Our fresh food hub, the Adelaide Central Market, is a feast of local and global flavours and is a tourist destination, as well as a shopping precinct. With the Adelaide Central Market Authority’s inaugural CEO, Carl Partridge, settled into his job, The Adelaide Review talks the future of the CBD’s most lively shopping destination.
After 143 years, the Central Market is more than an Adelaide institution. Visiting chefs usually say their first stop when in town is the market. With a gang of fruit and veg stalls, speciality produce shops, cafes and smallgoods holdings providing food from South Australia and around the globe, there is no place like it. Adelaide loves ‘our market’ despite grumblings over the years regarding the car park, its image and stallholder unrest. Then there are the farmers’ markets, which could be seen as a threat to the Central Market, as they are the hip places to buy fresh produce from with their sustainable ethos allowing consumers to buy direct from the farmer. Partridge, who is from the UK previously working at Premier League soccer club Fulham, The Oval Cricket Ground and the Royal Agriculture Society of England, was announced as the inaugural CEO of the new Central Market Authority in May, which is chaired by Judy Potter. The Authority’s aim is to create a vibrant, commercially sustainable and engaging food market experience. When Partridge took the job, he said his first issue was to separate the facts from the emotions.
“Once you kind of ignore the emotions – especially in this place as this place is full of emotions, and I’m really emotional about it – but the first thing to understand was who our public are and why do they come here. The next thing to understand was how do people shop in metropolitan Adelaide. So there were two things – the real world outside of the market and the real world inside of the market. The approach that we took was let’s see how people conduct their lives, as it currently is to give us the best direction. The things I was being asked from traders and media were the usual questions, which are: ‘Is rent going to go up? Are car parking prices going to go up? What’s happening with opening hours?’ And my bit was none of that is of relevance until we can understand the real world and if I was to ask you the question: ‘If a place opened on a Sunday would you shop?’ You might say ‘yes’ but my real question should be: ‘Where do you currently shop in Adelaide?’”
A recent survey completed by the Market (quizzing 3000 Market shoppers plus 1500 people outside of the Market) showed that 66 percent of Adelaideans shop at the Market at least once a year; eight percent of all Adelaide’s fruit and veg are bought at the market as well as 12 percent of our city’s seafood. But what do people want from the Central Market?
“We know that people want more tastings. They want more of the demos about how to do things with different products. They want more food on the go. They want to know more about the food’s history and which is South Australian produce and which isn’t. They also want to know more of a story about things like Marco’s [Mushroom Man] mushrooms that come from the Adelaide Hills, they also want to know a bit more of that history, so that’s good for us. We’re doing some things at the moment that’ll show the market is unique. It’s absolutely unique. If you go to the top of the escalators we’ve relocated all of the posters that were up there and they are now big blackboards all designed by local artists and they’ll tell you what’s in season, how to use it and, for example, if you buy asparagus what does it go with?”
Food SA recently launched the Regional and Seasonal program, which will showcase local producers and products at the Market. In an age where the media and celebrity chefs are pushing fresh in-season produce this is a smart move, especially since farmers’ markets are currently trending, as they sell in-season local produce only, which you buy direct from the farmer while the Central Market sells food from around the globe, as well as local produce. But Partridge wants to work with the farmers’ markets and is supportive of them.
“We meet different demands. We’ve got stuff that’s absolutely in season in Australia now and we’ve also got products that are in season around the world. Where we differ from the farmers’ markets is we get access to products, especially Marco, that just expands the culinary experience. Marco has got his Adelaide Hills mushrooms plus truffles from France.”
Will there be new stalls?
“The challenge is all the stalls are full. We’re looking at some pop-up stalls. There is a team in discussion about that at the moment. We want to do it in a very traditional away; hand carts with little canopies. I’m trying to find a South Australian company who can make those for me.”