This month’s Mount Zero Hero(ine) is Almay Jordann - Head Chef at Neighbourhood Wine in North Fitzroy.
Part traditional English-pub, part provincial family-restaurant in feel, Neighbourhood Wine is a place that is as inviting as its name suggests.
Wine-lined walls, lamp lit accents, sweet ‘toons’ and an inspired wine list make it an easy place to wile the hours away.
It’s the type of place where locals are made to feel at home and visitors soon feel like locals.
Almay Jordaan grew up on a farm outside of Cape Town, South Africa, where the seasons played a large part in what the family ate and have informed her approach. Her French inspired menu is designed with seasonality and simplicity.
Weekly Sunday roasts and set two-course meals are offered “until sold out” and an extensive wine list names 400 labels (20 varieties by glass!).
We are thrilled Almay had the time to answer our questions this month.
What lead you into the industry and into cooking?
I hail from a tiny farming town, where producing food (export fruit) is the only thing to do, since forever.
My whole family is still connected to the land there, and food, how it grows and how it gets to the consumer has always been the main dinner table chat.
After school I went to French Culinary School, and after that I did an Arts degree to bolster my writing and satisfy my curiosity about languages and ancient history.
What are your career highlights to date?
Being able to travel to, and cook in, London, Moscow, Lisbon, Madrid, Budapest and Melbourne. A rare thing for the average South African cook. Opening my own restaurant with my husband and getting to do my own thing has been amazing,
What is your favorite menu item and why?
Anything slow-cooked, baked puddings, preserved quinces and terrines. The former reminds me of my mom’s kitchen and the latter of my training.
Where do you source your produce?
Vegetable produce is sourced from an organic grower, the menu ebbs and flows according to his pickings. Seafood is strictly limited to what’s available but caught sustainably, and meat is only grass fed beef from Tasmania, or goat from northern Victoria.
Can you tell us the most heard feedback from your regular customers?
Your cooking reminds me of my grandmother’s. Goals!
What are your favourite kitchen tools right now?
A very sharp chef’s knife, a fine sieve, a micro plane.
What would you be doing if you weren’t in the food business?
Wandering the world wondering what my calling was! I’d probably be some sort of artist. My original university degree was to lead me towards the path of food historian, but I had to actually make money and cooked instead!
What words would you use to describe Mount Zero Olives to others?
Carefully procured & produced products reflecting a sense of the land they’re from. I can’t stop using the whole rye grains and verjuice right now.
We ask each Mount Zero Hero to add to our Foodie’s bucket list – what would be on yours?
I would say Travel to Turin for the Slow Food Salone Del Gusto.
Also - grow something you can and will eat. Cook something you’ve never cooked before, at least once a month!
Fantastic tips! Finally, do you have any special plans or dream project for 2017?
I’ll try - for the 17th consecutive year - to achieve a decent work-life balance!
Thanks Almay – we appreciate your time and your menu! (Also, we love your website. The homepage video-tour is a fantastic way to get a flavor of the Neighbourhood Wine experience!)
See Almay's recipes here