2 minutes with Natalie Abboud
Occupation: mum, restaurateur and local councillor for Moreland council
Restaurants: Rumi and The Moors Head
You trained as a chef, why did you move out of the kitchen?
I left the kitchen to cross the floor and run the front of house for Joseph when we opened Rumi. As it was I was a much better chef but not long after we opened the restaurant I was pregnant three times in quick succession which kept me away for 8 years. I had no intention of returning after that long although I did do a few prep shifts to help me maintain my sanity during the “baby years”.
Tell us about your restaurants (that you own with husband Joseph) and family life?
We own Rumi in East Brunswick together and The Moors Head in Thornbury with John Farha and Dave Figliomeni. We also have a share of la Vera Cucina in Elsternwick. We employ the most remarkable bunch of people so Joseph and I have recently been able to swap roles completely at home. I am now the one who is often late home and he does the school drop off. This is a source of constant delight for me. Joseph like to break stereotypes and I’m pretty sure he’s one of very few Lebanese men who irons. We recently sold our shares in a business Joseph helped start and moved to an amazing property overlooking the Merri Creek. I don’t imagine we will get used to being in the “Warrandyte of Coburg” anytime soon.
You describe yourself as a fair food advocate, what does this mean to you?
I proudly sit on the board of the Melbourne Farmers Market. I am delighted to see farmers and food producers be able to cut out the middleman and bring their produce straight to the consumer. I mostly eat seasonally, I avoid supermarkets where I can and almost never shop duopoly. I like to advocate for scenarios that make this an easier option for everyone because I think we really need to protect our food systems so they don’t fail.
What triggered a move into politics?
I had been running political forums at the Farmers Market to get pollies to talk about food-related issues and I met Tim Read. He was running for the Greens in Brunswick. I had voted Greens for a long time and I felt like I wanted to put my colours up the mast so I joined the party. During the time I was raising boys in Coburg I wondered often about what I would do when I “went back to work”. After I became involved with the Australian Greens, during a discussion at a party on polling night of the 2014 state election, the seed was planted about the idea of me running for Moreland Council.
A few years later I had a chat with Joseph about what I would do when Percy (the 5-year-old, baby of the family) went to primary school. He said something like “oh if it was me I would just go get a job in a cafe or deli” to which I responded something like, “I’d rather stick a pencil in my eye”. Not many people like a deli more than I do but by then I had already run as the Greens candidate for Yuroke in the State election and been preselected to run in Calwell in the Federal election and I realised that running for Moreland Council was going to be my plan for 2016. (since this interview Nat was elected as a local councillor for Moreland Council)
What changes would you like to see made by government in the next 5 years?
Let’s rent a house together for a week and I can answer that. I like to see the Greens win the seats of Brunswick and Northcote at the next state election. More of a change OF government rather than a change BY government. I imagine the rest would flow on from there.
Dinner party at your house, what's on the menu?
Something roasted or barbecued from a farmers market with lots of salad. It would usually be a big meal feeding plenty of people and there would be a dose of something sweet for after. (Although if I am honest, I would be asking Joseph to shop and cook and I would probably make it just in time to eat due to campaign commitments)
You can follow Nat on Instagram @natabboud1