly evolving and rolling through.

    Is it a Melbourne twist on traditional Thai food or do you stick to the Thai recipes?
    I think any time you do a restaurant of a certain culture outside of that culture, it’s going to be a twist on it. Based on the ingredients that you can get to the level of knowledge surrounding a certain cuisine. We try to be as authentic as possible. We’ve got some amazing Thai Chefs working with us and I’ve been cooking Asian food for the past 18 years, so my understanding of it is pretty good. If things are supposed to be made a certain way, then they are made that way. If they are meant to be hot, they’re hot. Sour, they’re sour. We try not to tone things down just to make people happy and with a menu that size you can afford to have few dishes that really challenge people. The duck liver dish on there is ridiculously hot and it freaks people out. We might sell 10 a week, some weeks we might sell 50, but because the menu is so big, it doesn’t matter.

    Do you have warn people before they order hot dishes about what they’re letting themselves in for?
    Generally the staff warn customers about that one. The jungle curry comes with a bit of a warning. I’m not really phased by it. I love chilli.

    Do you think your senses have dulled or have you always loved spicy food?
    I’ve always loved it! I reckon my senses have dulled a little bit to chilli but I have always loved spicy food.

    What’s the spiciest food you’ve ever eaten?
    Ghost chillies. That was offensively hot.

    Where was that?
    At a friends house in Sydney.

    Did you cry?
    There were no tears but I did struggle to breathe.

    Was it the love for Thailand or a passion for food that you noticed first?
    Thailand, Japan, all the Buddhist countries. Asian architecture, philosophy, the whole lot has a peacefulness about it.

    What are the 3 ingredients that you use most of here at Chin Chin?
    Chilli, chilli and… chilli. No, fish sauce is massive too.

    How many people work for you?
    On the rotation there’s 26 chefs and at any one time there’s 9 in the kitchen. It works like clockwork. Everyone knows their place and what needs to be done.

    Do you have a certain person working on a certain dish in your kitchen, how does it work?
    There’s 6 sections in the kitchen; fryer, curry & grill, wok, front kitchen, Gogo bar, and the front pass which is where I work. I taste every dish that leaves.

    The energy and the effort put in to Chin Chin at the start would make it work anywhere. The reason why a place works is the people who work in it. They strive to make it a place that people want to come, and that’s definitely what happens here; the front of house, the bar, the management team, the kitchen, even the guys that are taking the rubbish out or washing the dishes, everyone puts in 110%. That’s an important part of what makes a business work. People can feel that energy.

    You must be full all day?
    Pretty much, yeah. You don’t get to be 6′ 3 and 110 kilos without eating a bit.

    What are the most popular dishes here?
    It depends, there’s a couple. The Massamans definitely, the Barramundi salad, it’s become a bit of a signature dish. The crab curry everyone raves about. They are probably the main ones.

    What makes Chin Chin special?
    It just is. Everything goes together in this place. The staff are all amazing, each section of the building has incredible staff running it. The fit-out is stunning. It’s a beautiful space, so airy and relaxed. The music is great. There’s 3 major car parks within a 2 minute walk making it easy to get to. It’s smack-bang in the centre of the city so there’s an amazing amount of foot traffic. And the food is amazing. It’s the perfect storm, we just have to maintain it. I’ve got to constantly remind everyone that being busy is not a given, you’ve got to work for it. We’ve got to keep the quality up and be consistent. We don’t let any of the details slip, it’s when they slip that the cracks start to appear. As I said before, if everyone is paying attention then we pick up on it before anyone notices.

    What do you want to do before you die?
    I’m already doing it. I couldn’t ask for more.

    That’s why we’re doing this project! We want to meet people like you who are doing what they love to do. What do you think is the key to succeeding in something you love?
    You’ve got to listen to yourself. You’ve got to know who you are. I’ve got the most beautiful wife, she’s incredible. I was married at 24, which is crazy young these days. Most people asked why I was getting married at that age, it was because I was fortunate enough to meet the woman of my dreams at a young age. I’ve got 3 beautiful kids who are amazing. If I’d have doubted myself then none of this would have been possible. Plus, I’ve got the dream job. This is an amazing restaurant where I get to have fun at work everyday. The management here are amazing and Chris, who owns the place, makes sure that you take every opportunity and it’s up to you to make sure you succeed. I like that.

    <blockquote>You’ve got to listen to yourself. You’ve got to know who you are.</blockquote>

    Were the early days as a chef testing for you?
    Yes and no. It was a bit of a shock. the first hour as a chef, walking into that kitchen felt like the right thing to do. You go without a lot of things but life’s a journey. You don’t just walk up to someone who hands out money, you’ve got to create those situations. So on the one hand you’re not going out when everyone else is, but on the other hand my wife and I travelled around the world 5 times. We did 29 countries in 5 years and I couldn’t have done that without this industry. No matter where I turn up I can pretty much walk in to a kitchen and chop. It’s a universal language. I did a talk to some kids a while back and one of the questions asked was about success and wealth. I said to them that success is entirely relevant to what you appreciate in life. If wanting to climb Mount Everest is something that you want to do then success is doing it, and that’s got nothing to do with work or wealth, but standing on top of Mount Everest and looking at the view makes you incredibly wealthy.

    bottom photo chin chin

     

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    For more information, please visit:

    http://chinchinrestaurant.com.au/

    125 Flinders Lane Melbourne
    03 8663 2000
    eat@chinchinrestaurant.com.au

    If you like this post and The Eat Team, subscribe to our free monthly newsletter for updates.

     


  3. Dinner With Aboriginal Dietician: Robyn Delbridge

    February 7, 2013 by The E.A.T. Team

    top photo robyn delbridge-20

    ON THE MENU 
    Sweet Potato Salad, Almond Lemon Butter Cake
    ON THE GLOBE
    Melbourne, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Robyn Delbridge, Aboriginal Dietician
    After 16 days on the road driving up Australia’s east coast from Sydney to Brisbane, we waved goodbye to our Wicked rental van and hopped on a plane to Melbourne. We couchsurfed with perhaps the coolest group of people in the whole city. After learning about The Eat Team, our fearless Melbourne leader, Nathan, introduced us to his sister Robyn, a dietician for the aboriginal population in Victoria.

    We met Robyn on a blustery winter’s day where she was finishing her shift at the Victorian Aboriginal Health Center and headed out together towards her home into the suburbs of Melbourne. We popped by the friendly local butcher before heading back to her place to cook.

    Nathan and Robyn’s parents joined us for an evening chock full of incredible Australian cheese and wine and we picked Robyn’s brain together after a mega-meal of sweet potato salad and lemon butter cake.

