At age 11, Jock Zonfrillo started working in restaurants – initially, as a dishwasher.
“I very quickly surmised that I was on the wrong side of the flying frying pan.”
Only a few weeks in, he became a chef, an experience that would take him from Scotland to the rest of the world: from cooking for Prince Charles in Paris (assisting Marco Pierre White, who attempted to enter France by sticky-taping his photo on top of someone else’s passport – true story) to Australia, where a four-hour life-changing conversation with an Aboriginal busker in Sydney opened him to the world of indigenous food and led him to opening Orana in Adelaide. It’s currently rated as the best restaurant in Australia, according to Gourmet Traveller‘s 2018 national food guide.
His work for the Orana Foundation – which seeks to showcase, document and make knowledge about native food accessible, while also ensuring Aboriginal communities directly benefit from the promotion of these ingredients – led to him winning the Food For Good award for the 2018 Good Food Guide. “It’s 60,000 years of knowledge that nobody’s really paid attention to,” he says. Learning about how Aboriginal people “had a relationship and understanding of the land, 50,000 years before the pyramids” has been pivotal to his work with Orana.
Just discovering how Aboriginal people cook mangrove seeds is just one example of the innovative nature of indigenous food. And when you consider that the original inhabitants of this country were at the forefront of sustainability before Westerners even had any concept of what that was – and there’s yet to be true mainstream appreciation of how ground-breaking Aboriginal culture is – it only highlights how Orana’s work is much-needed in illuminating this knowledge, whether it’s on the plate or working with university researchers.
Plus, we cover Jock’s incredible start working with Marco Pierre White (and how he secretly slept on the restaurant’s change room floor for three months, just to get by), his favourite places to eat and drink in Sydney and how he’s excited about Clayton Wells‘ upcoming eatery, A1 Canteen in Chippendale.
You can listen to this episode on iTunes or download it via RSS or directly. You can even find it on Stitcher nowadays. And thanks to everyone who has scribbled a kind review in the iTunes Store (aka Apple Podcasts) or spread the word for this podcast – it really means a lot, especially when pulling crazy hours to edit this episode.
Photography courtesy of Orana (charred kangaroo, gubinge, grasses and wild garlic) and Jacqui Way (portrait).