Food can be so much more than just a way to give us the nutrition that we need. It can also be a vehicle that allows us to impress, excite and even inspire change. The Basque Culinary Center (BCC) recognised this and created an award to celebrate those in the culinary trade that help to be a force for positive change. It is also a celebration of a chef’s ability to lead and inspire others. It helps reward chefs that give back to their communities, and not just in terms of a delicious meal.
Each year, the winner of the award is selected from an eclectic field of chefs from across the world. They are chosen by a panel of independent chefs and other experts, and for 2018 they have chosen Jock Zonfrillo as the worthy winner.
Just the name Jock Zonfrillo inspires thoughts of a rugged Scotsman with Italian finesse. In all honesty, this is exactly who Jock is. Born in Scotland to a Scottish mother and an Italian father, he later moved to Australia and has lived here for more than two decades. During his time in Sydney, Jock credits a life changing moment to a conversation he had with an Aboriginal busker named Jimmy. They talked for hours about food, the changing of seasons, flavours and cooking techniques. Jock was blown away by Jimmy’s connection to the land and sophisticated knowledge – how the snapper run when the tea trees blossom and the stingrays are fattest when the white lilies flower on the beaches of Arnhem land. This conversation lead to exactly what Jock was looking for – a new category of food. With the new knowledge he had gleaned, Jock went on to open Restaurant Orana and Bistro Blackwood in Adelaide. Each restaurant winning the 2017 Australian Restaurant of the Year and South Australia’s Hottest Restaurant 2018 respectively.
Naturally, Jock is filled with pride at receiving such a prestigious award and feels honoured to be recognised by such a respected panel of peers. Jock is also understandably delighted at having won the prize money, all of which will be going to The Orana Foundation. His work with The Orana Foundation is what inspired the judges to grant the award to Jock.
Jock founded The Orana Foundation with the intention of recognising the rich heritage of Australia’s indigenous populations and supporting them through research, documentation, commercialisation and promotion of native Australian foods. The Foundation also aims to revolutionise Australian food culture through combining the preservation of Indigenous knowledge and practice with contemporary methods and innovation.
Jock’s work also provides skills training and employment opportunities to Australia’s indigenous population and helps bridge the cultural gap in Australia.
The Orana Foundation has already been able to identify just how the prize money can be put to good use through the following investments:
The development of an architecturally designed packing shed that will help the safe processing and packing of product at the source. The packing shed was designed with sustainable bamboo and fire-retardant materials to mitigate termite rot and to protect against bush fires and the extreme heat. It was also designed with a clever modular layout for minimal assembly and impact to the land. By processing and packing the products in the community packing shed, The Orana Foundation will be able to increase the shelf life, nutrients and hygiene of all its products.
The native Australian landscape has 10,000-15,000 edible ingredients to choose from. The Orana Foundation has analysed 2000 native ingredients and have begun creating a database that will help enable their commercial production. The prize money will help Jock fund the development of the software to house such a large database.
Australia is home to Cherabin, a little-known native species of giant freshwater prawn that grows wild in the freshwaters of the Kimberley region of Western Australia. The Orana Foundation will be teaming up with an indigenous-owned organisation with agricultural experience to bring these prawns to the Australian market. The money will be used to buy a mobile shellfish processing plant that will enable the prawns to be gathered from the remote communities, snap frozen and transported to the metro areas.