    We were fascinated to learn more about the aboriginal culture, and Robyn has an incredible firsthand look into the lives of the aboriginal population in Victoria. We learned about some of the effects that the trauma inflicted upon much of the aboriginal population by the Australian government in the very recent past, and how modern day Australia is trying to move forward in a positive direction.

    We were fascinated to hear about some of the projects Robyn has undertaken through the Victorian Aboriginal Health Center, such as an original cookbook, running community kitchens, a radio show to educate people on food, a kids’ fitness program, and a diabetes awareness group. We were blown away by her efforts. Read on for her story.

    I’m a Dietitian because I love food. I love people and I love food. If people are cooking then I’m pretty happy.

    collage - robyn delbridge

    What does a Dietitian do?
    Lots of different things. We can work in community centers, hospitals,
    privately, or in industry. Aboriginal health is a niche.

    Did you always want to work with Aboriginals?
    I wanted to work in food from the age of 16. Everyone I knew who was a chef
    was hooked on speed to help them get through the long hours, so I went to
    Uni instead to become a Dietitian. It was during my studies that I
    discovered that I wanted to work with Aboriginal people.

    You help them achieve what they want to achieve?
    Yes, which is good but it can be really challenging because the Aboriginal
    Health Service is raised up out of Aboriginal people not getting adequate
    health care from hospitals and GP’s. They advocated to the Government for
    years and years to start their own health services. The one in Sydney was
    the first, Melbourne is the second.

    How long ago was this?
    40 years next year.

    Everyone can be healthier than they are but no one is ever going to be perfect.

    It’s a fairly recent thing then?
    Well, Aboriginal people only got the vote in 1969. Before that they were
    counted as animals. The board of directors of the Aboriginal Health Service
    are voted in by the wider community, all of the managers are Aboriginal and
    about 80% of our staff. Obviously when you need the expertise, for example
    doctors, there are plenty of Aboriginal doctors but there’s more that aren’t
    so you have to hire other people as well.

    How do you find your clients?
    The Health Service is part of the community, it’s the heart of it and is
    owned by them. People just know about it.

    Is it free for people to get involved?
    Yes, totally free.

    Is it Government funded?
    Yes, along with other organizations. We get Government funding for specific
    things. When we wrote a cook book last year we got $8,000 from the local
    council and this year got another $16,000 from a foundation to reprint it.

    What’s the cook book about?
    Oh, it was really fun! There’s a lot of cook books made for people in
    Western Australia but when I used them here people said, ‘That’s really
    great, but they’re not from here!’ We wanted our own and ownership of ours
    so we wrote them. We invited the community from the whole of Victoria to
    submit their favorite family recipes on a budget, plus we put in a few of
    our own, and we wrote lunchbox ideas and fun sandwich fillings. Some of it
    has a traditional twist and some of it is just healthier versions of meals
    that are really easy to cook on a budget. The challenge in Melbourne is that
    not many Aboriginal people actually eat traditional food because they tend
    to eat what everyone else does. Whereas, up North, in Western Australia, and
    parts of Queensland people eat traditional foods all of the time. For us
    it’s part of peoples identity but it’s not part of their everyday.

    What was your role in it?
    We had a project manager that I worked alongside and checked for
    healthiness. We cooked all of the recipes and took photos of them.

    Is it available to look at anywhere?
    Well, it was for the community so we gave them away. We printed off
    1,000 of the first edition, which we gave away. Then got the money to print
    2,000 copies, which we want to give away, and also make available to sell to
    other organizations. We’re in the middle of editing for edition 2.

    What are the Community Kitchens that you run?
    It’s groups of people who come together with a facilitator, who is usually a
    volunteer. We meet weekly and cook. The principal is that participants put
    in for the amount of serves that they want, so if you just want to put in
    for your own lunch it might be $2, or if you’re wanting to take some home it
    might be $10. Then we design what to cook and go shopping together and cook
    it all up. We were doing it a little bit differently as we were paying the
    facilitator to provide employment and we were paying for the food. We ran
    those for two years. There was a young peoples group for kids that had
    dropped out of school. We had a Dads group who went on to start their own
    company doing catering for events. Then we did a Mums group too. I oversaw
    all three of these kitchens and they all got opportunities to cook for
    different community events and we did the food handlers safety
    qualifications with them. It went really well. It was really intense but
    really good. There’s still positive talk about it now but the funding we had
    wasn’t going to be renewed so it stopped.

    We invited the community from the whole of Victoria to
    submit their favorite family recipes.

    How about your radio program?
    Yeah, that was really fun! We did a program on the local indigenous radio
    station with the breakfast show host. He also worked for my organization and
    he said to come along. Every Monday morning we had a different theme. We’d
    talk about nutrition and how to cook. We had a recipe that we spoke about
    which then went on the website where people could download it. It was mixed
    media, which we hadn’t ever done before but it meant we could track how many
    hits the recipe page was getting, and it got heaps every week! We were able
    to do surveys online and [due to the radio show] people actually made
    changes. More fruit, less soft drink. Anthony, the host was really cool as
    he knew nothing about the topic and so he asked such good questions. Usually stupid ones that no
    one would ever dare ask but everyone thinks, but if you’ve never cooked you
    wouldn’t know the answers to them. Things like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know an onion
    was a vegetable!’ One time we were talking about salt and how it raises your
    blood pressure, and he said, ‘So, if you’re in the ocean and you drink the
    sea water, does that mean your blood pressure will go up?’ If you’re in the
    ocean and you’re drinking the water you might be drowning, in which case
    your blood pressure would definitely go up! …And then from the salt as
    well! He wasn’t even being smart and sometimes I could see how it could
    apply. Unfortunately he passed away.

    The radio host?
    Yeah, it was really sad. He was only 44 or something.

    Another Aboriginal person dying extremely young…
    Yes. The station lost their manager, their breakfast host and their most
    popular person.

    Could you tell us about circus too?
    There’s a company called Westside Circus. (www.westsidecircus.org.au) They
    do social circus dealing with confidence skills and fitness. We play lots of
    healthy eating related games with kids. For example, we do what used to be
    called ‘Sausage rolls’ as you’d lay out and roll down the mat, now we call
    it the ‘carrot roll.’

    Is it kids from an Aboriginal school?
    They’re preschoolers from families that go to Aboriginal play groups.

    Are there any other projects that you’re working on at the moment?
    We have Diabetes Club, which is a support and education group for people
    with Type 2 Diabetes. It’s every fortnight for the whole year, most of the
    groups are every week for six weeks but ours is all year.
    People kind of ‘do life’ together so that’s pretty cool. Last week we did
    label reading, which is super important. Breakfast cereals was the example
    so every one had a different one and we went through the nutritional
    information panel and wrote the ones with the best energy or fat content. It
    taught people how to compare the foods they eat at home. One time I brought
    in sugar-free candy, sweetened with Xylitol.

