It's hard to say when Tom Crowe first discovered Mount Zero.
“It was probably at Mixed Business about 15 years ago,” says Tom. “We were looking for a quality local olive oil and it started there.”
Mixed Business was the food business he and his partner, Lauren Bieber, owned and operated in North Fitzroy. The couple have had other successful businesses since – Fowlers Flowers and Chianti Bistro – but they left Melbourne’s inner-north five years ago for “a country move”, says Tom, and in 2018 opened Pancho Café in Daylesford.
Tom says that back in Mixed Business days, they were first impressed by Mount Zero not just because of the seasonality and flavour of our olive oils, but knowledge and conversation of our staff (it’s true, we like a chat…).
“You can call the guys up and they talk you through everything. They ask how it’s going, ask what an oil might be for and can suggest you change your oil as your menu changes. Their knowledge is amazing,” he says.
Pancho café, pantry and retail space is dedicated to supporting local producers and craftspeople, and it’s with this that we’re thrilled Tom is our Mount Zero Hero this month.
“Our menu has a veg-first approach," says Tom. “And the variety of grains and pulses offered by Mount Zero makes life easier when putting dishes together.”
“We go through a tonne of chickpeas, as we always have a hummus dish of some description on the menu. We’re a tiny café, and while we’re in a food bowl in Daylesford – there are a lot of local growers that we use – it’s a relief to know that we can get chickpeas and other pulses from the Grampians. We’re not fanatical about keeping things local, but we do it where we can.”
Tom also uses our olive oils: “I love the Picual Extra Virgin Olive Oil at the moment and also use it at home, alongside the Red Wine Vinegar,” he says. He adds that his two young sons currently call a homemade lentil Bolognese – made with Mount Zero lentils – their favourite meal.
He has chosen the lamb shoulder from the Pancho menu as his recipe to share; slow-cooked and served on hummus with roast cauliflower, chickpeas, and a pine nut and currant dressing, it’s rounded out with some natural yoghurt and a fresh herb salad.
“It’s the current iteration of our hummus dish,” he says, “and it’s very popular.”
the fast five
1. If you weren't a chef, what would you be doing?
I’d be a gardener.
2. Last place you dined out?
Ilissos x Boomtown in Castlemaine; the best Greek dining experience in the region.
3. What's your favourite Victorian restaurant?
Theatre Royal, Castlemaine.
4. Favourite season/s of the year for produce?
Summer, probably because my body is ready for it.
5. Do you have any special projects scheduled for 2022 or beyond?
Not at this stage, I’m happy to focus on what we’re doing.
By Hilary McNevin