Chef Jock Zonfrillo’s Orana Foundation and the University of Adelaide are set to commence a new research partnership aimed at further developing the Australian native food industry.
Thanks to a $1.25 million South Australian Government grant, the two organisations will work together over a two year period with the aim of building the still fledgling Australian native food industry into an indispensable part of Australian culinary culture. Their hope is also to return the benefits of resulting research and potential industry to the hands of the Indigenous communities from which the produce and knowledge originally hails.
“This project is about the collision between scientific knowledge and culinary exploration,” Professor Andy Lowe, University of Adelaide’s Food Innovation director tells The Adelaide Review.
Noting previous explorations of Australian native produce, Lowe says that we’re past the point of simply seeing Australian flora as “bush tucker”, and that there is strong potential for growth and culinary contribution on a global scale.
“There’s a real sense now that the time is right to have a go at the Australian native food industry,” says Lowe. “Out of 50,000 Australian plant varieties, there is only one that is regularly used around the world: the macadamia… We’re going to be asking, what are the native plants that will produce new flavours and a new Australian cuisine?
Zonfrillo, who founded the acclaimed Restaurant Orana and the Orana Foundation with the goal of assisting Indigenous communities to preserve their culture, alleviating social and economic disadvantage and expanding native food supply, said in a release that he is “excited to see this project come to life.”
“It is critically important for the success of this project that as a result of this scientific research and analysis, Indigenous communities are able to gain significant benefits from sharing their knowledge, through direct involvement in future cultivation, harvesting and supply of native ingredients.”
Jock Zonfrillo and Patricia Marrfurra McTaggart, Nauiyu Community, Daly River (Photo: Anders Jorgensen, Fool Magazine)
The research will span over four areas, with the aim to build a database of native Australian foods, assess their precise nutritional benefits, explore their flavour profiles and best methods of preparation, and determine the optimum conditions for their cultivation. A variety of resources will be drawn upon to achieve these goals, including direct consultation with remote Indigenous communities, experimentation between Orana chefs and the university’s scientists as well as collaboration with cultural institutions like the South Australian Museum.
“The SA Museum has an Indigenous Advisory committee already set up, so we will be working with them on that, as well as using their extensive anthropological collections,” says Lowe. “The perception around exploiting Indigenous knowledge is something we’re very conscious of, and don’t want to be tarred with.”