    Is that good for you?
    It’s like Diet Coke.

    Is that good for you?
    It’s still a ‘sometimes food’ but it’s better for you than Coke! It’s
    sweetened with aspartame.

    Is Aspartame better?
    Yes.

    We’ve heard that if you have too much of it it’s harmful, is that true?
    It’s the most heavily investigated food additive in history. It’s still
    considered safe for human consumption. However, people still believe that
    it’ll give you lung cancer, brain tumors, etc.

    Why, because it’s not sugar?
    Yes, but we eat the most ridiculous additives! I especially love it when
    people say they won’t drink Diet Coke while smoking a cigarette!
    I’m like, you know there’s all sorts of horrible things in your cigarettes?!

    What’s the difference between a Dietitian and a Nutritionist?
    A Dietitian is more highly qualified. The issue is that people can do a 6
    week course and call themselves a Nutritionist. Although, as of last year,
    there’s an Accredited Nutritionist Qualification, which is more like a
    degree. A Dietitian has either done a 4 year degree or a masters and we can
    do what’s called Medical Nutrition Therapy, which is therapy for diseases
    and conditions.

    What is your food philosophy?
    Wow, that’s very Master Chef! I’m a Dietitian because I love food. I love
    people and I love food. There are other Dietitians that come from different
    perspectives, they might love science. If people are cooking then I’m pretty
    happy. Everyone can be healthier than they are but no one is ever going to
    be perfect. Some Dietitians get worried about eating food in front of
    people.

    I don’t get worried about
    getting too bogged down in the detail, I just meet people where they’re at
    and help them with the thing that they need at that time.

    They feel that they’re not allowed to eat?
    Yeah. In my job, we cook and eat together. I have clients that bring me
    doughnuts to appointments! I think they figure that if I worry about my own
    weight then I don’t have to worry about theirs. I don’t get worried about
    getting too bogged down in the detail, I just meet people where they’re at
    and help them with the thing that they need at that time.

    Would you say that when you’re cooking with somebody it makes them more
    willing to talk about their problems?
    Yeah!

    And obviously it’s not always about food, it’s a buffer to lead on to more
    things?
    Yes. A Dietitian should have a co-degree in counseling! It’s amazing what
    comes out when you’re just talking about food with clients. It’s more about
    the psychology of food. People eat for a reason and obviously hunger is one
    of them, but there’s so many more. Especially the dieting mentality of women
    who are desperate to weigh themselves, they are so much more than just a
    number on the scales! Whatever they tell you you have to just go with it.
    Sexual abuse, rape, assault, domestic violence, being removed from your
    family, being in foster care, being food deprived, all sorts of horrible
    things. A lot of these people are victims of the Child Removal Program,
    which was running in Australia until the 1980′s.

    Where did they put them?
    In white families.

    That’s shocking! It’s interesting that anytime you have a problem it effects
    every area of your life and obviously that would include food.
    Exactly. If there’s been a change in someones eating, there’s got to have
    been a reason. Anything from moving house to a relationship breakdown,
    there’s pressure and anxiety. You have to keep in mind that I don’t work
    with the majority of Australia, I work with an extreme pocket.

    What’s your favorite ‘sometimes food’?
    Lemon meringue pie, Atomica Caffé Lemon and Pistachio cake
    (www.atomicacoffee.com.au), pancakes with lemon butter.

    What’s your favorite ‘everyday food’, bananas?
    I hate bananas! They’re really good for you and I recommend them to lots of
    people but I hate them. I’d say that bell peppers and pumpkin are my favorites.

    Are there certain foods that people often assume are good for them when
    really they’re not?
    Nutri-Grain.

    A Dietitian should have a co-degree in counseling! It’s amazing what comes out when you’re just talking about food with clients. It’s more about
    the psychology of food. People eat for a reason and obviously hunger is one
    of them, but there’s so many more.

    Oh, like the bars?
    It’s an Australian cereal. It’s advertised as this amazing food for energy.

    It’s just sugar, right?
    It’s just sugar! Muesli bars are another one, it’s just sugar and oats.

    Are they better than Mars Bars?
    Marginally.

    bottom photo robyn delbridge-11

    For more information, please visit:

    http://www.vahs.org.au/

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  4. Byron Bay Farmer’s Market

    August 14, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Handmade Ravioli, Australian Honey, Rainbow Fruit Flats
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Byron Bay Farmers’ Market

    Rainbow fruit and vegetables as far as the eye can see, soulful folk music filling our ears, the scent of chargrilled sausage happily wafting into the ‘ole olfactory and artisan food stalls lined back to back.. in other words, the Byron Bay Farmers’ Market is like Disneyland for foodies. It’s one of the most talked about farmers’ markets in Australia, and for good reason.

    They’re the real deal–all the produce, as well as value added products are sourced locally (and checked on a regular basis), they’re highly organized, and have a very strong community following. Anybody and everybody in Byron was at the market that blustery Sunday morning, and despite the unfortunate weather, bright eyes and laughter were out in full force.

    We chatted to the pasta maker, the beekeeper, food writer Victoria Cosford, and a man who makes rainbow fruit leathers. Here are their stories.

    ” Anyone that has had my pasta says it’s different to anything else out there.”


    1. Despina’s Kitchen handmade pasta

    Do you make the pasta by hand?
    It passes through my hands and nobody else’s, that way I can control the finished product. I have a lot of machinery but my hands do most of the work. Once you go to the next level it becomes much more manufactured and you lose touch with the product. Anyone that has had my pasta says it’s different to anything else out there because I really take care of the finished product. It has to stand out because it has to be better than the supermarkets, who sell it for a fraction of the cost, it has to be special. Each of the raviolis has a colour on it so my customers know which one their favourite flavour is just by looking at it.

    How long have you been selling at the Byron Bay Farmers Market?
    We’ve been doing this for about 3 years now. We have very separate roles; he does the sales, book work and accounting stuff, I just deal with making it. I don’t like selling because I tend to give it away and then we come home with no money! I’d be a very poor artist if he didn’t manage the front. It’s a good team.

    Do you grow the ingredients yourself?
    We grow some of the ingredients and whatever we don’t have we buy here at the market. We get some things in obviously, like the wheat. We use as much organic as we can. The eggs are ours and we organically feed the chickens.

    Do you cook it and then freeze it?
    No. It’s completely raw when I freeze it so you take it home and cook it.

