My Food Story…
I have always been inspired by the environment and nature growing up as a child in Fiji. I didn’t know I was destined to become a chef back then, but shared a deep love for food, family and friends. I also spent a lot of time by the sea, spent weekends scuba diving and fishing. Friends and I would snorkel local estuaries, set bamboo crab pots with soft drink bottles and eat curry parcels outsider the corner shop.
My father was forever being invited places and my brother and I would usually tag along. Dad loved to get out for a shoot and we’d hunt big wood pigeons with the Indian Villagers at Galoa Village on the Coral Coast. In the early hours of the morning the open fire in the corrugated tin house would be lit and I’d watch oil being tempered with spices, roti being made by hand and the mouth watering south indian style pigeon curry being made. This memory gave me my great love of curries and spice.
My mother also had a big influence on me growing up. Mum would take me to the local markets in Suva. I loved the energy, the excitement, shouting, bargaining and organised ciaos.
Spice merchants lined the upstairs level of the market. You could always smell freshly ground spices and the pungent scent of yagona (kava) being ground. From the market Mum would buy sea grapes, baby octopus, fresh water mussels, taro leaves to make ‘rou-rou’, coconuts for scrapping to make fresh milk, chilies, tomatoes and coriander (most weeks). Preparing the produce was always a family affair. The house was alive with friends on the weekend and it was the communal gathering that bought the most joy to me. It wasn’t until my 20’s that I realised how I felt about this. The sharing, preparing, laughing, cooking and sitting down together felt so simple, yet so appealing as if almost a way of life. This was what drove me to become a chef. After five years working as a Chef I needed a break from my very routine life. I applied for and was accepted into an internship with Noma, a Two Michelin starred restaurant based in Copenhagen, Denmark. Noma set up a pop up restaurant in Barangaroo Sydney, NSW in Australia. The ten week unpaid experience changed my approach to food and really moved me.
Nomas philosophy of ‘time’ and ‘place’ completely appealed to me. I’d been looking for opportunities to bring my environmental background together with my culinary life and knew this concept would inform the chef I wanted to become.
I returned home to the Sunshine Coast and continued to research edible plants locally. I knew local chefs were not taking inspiration from our local landscape given the overwhelming choice of produce. I still felt the local food scene had no inherent context that defined itself.
This lead to the creation of Wild Forage Australia. A way to personally connect with chefs through wild foraged edibles and a way to provide a specialty product that was sourced within a defined geographical local boundary. After a period of going it alone I realised I needed to streamline supply. I was approached by Suncoast Fresh and began collaborating with a broader client base. Sharing a passion for wild, quality and interesting flavours it was a no brainer. Today we collectively supply a picked to order service each week to restaurants on the Sunshine Coast, Brisbane and Byron Bay.