Minds of Chefs: A sustainable focus with Africola’s Imogen Czulowski

The move from Fino’s kitchen to Africola was the restaurant version of switching from a symphony orchestra to a metal band for Africola’s head chef Imogen Czulowski, but one thing the two restaurants have in common is a focus on sustainability.

Czulowski was at Fino Seppeltsfield for two years and before that was an apprentice at Fino’s original Willunga location as a 17-year-old. Now, at Africola under Duncan Welgemoed, Czulowski has moved to the city restaurant at a time when the menu has a larger focus on vegetarian plates and where it has a reputation as a place where vegetarians, vegans and people with food allergies can feast in a safe dining space.

For Czulowski, she’s always had a sustainable nose-to-tail ethos when it comes to food, from her European upbringing to her time at two of the most lauded kitchens in South Australia.

“The fear of wasting things was big in our family,” says Czulowski, whose father is Polish and mother is Dutch. “So, that was really important. It was always naturally there. Fino promoted sustainability and that really stuck with me. No one’s got time for wasting food. At Africola, it’s all about getting in the whole beast, getting in whatever we can and doing as much as we can with it. I think that’s important, especially now.”

Examples of dishes where the ingredients are reused multiple times include celery heart and walnuts, where the heart of the celery is featured as the main part of the dish. The stalks are juiced, which the heart is cooked in. The stalks are also used for stock and the leaves are dehydrated and used as celery salt.

For Africola’s famous chicken-skin sandwich (tea sandwich) the fat and excess skin is rendered, which is used for seasoning for peri peri drippings while the excess crispy skin is used for chicken salt.

Just a short pleasant stroll from the pressure cooker that is Africola’s kitchen on East Terrace is the 136-year-old Santos Museum of Economic Botany in the Adelaide Botanic Garden. The museum is a place where visitors can learn about the importance of plants and which has a focus on minimising waste.

“I just love this place,” Czulowski says. “It’s calm. It teaches you about plants, food and what we should be doing. In an ideal world it would be nice if we all had nice gardens and vegie patches. It’s not always the case when you’re living in an apartment but I still think it’s really important to educate yourself. And the Museum is in the Botanic Garden, which is so utterly beautifully.”

africola.com.au

Photography: Josh Geelen

Adelaide In-depth

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