    How would you recommend that people eat it, would they put their own sauce on it?
    With a lot of the raviolis, they’re really nice without a sauce. They’re nice just with a drizzle of oil and a sprinkle of cheese. I don’t recommend putting sauces with ravioli because you want to taste the filling. I would advise people who want to make a sauce to use really fresh tomatoes and don’t make it to heavy. Some people do a pesto, but the ravioli are best on their own.

    2.The Bee to You honey stall

    Why is there such a range of colour in your honey?
    Usually, the lighter the honey is the milder it tastes. The darker ones are stronger.

    What makes them lighter or darker?
    It’s if it comes from different trees. I’ve got bee sites all over the place, about 40 odd sites in this area. I take the bees to the tree. I know when they’re flowering, and they all flower at different times. Even if there’s 2 trees flowering together I can tell the difference in the honey.

    Are they different prices?
    Nope, all the same. The only one that’s a bit dearer is this yellow box because it’s got a unique flavour. We get it from over the gorge, from the western slopes of the great divide, but the rest are local.

    So you have to travel with your bees?
    Any commercial bee keeper has to as you don’t get the trees flowering all year round.

    How do you make sure that other people don’t pinch your honey?
    No one is daft enough to go to the bee hive to get the honey! I haven’t had it happen but if it did, it would be another bee keeper. We’re all respectful of each other. A little bit goes on in the metropolitan areas. You get some one wanting to get into the industry quick and easy, so it does happen but not so much around here.

    Do you do anything to it once it’s collected?
    I don’t interfere with it, no. I don’t heat it or do anything.

    So it turns crystallized?
    Yeah. Some of them, especially if they’ve got more sugars, turn very quickly. If they turn I make creamed honey, which I just whip until it turns white. It takes quite a while but it turns white with the air going through it. I’ve only just sold the last one, otherwise I could show you!

    3. Rainbow Fruit Flats dehydrated fruit stall

    How are Rainbow Fruit Flats made?
    We grow the fruit, we purée it and pour it on to dehydrating trays and leave it for 15 hours. It’s 100% fruit. I’ve been making them for 10 years.

    There’s nothing added at all?
    Only a plastic bag and a sticky label. It’s pure fruit.

    Do you have a dehydrating machine then?
    Yes, a dehydrator. We put the puréed fruit in there for 15 – 20 hours. The machine blows out air under 40 degrees.

    Is there as much nutrients as eating the fruit fresh?
    Yes, because it’s all done below 40 degrees so it’s not cooked.

    Do you make it at home?
    We’ve got an industrial kitchen. It’s all done at my farm.

    Is that where you grow the fruit too?
    That’s right.

    How long do they keep for?
    12 months. Same as anything dehydrated. Back in the old days they used to make dehydrated beef to take on the ships.

    Do you find that children prefer to eat fruit in this way?
    So long as you don’t tell them it’s not candy! They think they’re sweeties so we don’t tell them any different.

    —————————————————————————————-

    For more information:

    http://www.byronfarmersmarket.com.au/

    info@byronfarmersmarket.com.au

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  5. The Raw Sisters

    July 17, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE GLOBE
    Melbourne, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Yui Yamashita of The Raw Sisters

    Yui got in touch with us about her new project, The Raw Sisters, after our friends at the Hungry Workshop letterpress told her about The Eat Team. We sat down to chat with her at Nothern Soul cafe in Thornbury, Melbourne. Yui and her partner in crime Missy started the Raw Sisters vegan and vegetarian pop-up and catering duo with a bang–they served over 100 folks at their first gig which only whet their appetite to serve the Melbourne community. They’re brand new and the future looks bright ahead. Check out their beautiful video (see below) from the event at St. Kilda Organic Food Co-op and read on for Yui’s insights on the Raw Sisters project, eating raw, and life as an occupational therapist.

    Raw SistersC from Yui Yamashita on Vimeo.

    How did the Raw Sisters start?
    We did a raw food demo at a vegan festival that my friend and her partner organised. We did raw sushi and raw avocado juice. Some guy came up to us and asked if we wanted to do a catering event. We had no idea that we wanted to do catering but thought it would be fun, so we said yes. He didn’t get back to us for ages and then a few weeks ago he said that the event is happening soon and asked if we were still interested. We quickly made up a business card and menu for our meeting with him. We bought everything and cooked for a whole day. We’d love to do more catering, or even cooking classes. We love food and want to share our passion.

    What was the event that you did the catering for?
    St Kilda Organic Food Co-op. Unfortunately they were closing and wanted to have a big ‘Thank you’ event for all of the people who had been involved. Everyone was invited so we had to cater for kids and adults. We did raw salads, hummus and beetroot dip, garlic bread, ‘mac and cheese’, home made wedges, roast veg, sweet potato soup, Moroccan stew, carrot pilaf, and for dessert we did chocolate brownie and caramel apple cake with banana ice cream.

    Do you, and your business partner Missy, both lead a raw lifestyle?
    Missy is maybe 80% raw. In winter I’m 50% raw. We’re both vegan and we try to eat organic.

    Have you ever eaten meat?
    I used to when I was in High School. I stopped after I turned 17 or so. I went on this school trip for a month and every meal was meat! After that I said to my parents that I didn’t want any more. These days my reasons have changed to environmental issues and how eating meat consumes a lot of energy and uses water.

    Are there any meals that you used to eat that you now miss?
    No. There’s a lot of fake meat products on the market now. I went to Gasometer at the weekend and had a chicken parma. Some of the products you can buy are really processed though, so I would rather eat beans, quinoa or grains.

    Is Missy your actual Sister?
    No. I met her through a mutual friend. She went to New Zealand for High School and then came over here for Uni. She’s a photographer. We got really close and started talking about food. As you know, food connects people.

    How did you think of the name ‘Raw Sisters’?
    At work we call all the girls ‘Sisters’ and thought that ‘Raw Sisters’ would be fitting.

    What’s your job?
    I work as a Community Mental Health Worker, I’m an Occupational Therapist. It’s a totally separate thing.

    It’s not just about chopping and eating a salad, it’s about dehydrating it or making it a smoothie or thinking up new combinations.

    How did you get in to raw foods?
    I’ve always been into health and healthy foods. I found out about raw food through blogs and I’ve been eating raw since spring of last year. This will be my first winter.

    Have you noticed a difference in your health?
    Definitely! I’ve got so much more energy and feel really good inside. The general idea of raw food is that because you don’t cook it, the enzymes aren’t broken down so it’s in it’s most natural form. You get the most benefits from all of the vitamins that way. There’s different views on it, some people find it easier to digest, and some harder because it’s so raw. It depends on how you prepare it. It’s not just about chopping and eating a salad, it’s about dehydrating it or making it a smoothie or thinking up new combinations. Personally I get a lot out of eating raw food. I find it works best for me if I eat a portion of raw food and then cooked food as well.

