Chef Joel Alderdice has been focussed on being a chef for as long as he can remember. In fact, Mount Zero fell on to his radar when working part-time during high school.
“When I was still in high school, I was working at Giant Steps/Innocent Bystander [in the Yarra Valley] and Mount Zero olive oil was on the tables, used on the pizza and I loved that the oil was fresh and fruity and the whole place smelled of salami pizza and olive oil,” he says.
It was 2007. Joel was a school student and running the larder section of the restaurant kitchen as a part-time job. When school was complete, he started his apprenticeship at Giant Steps and finished it at TarraWarra Estate, “where I am now,” he laughs.
Robin Sutcliffe, the head chef at TarraWarra when Joel was still an apprentice, was his mentor and encouraged him to work at other restaurants and push himself further. After qualifying he worked with chef (and former Mount Zero Hero) Nicky Riemer and business partner, Adam Cash at the now-closed Richmond restaurant, Union Dining.
“I learned so much there, Nicky’s always been cooking her food no matter what trends are happening, she creates beautiful classic food and has such a following. It was a great time,” he says.
It was as the first head chef of Fitzroy’s Bar Liberty, earning one-hat in 2017 The Age Good Food Guide, that he started to really embrace local producers and the importance of food and wine matching.
Taking these learnings back to TarraWarra Estate, his goal is to cook the best food he can while finding, “the balance of keeping it affordable and as local as possible,” he says.
He sources local meat and veg and utilises Mount Zero throughout the menu.
“Our guests can have Dirty Martini olives to start: we marinate the Mount Zero mixed olives in a big batch of dirty martini and strain them,” he says.
Our Frantoio Extra Virgin Olive Oil is also high on his list of favourites, “We’re using it to finish our risotto at the moment and I finish all my pasta dishes with it, too.”
“We serve a set menu here at TarraWarra and that’s great, but one thing I really miss is cooking share-style dishes. I can’t really serve a grain salad and lamb shoulder on the menu here, but I’ve shared this dish because it’s great for the home cook. It’s flexible, adaptable, and you can use whatever veg and herbs you have. The freekeh and farro give it great texture,” he says.
Thanks Joel, this sounds like the perfect spring salad!
the fast five
1. If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?
I’d be a trade-school teacher.
2. Last place you dined out?
Herd Bar & Grill, Healesville.
3. What's your favourite Melbourne restaurant?
Bar Liberty, I love seeing how it is progressing.
4. Favourite season/s of the year for produce?
Spring and summer.
5. Do you have any special projects scheduled for 2022 or beyond?
I’m really focussed here and I want to keep pushing to be the best we can be. We have such a great team.
By Hilary McNevin