Sandy Melgalvis | Common Ground Project

Getting your hands dirty
by Sandy Melgalvis

Sandy is the head chef at the soon to be open Common Ground Project in Freshwater Creek south of Geelong. She has previously worked at Top Paddock as head chef and in the kitchens of Red Door Corner Store and Ladro.

I’m excited to introduce the Common Ground Project a social enterprise café and farm that uses bio dynamic and regenerative farming practices. All of our proceeds are being donated to sustainable agriculture and mental health in hospitality.

Our core values are underpinned by sustainability; therefore, we are working with numerous local farms and producers. Common Ground Project is starting with extremely damaged and depleted soil that we will need to give back to for quite some time before we start taking from it - but that is all a part of the regenerative story.

Our goal is to educate not only other chefs but our customers and their children on the significance of knowing where your food comes from. This starts with the soil our produce is grown in - then to making more ethical and planet conscious decisions.

We are living in a day and age where too many people are being criticized for not taking enough action around planet conscious decisions, when in fact every effort made small or large should be commended. This is what we want to focus on, the positive steps we all make every day.

Each day on the farm is started with meditation and then a gratitude exercise. This encourages the team to start their day by focusing on something positive.

Mental health has become so prominent in an industry fraught with high pressure, long hours and unfair pay. The Mulberry group have done a great job of giving us the space to create a safe, healthy, balanced and mindful environment for not only the staff but the hospitality industry as a whole.

Access to the farm will be through subscriptions and to start will be available to a small number of venues that can provide their staff with access to the land and the farmers knowledge. Their staff – predominantly chefs - will spend a day a week getting their hands in the dirt and learning about bio dynamic and regenerative farming practices. The venue will also receive weekly veggie boxes.

I can’t wait to share this project with everyone.

If you would like to connect with Sandy to know more about the project, send her an email at sandy@commongroundproject.com.au

Kim Galea | Pitchfork Restaurant

Attempting to live the dream…
by Kim Galea

Kim Galea is co-owner of Pitchfork Restaurant at Peregian Beach & Fior di Latte Gelataria in Mooloolaba, with husband Craig Galea. When not churning gelato at the wharf, she is running her two boys to and from soccer fields on the Sunshine Coast and enjoying great food and wine with friends!

We all have a vision of what our future will look like, for us it was some land, just big enough to have a veggie patch and raise some animals along with children.

We purchased land on the Sunshine Coast and then packed up our van and travelled around Australia working for several years.

On the way home one of our stops was Maggie Beers’ farm shop in South Australia,

Now this is the dream! , a beautiful spring fed dam, guinea fowl, ducks all just cruising around,

I had found what I imagined our life to be like

Fast forward to moving back home and the creation of this dream,

Spring fed dam … Council declined application after application, and after a long process we could not go further with it

Veggie garden… Not enough sun, move to another spot , bugs and grubs eating prized possessions and a whole watermelon patch destroyed by one possum! (Happy to say we now have a thriving garden after trial and error)

Animals… every spare moment is spent, making fences, building sheds, pens,

Then pulling these down and starting again as they were in the wrong spot, or made incorrectly or the dog keeps getting out!

The balancing act of running businesses, kid’s school & sports and constant maintenance on the “dream” can be a bit much at times , But the joy of eating what you created outweighs it every time.

Every family has a different approach to explaining where food comes from to kids,

We have not really put much thought into it, they have followed our conversations and watched what we do so it comes natural to them to know how the cycle works for us

We have two new piglets, Oscar and Archie what would you like to call them?

Oscar: I’ll call mine… Bacon

Archie: Then I’ll call mine Sausage!

So they do know how it all happens and what those delicious pigs will turn into!

A few awkward conversations, when neighbours and friends come over for a BBQ and ask what happened to our duck? , ‘We ate that last night’ states Oscar,.

Although we still have a bit of work to do, our youngest Archie is not 100% sure what a Beef is!

And then one day,

Getting breakfasts ready and the house is silent, I look at the window and no joke there are two guinea fowl cruising around on the lawn.

I take a moment and realise ‘holy crap! I am literally living the dream’.

Then the loud noise of the kids waking and thundering down the stairs like a heard of elephants, brings me back to reality.

I take one last look outside, just in time to see the dog chasing the two guinea fowl down the driveway and banishing them back to where they came from.

Oh well, we almost had it all!

If you are keen to connect with Kim and exchange stories about running regional restaurants you are welcome to email her at kim@pitchforkrestaurant.com.au

Maria Kabal | Anada

Why is offal off the menu? Maria Kabal wants chefs to open diners' minds

Estonia-born Maria Kabal, head chef at Melbourne's Añada, is an offal aficionado. Across Europe, she says, no part of the animal is off-limits, but in Australia people turn their noses up. Kabal wants chefs everywhere to respect the beast by not throwing away any part of it.

When I first moved to Melbourne from the UK five years ago, I was taken aback by the vibrancy of its restaurants and their colourful, eclectic and imaginative food.

But it took me a couple of years to notice – mainly because living in London had burnt such a gaping hole into my wallet that I couldn’t afford to eat out much – that even though very European in their tastes, Australians prefer only the more palatable of the European foods. No matter how inventive a menu, offal rarely features here. But why not?

From my observations over the years, there seems to be a significant age gap between those who will and won't come near the entrails of an animal, regardless of how, or by which chef, it's cooked. It’s almost as if a whole generation at one point collectively decided to only eat primary cuts of meat, and so from then on no one touched the other bits. Thus the stigma that offal was offensive grew.

With the latest generation of chefs, I have started to see offal back on menus. Fico in Hobart shows diners just how exquisite lambs brains are; Sydney's Saint Peter has diners fawning over eyeballs; and animals are being cooked whole more and more around the country.

At the moment when you see offal on a menu, it’s usually wrapped in cute little packages as a ruse to coerce the unassuming diner to try something they otherwise wouldn’t – a trick we use at Añada with our crumbed sweetbread nuggets. More often than not, diners are pleasantly surprised, but many still require some convincing. I am proud to say that I have managed to change a few minds in my time, and while perhaps I haven’t quite aroused a common lust for duck hearts, my duty as a chef is to encourage the open mind.

The way I see it, since mankind is determined to walk the path of inevitable global catastrophe, we might as well make the most of the meat we are consuming while we have easy access to wonderful produce. The fact that something had to die for our pleasure means that eating and enjoying it, nose-to-tail, is the least we can do to pay their respects. Offal, if prepared correctly, can be extremely pleasurable and delicious. So as chefs and meat-preparers, it's our collective moral responsibility to put offal on the menu.

This article was first published in Foodservice magazine’s March 2019 issue.