    What would you eat on an average day?
    This might sound weird but I don’t have breakfast. For lunch I’ll make a green smoothie to start my digestive system going. If I’m working I’ll have a sandwich of sourdough bread with lots of raw food on top, maybe sliced pumpkin, beetroot, kale, avocado, with a bit of hemp seed butter. For dinner would be a salad, lentil or bean soup, or quinoa patties or something.

    Is it hard to find restaurants that cater for your diet?
    Whenever I go out I do my research. I think Melbourne is quite good with vegan food and places seem happy to take the cheese out, or whatever you ask.

    What’s your favourite food to prepare or eat raw?
    I really like my kale salad with a nutty dressing and for dessert I love raw cheesecake.

    Are you hoping one day to have a cafe or a shop?
    Yeah, a cafe would be amazing. Missy and her partner are going to move house soon and hopefully open a cafe.

    Will this become a full-time thing then?
    I’m passionate about my work so this is good as a side project for now.

    Would you like to continue to do events?
    Yeah! They’re really fun. The event that we did last time, we got to meet a lot of people and they had so many compliments. To see them making that connection with food, and talking to them about it, was great.

    Have you converted anyone to the raw lifestyle?
    I have a massive influence at work. I’m really passionate about organic eating as well so I tell all of the girls. Organic farming is so much better for the environment too. Through the events we have a little blurb about how it’s so much better for us.

    Where do you get your ingredients from?
    I get a box delivered from Ceres. They do a fair food co-op. It’s not that they grow everything there but get it from local farmers. Also, Naturally on High on High Street . We got most of our catering ingredients from there, they’re really good.

    Did you have a foodie upbringing?
    Not really. My Mum is such a ordinary cook. That’s maybe why I’m about experimenting and making new things. I don’t like to cook two of the same things twice. I love baking as well.

    If someone was wanting to get involved in the raw food diet, what’s an easy recipe to start them off?
    I think the juices and smoothies are a really good place to start. You just throw everything in; vegetables and green leaves. Just give it a try!

    What’s the one thing you want to do before you die?
    Travel. Build my own house. I watch a lot of Grand Designs and England and France seem open to the ‘eco’ style of living. Somewhere in Europe would be nice.

    To get in touch with Yui or book The Raw Sisters, email rawsisters@live.com.au

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  6. Heart & Halo

    July 10, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Curry & Chai
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    Tusta, Head Chef at Heart & Halo

    On a bright and sunny Byron Bay day we sat down with Tusta, head chef of Heart & Halo, a hare-krishna inspired restaurant. His tangy home brewed chai awakened our senses (and tastebuds) and the beautiful curry really did remind us of family cookin’. It was hearty, wholesome, and downright delicious. We’ll let the photos, his description, and the interview speak for themselves.

    It’s basic human nature to look after each other.

    “Heart & Halo offers a wide variety of global vegetarian dishes with distinct Indian Ayurvedic influences. Tusta, the head chef brings over 20 years of experience and adds his own flavour and style to all meals he prepares. Tusta has travelled to many places of the world but it is his love of India that has influenced his cooking the most. All meals are vegetarian and will tempt even the most fussiest of eaters.
    Heart & Halo sources only the freshest spices, beans and grains to ensure the fullest of flavour. Only healthy oils are used for cooking and Himalayan salt is used to help improve your wellbeing.

    The best local & organic produce is used when and where ever possible to make our fabulous vegetarian meals.

    Heart & Halo offers an amazing range of great value Curries, Vegetable Baked Dishes, Hearty Lentil and Vegie Soups, Rice, Bean and Grain Dishes, the freshest salads and a selection of mouth watering drinks, sweets and snacks.

    All that we prepare and offer contains only the best ingredients including Himalayan Salt. With 84 trace minerals, your body will benefit even long after your meal is complete.

    Heart & Halo only uses oils that are good for you, not the common oils that may leave carcinogenic residue in your body.

    But above all, Heart & Halo food is prepared and served with LOVE to benefit you and our beautiful community.”

    They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home.

    Why did you decide to open a restaurant here in Byron Bay?
    I realised that local people want down to earth, quality food. There are a lot of health shops offering organic produce but they tend to be very expensive. I opened Heart & Halo to offer the local people exactly that but at affordable prices.

    Could you name some of the produce that you use here at Heart & Halo?
    We use organic Himalayan salt and cold press oils to improve my customers well-being.

    Why do you think it’s so important to use organic produce?
    It’s basic human nature to look after each other, and by growing foods organically, it’s simply looking after something that looks after us. It’s really nurturing through food. Festivals and celebrations are based around feasts and sharing, food is so important to so many cultures so it’s only right that we respect it.

    Are you vegetarian?
    Yes, by the time I was 17 or 18 I was over meat. I had worked in cafes and restaurants in Sydney and was sick of the smell, oil, and fat. There’s a huge disconnection between people and meat these days. They only see it in cellophane.

    What inspired you to open Heart & Halo?
    The idea came together after I had travelled. I’m a believer in indigenous cooking and the way it’s made with love. They are always wholesome foods that remind you of home. Backpackers come here and say that ‘it tastes like home’, which is great. I loved how diverse the diets were in India. How they live is just amazing! Too many people live on land that’s half the size of Australia, and they manage it in harmony. I believe it’s because they are all working for the same reason, whether it be a group or family unit. I was looking for something real to do, so naturally I thought of feeding people.

    So you teamed your beliefs and travel discoveries together to create Heart & Halo?
    It’s not about me, it’s about the food. There’s no ego here, not like MasterChef! I didn’t create it, I’m just passing the message on through the love and appreciation of food. I’m so thankful of the opportunity I have been given to spread the love through the food I serve.

    For more information on Heart & Halo, please see:

    Heart & Halo Good Food Bar

    Shop 4/14 Middleton Street
    (Corner of Byron Street & Middleton Streets – underneath the Budget Motel)
    Byron Bay NSW 2481

    Ph: 02 6685 6685

    Email: love@heartandhalo.com

    Special thanks to Tusta & Christie for making this happen.

    
    

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  7. Byron Bay Chilli Co.

    July 1, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Byron Bay Chilli Sauce on OzyMex Tacos, Nachos, & Burritos
    ON THE GLOBE
    Byron Bay, Australia
    ON THE TEAM
    John Boland, Co-Founder of Byron Bay Chilli Co. & OzyMex Restaurant


    If you grow chillies you realize that the sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little packet of sun.


