Tell us about Straight to the Source and why you and Lucy decided to work together?
Straight To The Source creates and delivers Australian regional food tours for chefs and hospitality professionals to connect them with producers, regions and each other. It’s a form of professional development that allows participants to unwind, learn, relinquish their day-to-day responsibilities and take in a tailored experience with other like-minded chefs.
Award-winning restaurateur Lucy Allon joined Straight To The Source three years ago, bringing her complementary skillset. We have the same values and passion for Australian produce and the hospitality industry as a whole.
We work closely with the producers we showcase to achieve their goals and also curate an experience that is meaningful to the chefs. No chef is going to pay for an experience on their day off unless it’s a worthwhile investment. Although we organise private tours for restaurants and catering teams, our ticketed tours attract a diverse group that allow guests to meet new people and, in some cases, make lifelong friends.
What’s been your most memorable chefs’ tour? Why does it stick in your mind?
After 5 years we have many chef tours under our belt and have had some incredible experiences. If I had to pick one, I would say the tour to South Australia where we stayed overnight with an Aboriginal community and cooked, foraged and learnt from the elders. It was a truly authentic experience that was three years in the making and took everyone out of their comfort zone in a constructive way!
What are chefs most excited about/interested in when speaking with producers?
I think it’s getting a real, unglorified understanding of the circumstances and conditions the producer endures to make their product. Witnessing the entire process from start to finish in the company of industry peers starts some incredible conversations and scratches well below the surface.
From your conversations with them, how important do you think sustainability is to today’s chefs?
They care about it – that’s one of the reasons they come on our industry tours. When they see how a farmer is managing their land and the processes, the chefs have a whole different level of respect and may just support the farmer that bit more. You can’t capture the experience of one of our tours in a brochure.
Can you name a few producers whose sustainable initiatives you admire?
We have come across many but the two names that jump immediately to mind are Moorlands Biodynamic Lamb and Meredith Dairy in Victoria. The systems they have in place to reduce wastage and respect and regenerate the land is commendable.
What is motivating chefs and restaurateurs to be more sustainable in the way they operate their business?
It’s the growing awareness of the environmental impact of food production. Straight To The Source is creating pop-up kitchens in unusual locations so we constantly strive to reduce our footprint and I think chefs, across the board, are accepting their environmental responsibility.
What are some great sustainable initiatives you’ve seen at foodservice businesses recently?
A few weeks ago we took a group to Biota Dining. Chef and owner James Viles took us through the property which is currently dug up making way for the expansion of his kitchen garden and the addition of a vertical garden, orchard, and more livestock. Biota have been propagating their own seeds, composting and using the ingredients from their land for many years and with the new changes, they will be even more sustainable and self sufficient than ever.