“It’s a cheesy story,” says chef Rotem Papo of the reasons he came to Australia from Israel in 2011. “It was to explore different cuisines and ingredients. I arrived on December 28 2011, just me and a suitcase, it really does sounds so cheesy,” he laughs.
Rotem planned to be in Australia for about six months “to work a bit and then go back to Israel with what I’ve learned,” he explains, “but it didn’t work that way.”
A week after arriving in Melbourne, Rotem started a job as a chef at The European on Spring Street in Melbourne’s CBD. “I met the man who is now my husband a week after I started. He worked front-of-house. I never left Melbourne,” he says. We’re glad he stayed, as Rotem’s career has grown, so too has his relationship with Mount Zero Olives.
To that end, we're thrilled to feature Rotem as this month’s Mount Zero Hero.
After the European, Rotem worked at La Petanque (which then became Petit Tracteur) on the Mornington Peninsula. But Rotem really hit his stride when he worked at l’Hotel Gitane in Prahran for the much-lauded restaurateurs, the Reymond family. He worked his way up to head chef and after three years in that role decided it was time to do something for himself.
“I started an Israeli street food business, but it didn’t work out and I took a job at Bar Lourinha [in Melbourne’s CBD],” he says.
It was here that Rotem got the chance to work with our products and discover Mount Zero Olive oils.
“I really loved the products and it made sense for me, being Israeli, olive oils and grains and nuts are so much a part of our regular diet.”
It was in early 2020 that Rotem was approached by restaurateur and businessman Adam Faigen with the opportunity to open an Israeli restaurant, Golda in Prahran.
“People thought we were crazy!” he laughs. “Maybe they’re right, but we wanted to create a restaurant that served really good Israeli cuisine.”
Lockdown kicked in of course and they started doing takeaway, which took off. As a result, Golda gained a strong following through an otherwise tumultuous time.
The recipe Rotem has chosen to share with us is a salad of heirloom tomato with Mount Zero green lentils, pine nuts and crispy Kashkaval cheese. “Coming into Spring, I’ve chosen a fresh salad with vegetables, grains and nuts that’s vibrant and fresh,” he says.
He uses our Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil in the recipe’s dressing, as well as in the kitchen at Golda, “I like how aromatic it is. It’s not too strong and is really well balanced.”
Cheesy story or not, Rotem Papo is a welcome addition to Melbourne’s dining landscape – and we can’t wait to watch Golda continue to grow in a post-Covid world.
By Hilary McNevin