    John “The Chilli Dude” Boland moved from California to Australia many moons ago and, together with his wife Lynne, helped pioneer a movement in Australia for chilli sauce and Mexican food. He generously invited us to come to his OzyMex shop to sample his line of epic sauces (our favorites were Fiery Coconut and Smokin’ Mango) on fresh home-made tortilla chips, tacos, quesadillas and a big heapin’ burrito. These classic culinary “hole-in-the-wall” delights reminded me of the traditional Mexican food from my hometown of Los Angeles, with a twist of that California and Australian love for fresh, healthy ingredients.

    His infectious energy and positive vibes spill over into everything he does–the sauces and food are scrumptious to say the least and the fact that he loves what he does after so many years makes us love his products that much more.

    He range of sauces range from mild and sweet to tangy and burnin’ hot. He’s a strong believer in being able to taste the ingredients of the sauce and not just a feeling of “HOT HOT HOT!”

    We loved hearing his story and we think you will too.

    Do you have any advice for anybody wanting to get into the sauce business?
    Don’t give up your day job. No, but seriously, there’s been an awful
    lot of things done in the last ten years so you have to try! There’s a
    great show in Albuquerque, New Mexico called The Fiery Foods Show and it’s a great place to meet people in the industry. Everyone is there. We’ve been a whole bunch of times.
    It’s a good starting point. You could meet with a fellow called Dave
    DeWitt, he’s the Pope of Peppers and runs the show. You just talk to
    people. It depends whether you want it to be a niche product or a main
    stream product. So long as you have a plan for your sauce.

    Did you have a plan for your sauce?
    We didn’t really know what we were doing, we just started making
    sauce. Then all of a sudden we get a call from this supermarket, so we
    were faced with the prospect of being in the shops. We had to make a
    sauce that was fairly competitive price-wise, ours is premium but
    we’re still in the mass market, not the niche market. I think in
    Australia it’s harder to be in the niche market because there are not as
    many delis – there just isn’t as much of anything. There’s fewer
    people and the distances between them are greater.

    What brought you from California to Byron Bay?
    My Mother was Australian, I came down here to meet my Grandmother and
    just loved it! All of my cousins suggested that I go to Byron Bay,
    saying that it was the top spot. Twenty-five years ago there was a real estate
    agent right across the street, I walked in there and she spent the
    whole day looking around at places and ended up buying a little plot
    in the hills. I grew up in California in the 50′s and 60′s and in many
    ways saw the best times there. Byron Bay felt like that to me. It’s
    getting busier all the time, but not too busy. The beach lifestyle was
    too attractive, plus our kids were young enough to bring over and had
    no choice! [Laughs]

    How did it develop in to the business it is today?
    We saw an opportunity at a local food market to open a Mexican food
    stall. That’s how we got started.

    Are there other Mexican restaurants in Byron Bay?
    Byron Bay had the first Mexican restaurant in Australia, ‘Mexican
    Mick’s’ it was called. It was started by an Englishman. So for a long
    time that was here and then he moved away.


    We’re hoping that a lot more
    people get to try our chilli sauce.

    Where do you make the sauces?
    We have a contract bottler which is up near the Gold Coast, about an
    hours drive away. We looked at having our own factory here but it was
    impossible; Not only too expensive, but the council limitations
    brought all sorts of issues to have a building like that here. You’ll
    find that so many sauces have contract packers.

    How much does the factory make over there, is there a certain number
    of bottles per day?

    They are made to order. We sell about 50 tons a year. Last time I looked
    that’s what it was anyway. Still small but not real small. We get
    about 2 tons made at a time.

    Did you expect Byron Bay Chilli Company to get as big as it has done?
    No, I call it an accidental business. We’re hoping that a lot more
    people get to try our chilli sauce.

    Us too, they’re delicious!
    A few of them are so different that I reckon they should be in every
    Whole Foods supermarket. There’s a place in Texas that would love to
    have our sauces but we don’t have an importer.

    For me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first
    bite is taken with your eyes.

    What’s in store for the next few years for Byron Bay Chilli Company?
    We’re working with people to start a series of these Ozy-Mex stores. The good
    thing about this kind of thing [the hole in the wall shop] is that
    it’s affordable. People can pop in and buy something tasty to eat.
    What we like about this arrangement is that people get to see their
    food made so you get to know exactly what’s going in to it. I was
    inspired by one of my favorite places, I grew up very close to Tijuana on the Mexican border. We used to travel around, mainly
    for the cheap beer. There was a little hole in the wall place and in
    order to get in you had to lift the bench up and squeeze in, it was
    big enough for one person. The owner would make tacos and things while
    you waited on the side walk. I was inspired by that idea – literally a
    hole in the wall. It wasn’t so much about going to sit down and
    spending $50 to eat, it was just something for the people.

    With a hole in the wall style place you’re still close to your vision
    and closer to your customers. When restaurants get too big it becomes
    very impersonal. Maybe they lose sight of the vision a little bit…

    Well, for me there’s a few rules of food. Number one is that the first bite is taken with your eyes. There’s also a feeling that a person
    gives off, you know, the very best food is always served by mom,
    there’s love there. In some small way that’s what we try to convey
    here, even when we’re busy we still try to make people feel like
    they’re not a hassle to us – we’re here to feed them. Then, of course
    once it’s in your mouth it’s got to be good too! It should be
    reasonably healthy, and the ingredients should be ethical.

    Are chillies good for your health?
    Absolutely! I certainly reckon they are and there’s a lot of
    literature about it. They’re a digestive aid, a circulatory aid, they
    make your food taste good, and they make you happy. There’s a lot of
    vitamins in chillies. Chilli is an interesting fruit. Most people
    don’t realize this but it came to Asia after the explorers went to the
    Americas. There were no chillies in Asia prior to that time, so in the
    past 500 years these cultures have totally absorbed the chilli. To me
    it’s packed with sunlight. If you grow chillies you realize that the
    sunnier the season or the sunnier the place where you plant them, the
    hotter the chilli. It’s converting sunlight in to heat – like a little
    packet of sun.

    You make your own corn chips too?
    Yes. We make 10 products in total. We’re looking at a few other
    things, for example combining some of our sauces with other things to
    create new flavors. There’s a bunch of things we hope to do in the
    future. I think we’ve captured a good range of chilli sauces and added
    our own signature to them.

    We love your bottle labels. What inspired them?
    It’s a little bit of paradise. It’s fun and clean.

    Which sauce is your favorite?
    I probably reach for the hottest one these days. I really like it on
    so many things, like poached eggs. I don’t have a favorite child, I
    like them all. Sweet chilli, I reach for that a lot. It just depends
    what I’m eating.

    Do you have a sauce with every meal?
    I’ve always got a basket with one of each sauce in it. We just leave it out.

