From regional farms to CBD plates

Edible flowers in a fresh seasonal salad

Blanche Clark

Posted January 06, 2022


A farm-to-plate philosophy and all that seasonality and regionality has to offer is striking a chord with Melbourne chefs and diners.

Melbourne CBD chefs and diners are famously passionate about fine food and dining – and even prouder of tasty meals made from the very best of Victorian produce, with an eye to sustainable practices. 

The revitalisation of the city’s dining scene post-lockdown includes a trend towards using the best local and sustainable produce, especially after demand for everything Victorian spiked across 2020 and 2021, largely thanks to successful campaigns such as Click for Vic.  

Melbourne even has a 100 per cent sustainable urban farm at Federation Square called Future Food System. It’s the brainchild of Joost Bakker, and has aquaponics, solar power, micro-farms and a rooftop garden. Guest chefs showcase a unique dish on Instagram each week. 

Although you can’t eat at Future Food System, there are plenty of places in the CBD where you can enjoy local and sustainable produce, such as Sojourn in New Chancery Lane. Whether it’s native herbs and edible flowers from Warrandyte, artisan cheese from Thomastown, or ethically raised ducks from a small Victorian farm overlooking the Southern Ocean, Sojourn’s chefs take the time to source the best local ingredients. 

Sous Chef Callum Nugent, who oversees the menu for Sojourn, says it’s wonderful to work with fresh seasonal produce and diners notice the difference.  

“We’re passionate about using the finest and freshest ingredients,” Callum says. “It makes a difference to know where your produce comes from and how is it treated. Whether it’s vegetables or an animal, people are looking at it in relatively the same way.”

Chef in front of restaurant

Chef Callum Nugent showcases local produce at Sojourn. Photo: Matt Harvey


Sourcing the best produce

Nugent says a great dish starts with the suppliers. 

“Take Spurrell Foraging in Warrandyte, for example, their produce is sustainably grown and hand-picked. When you receive a delivery, you know it hasn’t been treated with chemicals, and that the mini lettuces, herbs and flowers are fresh and seasonal,” Callum says. 

“We also deal with That’s Amore. They’re an artisan cheesemaker based in Thomastown, and they source the highest quality milk from local farms in Victoria.” 

One of Nugent’s favourite dishes is the Great Ocean Road free-range confit duck legs with tamarind chili glaze, which is on Sojourn’s menu - a new restaurant open in the heart of the Melbourne CBD. 

“I think that dish is a really good representation of seasonal produce at the moment,” Nugent says. 

“You have ethically raised ducks paired with locally grown oranges, two unique suppliers, and that’s inspiring. The dish went through a lot of processes. I started by asking my team, “What can we do better?”  
 
We considered such things as cooking the duck longer or cooking it less; salting or brining it, and everyone came up with one idea each. It has become one of the most successful items on the Sojourn menu, because we all worked on it together and put the time and effort into the dish.” 

 

Restaurant food with local produce

Taste the best of Victorian produce at Sojourn. Photo: Shevin Dissanayake


Minimising food waste

Taking an ethical and sustainable approach also means no waste at Sojourn. 

Nugent says every part of the protein or vegetable is used in a dish, where possible.

“It goes right back to our suppliers and their process, the machinery they use, what they feed their animals, and what’s compostable,” Nugent says. 

“Once you have a good supplier, and you’ve seen their practices and how they look after their animals, produce their vegetables, or how they make their cheese, then you want to maintain that relationship and highlight those flavours throughout the dishes.  

“That’s where Sojourn makes a name for itself, because everything we do is about the suppliers, and the relationship that we have developed with them. 

“It’s also about supporting local people and farmers who are using ethically sustainable practices.” 

 

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