The more I’ve learnt about our featured chefs for the month Matt Stone and Jo Barrett, the more they make sense. On many levels.
They are both passionate about local and quality produce and they both communicate a commitment to their values and their work.
Partners in and out of the kitchen, they met through mutual friends, and knew one another for ‘a long-time’ before working together. It was working together that they realised they shared a similar ethos.
Today Matt is Head Chef at the esteemed Oakridge in the Yarra Valley and Jo is Head Pastry Chef and Senior Sous-Chef and together with their teams they are earning some serious applause in their respective fields.
Classically trained (via SAIT in Calgary Canada) Jo was a baker and gpatissier of note, who worked for the renowned Tivoli Bakery (featured in our 2016 newsletter) for many years and was recently named Time Out’s Hot Talent Award.
Name Outstanding Chef by Delicious Mag, Matt has carved out a reputation for his commitment to the zero-waste movement and for elevating simple, ethically sourced produced.
Matt work has included projects Brothl and Greenhouse, partnering with well-known Melbourne artist and environmentalist Joost Bakker (View this fantastic Iron Chef contestant video and his TEDX talk for more on his zero-waste approach).
Together Matt and Jo’s work has been awarded the Hottest Regional Restaurant 2015, by John Lethlean from The Australian and Oakridge is currently listed 37 in the top restaurants of Victoria.
We were lucky enough to get Matt and Jo to answer a few questions for us and I for one am planning a weekend trip to the country.
1. Can you tell us a little about your background?
We met through a mutual friend during the pop-up Greenhouse restaurant in 2012. We started working together in Sydney around 2014 for Stanley street merchants. We both love food and where it comes from. Together we are excited about ingredients that are local and indigenous to Australia and finding interesting ways to use them.
2. What have been some career highlights to date?
Our current list includes: Cooking at the Western Australian Gourmet Escape, Matt winning Outstanding Chef for Delicious Magazine 2015, Jo winning Hot Talent Award for Time Out magazine 2015. Being named the Hottest Regional Restaurant 2015 in The Australian (Jonathan Lethlean) and being named Best Desserts (Vic) by Delicious Magazine 2015
3. What is your favorite menu item and why?
It is really hard to narrow it down to one item. We have such amazing vegetable gardens that produce incredible ingredients, so we are a bit spoilt. We also have access to great farmers and producers. Sometimes it's the simpler items on the menu that gets us excited like the cultured butter we make from milk that comes from 20mins away and the house milled sourdough.
4. Where do you source your produce?
The soils in the Yarra Valley are super rich and high in minerals. We get a lot from our gardens which determines how we write the menu. There are also a lot of local growers who we source produce from directly. Almost everything we use is Victorian and it is important to both of us that we keep a strong sense of place with the food we create. We forage a lot in the surrounding area which is always fun and brings endless inspiration.
5. What is the most often heard feedback from your customers?
People really enjoy being at Oakridge, looking out at the view and then being able to taste wine and food which have been inspired by the local area. We often hear the food is approachable and interesting.
6. What is your favourite kitchen tool?
Our stone mill is very unique and a tool we use everyday to mill wheat to make our bread. Milling grain brings a lot more flavour to the bread and it increases its nutrient content as you are using the whole grain.
7. What would you be doing if you weren’t in the food business?
Jo - I’d be a florist.
Matt - I think a photographer or a gardener.
8. What is a word you would use to describe Mount Zero products?
Both - Quality
Matt - I was lucky enough to visit the amazing salt lake last year. It’s a very beautiful place to visit. The work Mt Zero do with the indigenous community is very respectful, it’s ethical and importantly the product is world-class.
9. What do you admire about each other?
I admire how Matt sticks to his ethos and his passion for the environment and garden. He picks up on bits and pieces of information from all sorts of places and is able to pass the knowledge onto others in a way that is simple and achievable. I also love how when come home from work he cooks epic meals… he can turn a fridge of scraps into a masterpiece, he is an amazing home cook!
What’s not to admire about Jo. She is the hardest working, most passionate chef I’ve ever worked with. Her attention to detail is inspiring.
10. We are creating an inspirational Foodie’s Bucket List for our supporters, and let’s be honest, the office….one, two, three… go!
You must take the trip and go to Fleet, in Brunswick Heads NSW. Have the bug with raw peanut, clumping onion and green coriander seed. The service, the wine... the whole package is epic.
Thanks for the tip guys, and thanks for spending time with Mount Zero this month. Catch Jo and Matt's recipes on the website here:
Mexican Wedding Cookies