    Where can people living outside of Australia buy your sauces?
    Come to Byron Bay! We do sell online but postage is very expensive.

    Huge thanks to John for this interview and generosity. For more information and recipes to use his delicious sauces, check out:

    http://www.byronbaychilli.com/

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  8. Taste Testing Tasmania’s Only Sheep Cheesery

    May 20, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    80 sheep

    10 years

    9 organic sheep cheeses (along with a range of yoghurt, frozen yoghurt and cows milk cheeses)

     

    Grandvewe is a family run Sheep’s Cheesery, and it’s the only one here on Tasmania.  Diane Rae, along with children Nicole Gilliver and Ryan Hartsthorn keep the business operating as smoothly as their indulgent, creamy cheeses.

     

    Diane and her partner Alan took a holiday to Tasmania in 1999 and found that they had an immediate connection with the land. The family moved from Brisbane to the 16-odd hectare plot with dreams of creating an organic vineyard but the demand for sheep milk produce quickly became apparent. After researching the market they noticed a niche opportunity to launch a range of sheep milk products.

     

    “There’s only four of us in Australia with dairy sheep and only two that extend to tourism.”

     

    They bought the farm and established a flock of East Friesland sheep, a dutch variety bred for their high milk yield. Within two years of production, Diane won ‘Best Organic Product’ at the 2003 Tasmanian Fine Food Awards. More recently their chosen breed of sheep is Awassi as they are robust and drought-tolerant, ideally suited to the Tasmanian climate. Grandvewe is the only producer of its kind to be certified organic.

     

    We got the chance to taste several of their cheeses, and here’s what we thought:

     

    1. Friesland Fog – Soft cheese with a blue/grey rind. Smooth, creamy with a hint of blue cheese taste.
    2. La Mancha – Classic sheep cheese made in the Manchego style. Rubbed weekly with organic olive oil and aged for 20 months. This cheese won gold at the 2012 Sydney Royal Cheese and Dairy Produce Show.
    3. Sapphire Blue – Named champion by the Royal Agricultural Society of NSW. This led to Grandvewe applying for the President’s Medal, the country’s highest produce accolade.
    4. Pinot Paste - Grandvewe’s equivalent of quince jelly. Perfect accompaniment to the tasty cheeses on offer here.
    5. Mutton Sausage – A cured meat sausage with a smoky rich flavor.

     

    Visiting Grandvewe was a treat in itself–an elegant, cozy cafe overlooking lush rolling hills covered in their sheep, with a stunning body of water shimmering in the background.  We bundled up in some fleece, browsed the huge collection of magazine and newspaper articles published about Grandvewe, and had a great chat with Diane’s daughter, who is also one of the owners of Grandvewe, Nicole Gilliver.

     

    Our favorite treat of the day (other than the sheep’s puns and jokes that lined the walls of the bathroom) was the Sheep Milk Ice Cream–intensely creamy and a perfect, rich chocolate flavour.

     

    High quality products, relentless commitment to their dream, and a great sense of humor to boot.. it’s just one killer combination for a business.  Grandvewe, you rock our woolen socks off.

    For more information on Grandvewe Sheep Cheesery, please visit their website or in person at:
    59 Devyns Road, Birchs Bay, South Hobart

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  9. What Is Malaysian Food?

    April 7, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    Malaysia is a huge mixing pot of cultures, with such large populations of immigrants that Chinese and Indian food can be considered typical Malaysian food.

    Nasi Kandar is a really popular dish here in Kuala Lumpur and throughout Malaysia: it’s basically rice served buffet-style with different curries, vegetables, noodles, and other sides.  ”Nasi” means rice and “kandar” is the pole that vendors use on their shoulders to balance two buckets of rice.  One heaping plate of warm delicious-ness that leaves you feeling like passing out costs a whopping 6 or 7 Ringgits (USD $2).  Basically its heaven.

    Today, my Polish couchsurfing hosts Magda & Jurek took me to their favorite Nasi Kandar restaurant, and I spoke with the owner, Norshaw Izzarudin and her son Raffik.  Raffik’s brother in law is the chef and it’s a family business through-and-through.

    They’ve been running the business for 7 years, which, like most similar establishments, has no name or address.  However, just because they’re not on Google Maps doesn’t mean business isn’t booming.. its a friendly neighborhood shack and the locals use their hands to eat (according to Magda it tastes better this way).  A nice cold Lime Ice Tea helps wash down the spicy chilis peppered throughout the curries while you sweat in the shade, karaoke from the wedding accross the street filling your ears.

    My favorite dish was Pajeri Nanas (pineapple curry) and Raffik’s is Siakap (fish with coconut milk and chili).

    For dessert, we headed right next door to the women cooking up a storm.  Colorful squishy blobs made of sticky rice, tapioca, and flour confused but delighted my taste buds.

    The photos might do the whole experience more justice:


  10. Eat Meet No. 2 – Chiang Mai Jungle Curry

    March 6, 2012 by The E.A.T. Team

    ON THE MENU 
    Bok Choi Jungle Curry and Moonshine
    ON THE GLOBE
    Mae Wan, Chiang Mai, Thailand
    ON THE TEAM
    Chef Samart Srisoda, Ex-Monk and Philanthropist
     

    Samart’s Lifestory in a Nutshell

    The youngest of 9 children, Samart attended Primary school until his parents could no longer afford it. At 11 years old he started life in a monastery as a Temple Boy and continued his studies as a Monk after a year. Leaving the monastery after 8 years, Samart continued in his education becoming the only member of his family to have a university degree. Samart now runs a successful adventure tour company along with several community projects which help to raise money for families unable to fund education for their children.

    www.theeatteam.com

    Where are we?

    Mae Win, a sub district of Chiang Mai

     

    Where are you from?

    Chiang Mai, Thailand

     

    What are we eating tonight? 

    Bok Choi Jungle Curry with rice, followed by Papaya.

     

    Why/how did you become a chef?

    Started from a young age because my parents had to work long hours as garlic pickers. I cooked for them.  They would get picked up from the nearest village to start a two hour journey – finish at 5 back home at 7 – late.  There was no electricity so after sunset.. the only thing to do is make babies.

     

    What is the food scene like in Chiang Mai?

