The future of bushfoods

We believe the rising popularity of native ingredients in Australian restaurants is more than just a culinary trend
Stills extracted from a video courtesy of Solotel/Present Co.

We think the conversation around the use of bushfoods in contemporary dining is a gateway into a world where the products we consume are more environmentally sustainable and bring all Australians closer to our country’s past, present and future as the home to the world’s oldest continuing culture.

In order to make this world a reality, businesses, government and communities need to work together. Here at Time Out, we have been running a number of small initiatives to help progress the cause for the proper acknowledgement, use and support of our native ingredients.

Back in October 2016, we assembled a panel of Indigenous thinkers, fine-dining luminaries and community leaders to discuss the cultural significance of the trend for native ingredients. In doing so, our Time Out Talk sold out the National Art School’s Cell Block Theatre, trended on Twitter and even began to change the way we – and others – do business.

In June this year, with support from our friends at PWC and Solotel, we ran a workshop in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens designed to educate some of Sydney’s leading chefs, restaurateurs and business leaders on how their businesses could incorporate bushfoods into their offerings in a culturally appropriate manner.

Meanwhile in Melbourne last month, our MD Michael Rodrigues selected and chaired a panel discussion at Creative Victoria’s Creative State Summit. ‘The Pea Under the Mattress and the Pea on the Plate’ explored the idea that Indigenous food and art are powerful agents in a paradigm shift towards a greater respect and understanding of First Nations culture, and that the proper use of bushfoods could lead to more sustainable food production in the face of climate change. The heavyweight panel included creative director of the Yirramboi First Nations Arts Festival, Jacob Boehme, artist Jen Rae, Dark Emu author Bruce Pascoe, and highly respected Boon Wurrung elder Aunty Carolyn Briggs.

In running these three initiatives we have found that one key message stands at the forefront of the politics of bushfood. As native ingredients become more commercialised, we hope that the businesses incorporating them into their culinary offerings can uphold three pillars: acknowledgement, proper use and support for community.

Acknowledgement means that when we consume native ingredients, we have an understanding that we’re connected to a history of cultivation and harvest in Australia that stretches back tens of thousands of years.

Proper use means that we are growing, processing and serving these ingredients in a way that is culturally appropriate and sustainable for both the environment and the people involved in producing them.

Support for community means never taking without giving back – whether it be through championing Indigenous-owned businesses, community programmes or causes that matter.

If you’re keen to work with more Indigenous suppliers, there’s a simple resource to help you find them. Supply Nation is an Australian Government-endorsed Indigenous business directory that can help you, or your procurement team, find suppliers to work with. supplynation.org.au

Stay tuned for further updates as we work with Australian businesses to establish and maintain our three pillars of support for native ingredients.

To learn more about our involvement with indigenous ingredients, contact our MD, Michael Rodrigues on 02 8239 5990 or michael.rodrigues@au.timeout.com.