Native food is the it food topic of the moment, and Something Wild’s Richard Gunner and Daniel Motlop believe that consumers should know the stories behind native produce.
Thanks to chefs such as Adelaide’s Jock Zonfrillo, Attica’s Ben Shewry and even Nordic maestro René Redzipi – who used Indigenous ingredients at his Sydney NOMA pop-up earlier this year – native foods have been pushed to the forefront of Australia’s food consciousness. Butcher and farmer Richard Gunner believes that while the awareness of native foods have turned a corner, there are still conversations to be had about where the ingredients and produce come from and who gets it. “Without having to hop on a soapbox or anything like that, there are lots of examples where things were taken from Indigenous Australians and to a large extent a lot of this stuff is Indigenous intellectual property,” Gunner says. “And if we want to develop and take it forward and realised the interest and opportunities, I think you need to go back to that as your starting point.” Gunner, who owns Feast! Fine Foods, is a minority stakeholder of Something Wild, which recently announced Daniel Motlop as its general manager. Gunner says that Motlop and his family will be able to help tell the stories about native ingredients as well as work respectfully with Aboriginal communities. “We shouldn’t be taking it off Indigenous communities and saying, ‘Look at what we’ve got, look at what we’re selling’, without telling the stories of the kangaroo and the quandong.”
Native greens are quickly growing in popularity on the Australian food scene
“If we get the stories out there behind where everything comes from, obviously with the magpie goose, Aboriginal people have been eating that and hunting that for hundreds of years, so to actually have it in the shop now and sharing that is a great story,” Motlop says. “We’re selective about who gets it.” Gunner and Motlop met when Gunner was on the lookout for magpie geese – a northern Australian bird – three or four years back. Gunner’s farm is close to Meningie and former AFL star Motlop was player and co-coach of Meningie Football Club with Gunner’s business development consultant James Moore.
Something Wild boasts an enormous range of native Australian meats
“I read a story about magpie geese; people were shooting and poisoning them because they were attacking mango farms,” Gunner says. “I was complaining to him [Moore] about how people see them as a pest rather than a resource. And he said, ‘I might know someone’. And it was Daniel.” “Richard helped me set up a small business within an Aboriginal community which employed Aboriginal people,” Motlop says. “’Let’s employ these guys to do it [catch geese], get them paid, so they are actually doing stuff they do in everyday life.’ It was a perfect fit. Just a great story. Aboriginal people working on their land. That’s the way governments are going, they want Aboriginal people in their communities with more jobs in that community. I started up a little business and it’s been a bit of a roller coaster ride but towards the end of that goose season we found a way of how to get the geese.”
Magpie geese are both loathed and loved in the NT
“The geese are very smart,” Gunner says. “They live until they’re 30. That gives you an idea that they must be smart. You think, ‘Oh, a dumb bird, you’ll be able to outsmart them easily’ – nup.” “The geese are all over Darwin, they are seasonal but sit through all the parks, all the footy grounds and all of a sudden they’re gone as they nest on water,” Motlop says. “It’s something I’ve always wanted to do. Something I’ve dreamt about and people have always come up and said, ‘I’d love to eat goose, sell it or whatever’. Nobody had done it. Obviously with Richard, being who he is and what he does, having that backing from him, just made it perfect. The first ever permit for geese.”
Motlop and Gunner are proud to bring not just the food, but the stories behind it to consumers
From there, Motlop became general manager of Something Wild, a native and game butcher that sells meats such as kangaroo, wallaby, crocodile, venison, wild boar and buffalo as well as native greens, fruits and outback seasoning. “Getting Daniel and his family involved, we still want to be involved in this but we’ve taken a step back to have a minority stake,” Gunner says. “It’s the right way to develop the business and it’s going to be a lot easier in terms of working with other communities. We were able to work with Daniel, but if it’s Daniel working with the people in the APY lands to get quandongs or bush tomatoes or different communities in different parts of Australia, it’s going to work a lot better than having me. We had a unique set of circumstances with James and the footy in Meningie but that’s one connection, this way we can do things on a much wider basis.” “I actually work as an advisor for Aboriginal Affairs in the Northern Territory, I know everyone out there and it’s about treating people with respect culturally,” Motlop says. “They can work on their land, they can stay in their communities and not have to leave and go to work in Darwin.” somethingwild.com.au Photos: Jonathan van der Knaap