Sourcing produce for the world’s best restaurant… no pressure!
As a produce wholesaler, we were thrilled to be approached in the winter of 2015 by Noma restaurant of Copenhagen, to discuss providing fresh produce for their pop-up in the new Barangaroo precinct on Sydney Harbour.
With a focus on native produce, Noma’s menu at their 10 week pop-up explored the vast variety of fruit and vegetables that the Australian landscape has to offer. Our initial meetings involved a number of samples for tasting and quite early on some products clearly stood out – unripe macadamia nuts from the Gold Coast hinterland, finger limes and bunya nuts from the Sunshine Coast, desert limes from southwest Queensland and riberries from Bundaberg.
Along with sourcing native produce we also supplied all of the conventional fruit and vegetable lines, many of which appeared as juice pairings – most notably green zebra tomatoes, which make a very flavorsome juice. Fresh muntries, one of Australia’s oldest bush foods, were a rare treat that we were also able to source. A little native green and red berry, muntries are crunchy in texture and deliciously sweet with a spicy apple flavor.
Picking the unripe macadamias was probably the most memorable part of sourcing produce for Noma. Unlike the matured nuts, which fall to the ground for easy harvesting, unripe macadamias are still in their green husk and hang tightly onto the tree. The 1200kg had to be picked by hand and delivered to the restaurant within 48 hours, or the flavor would start to change dramatically. We enlisted friends and family to help with the picking and after 10 weeks, very few of us ever want to see a macadamia tree again!
It was a pleasure to be invited for lunch at the restaurant to see where our produce ended up. The much-anticipated menu was nothing short of brilliant. Pairing these ‘wild’ fruit and vegetables with Australia’s gorgeous seafood – it was a perfect relationship! With each bite, the first reaction was to look at a fellow diner to see the reaction on their face – talk about an eyebrow raiser. It was great to see fruit and vegetables showcased as an equal to the seafood and when anyone who was lucky enough to experience talks about highlights from the menu, they talk about the bunya nuts, riberries, saltbush, sea purslane and macadamias – as well as the abalone and king crab.
Without a doubt Rene and his team have left a huge impact on the culinary scene in Australia, leaving behind much inspiration for those who might not yet have discovered the huge variety of Australian produce available. The guys and girls that we dealt with on a daily basis were always professional and their constant search for excellence reminds us of why we love this industry.
A big thank you must go to the Suncoast Fresh team and all of our committed growers and wholesale partners for their contribution!