    Chiang Mai food and Thai food.. very different.  Everywhere has their own food.  Me?  I’m very picky.  I eat 99%  only northern Thai food.  Pad Thai, fried rice.. maybe once a year for me.  I cook all the time.  Here, they wrap fish in banana leaves and put them on the barbecue so it steams.. that’s northern Thai food.  Central Thai food uses a lot of coconut milk.  Northern people hardly use coconut milk–only in pudding.  Muslim people use coconut milk a lot.  Southern Thai also.. that’s why they’re fat!  They use lemon juice, and we use tamarind.  Southern Thai food is more about stir fry, northern is more about curry. The ingredients in Tom (like in Tom Yam and Tom Kha) is sliced and boiled. Gang is ground. Masaman is Buddhist/Hindu curry. Penang is more like red curry.  Burmese curry – tomato peanuts and ginger.

    When you come to Chiang Mai, you must eat the sausage.  And chili paste with pork and tomato.  Sticky rice and Chiang Mai sausage.  The second one is bak choi soup, very simple: in hot water, you cook the bones to make a broth and stock.  Don’t overcook!  Throw fried garlic in.. perfect.  That’s for tomorrow.  Chiang Mai food only.  No Thai food.

     

    What was the first thing you learned how to cook?

    This, what we’re eating tonight–Bak  Choi Curry.  There’s many different types of bak choi, and they’re all very different.  This one is a little bit bitter.  It’s called Hamong.

     

    Where and how did you learn to cook?

    Just watching my parents, seeing how they did it.  My mother liked to cook Thai food, but my Father hated [southern] Thai food.  He liked Chiang Mai food, he thought it was healthier becuase it’s steamed in banana leaves.  He was a smart.  He was a village man but he watched documentaries and the news all the time.  He’s 73 years old.

     

    What is your favorite food?

    Bok choi curry, I eat it twice a week.  I don’t like beige vegetables, only green.  I really like stir fried morning glory with oyster sauce.  Morning glory is from China.

     

    “MSG stands for MMM So Good!”

    Why aren’t there many tomatoes here?

    Thai people don’t really eat a lot of it, and it’s not native.

     

    Do you feel fast food joints are ruining Thai food culture?

    No, I think it has changed the culture, but it’s still just an option and Thailand cannot really say anything because when we decide to be an open, fair trade country, well that means we have to accept everything.  But not many people can afford to eat fast food anyways!  It’s so much more expensive.

    Families cook, but people living in a dorm go out a lot–its cheaper!  It’s more expensive to gather the ingredients and cook at home, unless you share with many people.

     

    Is it usually the mom that cooks?

    Usually women cook, the more common foods especially.  Unless it’s extra special rare food, like rare beef salad, men cook that.

     

    Is there anything you don’t like or ingredients you avoid?

    I just don’t like creamy substances like coconut milk.

     

    Do you prefer cooking here than in your house in Chiang Mai?

    It’s a better atmosphere.  In the city, I’m alone.  This is one of the reasons I participate with couchsurfing, because I like cooking and this way someone eats my food!

     

    “Cooking is my skill, my art. ”

     

    Do you have special occassions that you make food for?

    I cook pretty much every day, so I cook for the holidays too.  I’d rather have a nice meal than go out, so I cook while the others go out and celebrate.  They get home and eat my food.  It’s my skill, its art for me.  I don’t know how to draw or paint, or music… I know nothing.  Cooking is my skill, my art.  Most people still follow the old generation’s advice.  They link that belief to the idea that a spirit would get angry, perhaps give you diarrhea.

     

    What is it that you’re not meant to do that would anger the spirits?

    Well, people do it now, but when I was younger, you would never cook mushroom with meat.

     

    Was there a special diet for the monks?

    Basically, the monk has no choice for food, so they have to eat what the people cook for them.  Eat to live.  And they don’t cook normally, it’s the people’s job.  If they don’t like it, they can cook their own or adapt their tastebuds. And that’s very hard.

     

    Is it true that a lot of Thai food has MSG in it?

    Oh yes, a lot.  But I use chicken stock.  But it still has very low levels of MSG in it.  But nobody knows for sure still whether or not MSG is bad for you.

     

    Why do they use MSG anyways?  It’s tasty enough isn’t it?

    Because sometimes you need a sweetness that’s not sugar.  Normally MSG is from tapioca, a Japanese company in Kanchanaburi, Thailand makes MSG.  It’s not only tapioca powder, but chemicals too, and that’s what they think might be harmful.  Lots of people talk about it, but its still not known.  You keep hearing, ‘oh it’s bad for the blood, it’s bad for the bones,’ and then a couple years later you hear from American scientists that nothing’s wrong.

     

    How do you feel about MSG?

    It’s a drug.  People get addicted to it.

     

    Where do you get MSG?

    Just from the shop.  It’s like a white powder. Started in Japan but there’s a factory in Kanchanaburi. When you study science you learn about MSG from a very early age as if it’s a drug, good teachers try to stop kids from having it and advise against them having it. You can use mushroom if veggie, or chicken or pork stock if not instead.

    My Sister and mother are good at cooking but use too much MSG. You can’t change the people in the village or older relatives who are stuck in their ways. I am the first of my family to get a degree, but they dont listen to me about MSG. If they have never been to school then they haven’t ever learned about it, therefore don’t care. I say to my Mother, “If you can’t tell me what MSG stands for then you need to stop using it.” She replies, “MSG stands for MMM So Good!”

     

    Have you tried cooking food other than Thai food?

    I cook Italian sometimes.  I cook pizza, and adapt it in my way–I make red curry pizza.  And Thai lasagna, including chilis, garlics, coriander seeds, spices, tumerics, like what we put in the chili paste we are making tonight.  I like red meat so I would put pork or beef in it.  Kangaroo meat is the best meat in the world, no fat because they’re hopping all day.

     

    Did you build this place?

    Yes, it took 2.5 years.  Now they are solar powered and there’s internet.  I started in May 2 years ago.  I started with only 1 bungalow, I wanted only 1, and then.. more and more.

     

    If you were gonna eat a really fatty meal, what would it be?

    Bacon is the worst food that I would eat.

     

    Why isn’t there cheese in Thai food?

    Because Thailand is a tropical region–just because it’s hot.  Cheese is meant to keep you warm.  New chefs bring a revolution in the last 15 years and now lots of people use cheese mixed with Thai food.

     

    Do you ever use cheese in your cooking?

    No never.. except for the Thai lasagna.

     

    We’ve ordered the same dish in several places, but they’ve all tasted different.  Why?

    When cooking, chefs can have the same skills, same ingredients, but the food can taste totally different. The key is that you need the same pot and same heat–bronze and open air fire from a clay oven. If you want to cook lemur or deer you need to cook in a clay pot so it smells like the earth.

     

    How do you know how much of each ingredient to put in since you’re not measuring anything?

    You can feel how much you need to put in from your heart. (If you’re a real chef!)

    To work, volunteer, or vacation with Samart visit chaingmaiecolodges.com or email him at spicywildpumpkin@gmail.com