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How Indigenous Australian food inspired the winner of a global culinary award

One of the most prestigious culinary prizes in the world has just been awarded to a chef who was inspired by the most Aussie kind of cooking there is.

Australia is home to the oldest continuous civilisation in human history, with DNA finding our Indigenous people have lived here for more than 50,000 years.

So it’s madness that so many people, when asked what constitutes “Australian food” respond with, “Um… vegemite?”

(That’s not a go at you Vegemite, you’re awesome.)

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Pandanus Fruit • Winawarl • Nyul Nyul Country •

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The reality is that Australia is home to a wealth of ingredients that aren’t found anywhere else, while certain cooking techniques have been developed and perfected over millennia on these shores.

Which is what inspires Scottish-Italian cook Jock Zonfrillo, who has claimed this year’s Basque Culinary World Prize.

The prize – worth a none-too-shabby 100,000 euros – “celebrates a chef of any nationality who demonstrates how gastronomy can have a positive impact in fields such as culinary innovation, health, nutrition, education, the environment, the food industry, social or economic development, among others.”

Zonfrillo runs Adelaide’s Orana restaurant, which Gourmet Traveller called Australia’s Restaurant of the Year in 2017. Having visited hundreds of Indigenous communities, the chef has learnt about the native people’s cooking skills and taken them back to experiment with in his kitchen.

He has also set up the Orana Foundation, which aims to “revolutionise Australian food culture through combining the preservation of Indigenous knowledge and practice with contemporary methods and innovation.”

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Fresh native currants, camellia & honey labneh @rest_orana_

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“The First Australians are the true cooks and ‘food inventors’ of these lands and their exclusion from our history, and specifically our food culture, is unacceptable,” he said.

“My motivation comes from acknowledging a culture who farmed and thrived from the land they have lived on for over 60,000 years.

“The connection to the land is something that most non-indigenous Australians cannot get their heads round, it is a very complex and spiritual connection, so there is education on both sides and that is what is so important about this project.”

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kangaroo, urchin & greens attempt #43 STILL not happy @rest_orana_

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This is Dhopiya removing a mangrove worm from the trunk. Looks can be deceptive… it’s actually a type of clam and taste absolutely delicious! #yolngu #australia @oranafoundation

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The salad of pickled Kohlrabi first came to the menu in 2015 & continues to change form through the seasons and even different countries as we cook overseas with our friends. Still one of my favourites to eat @rest_orana_

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About the author

Joe likes to write about himself in the third person, even if he thinks it’s horribly pretentious when others do it.

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