From The Earth

A PAS­SION FOR WASTE-NOT COOK­ING IS THE DRIV­ING FORCE BE­HIND OAKRIDGE RESTAU­RANT.

Country Style - - COUNTRY CHEFS - RECIPES MATT STONE AND JO BAR­RETT WORDS VIR­GINIA IMHOFF PHOTOGRAPHY MARK ROPER STYLING LEE BLAY­LOCK

THE PROM­ISE OF

new har­vests in the kitchen gar­den causes many a chef’s heart to skip. This is cer­tainly the case for Matt Stone and Jo Bar­rett, co-ex­ec­u­tive chefs at Oakridge Wines’ restau­rant in Vic­to­ria’s Yarra Valley. “Ev­ery­thing is start­ing to blos­som and there are lit­tle shoots around. It’s re­ally a great time,” says Matt. It was the gar­den that drew Matt, 31, and Jo, 30 — whose part­ner­ship ex­tends to their pri­vate lives — to Oakridge Restau­rant in 2015. The next year it was named Hottest Re­gional Restau­rant in The Week­end Aus­tralian and they were awarded one Chefs Hat in the Good Food Guide 2018. Cur­rently “on the road to zero waste” (min­eral wa­ter is on tap rather than bot­tled, milk comes in vats, chooks are on the way and they have just built their first green­house), the restau­rant’s two large gar­dens are piv­otal to the pair’s eth­i­cal phi­los­o­phy of sourc­ing lo­cal pro­duce, cut­ting food miles and cre­at­ing vi­brant food with a sense of place. “It pushes us to be more cre­ative,” Matt ex­plains. “Adapt­ing to your en­vi­ron­ment is re­ally im­por­tant... from gath­er­ing wild food from the area to spark­ing ideas from lo­cal pro­duc­ers and en­cour­ag­ing them to grow new things.” Matt started his ca­reer at Leeuwin Es­tate in the Mar­garet River re­gion of Western Aus­tralia. He and Jo — who is Mel­bourne-born — met in 2010 and have worked at eco-de­signer Joost Bakker’s for­mer Green­house restau­rant in Perth, as­so­ci­ated pop-ups and the Mel­bourne cafés Silo and Brothl. Jo is now head pas­try chef at Oakridge, hav­ing worked at Mel­bourne’s Movida Bak­ery and Tivoli Road Bak­ery. Sur­pris­ingly, bak­ing was a hard-earned love. “I hated it at first be­cause I didn’t know how to do it, but de­cided I should just tackle it head on,” says Jo. “If I wanted to be a good head chef, I had to learn all the sec­tions. Now I re­ally en­joy the craft of mak­ing bread and pas­tries — I like the ar­ti­san style of cook­ing.” The menu Matt and Jo pre­pared for Coun­try Style is “more re­fined, but the same sort of idea” as the food they prepare in the restau­rant, and show­cases both their tal­ents. “We com­ple­ment each other and to­gether we have an over­all end goal. Hav­ing our skill sets spread across the kitchen helps achieve that,” Jo adds. Oakridge Restau­rant is at 864 Ma­roon­dah High­way, Cold­stream, Vic­to­ria. (03) 9738 9900; oakridgewines.com.au

Matt Stone, co-ex­ec­u­tive chef at Oakridge Restau­rant in Vic­to­ria’s Yarra Valley, in one of the two sprawl­ing veg­etable gar­dens that are en­riched with grape press­ings.

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