Chef Matt Wilkinson dreams of a world where there are no strawberries in winter. Instead, he imagines shoppers browsing for seasonal produce grown nearby. And he’s not just sitting on his hands, waiting for it to happen. The creator of Pope Joan is bringing his favourite farmers to the big smoke so customers can mingle with the people behind Victoria’s best produce.
Starting this Tuesday, Wilkinson presents Meet the Producer at his new grocer Hams & Bacon. He reckons that while chefs are made into celebrities, in reality they’re only the middleman. “I have these amazing producers and I think it should be about them, because they’re the real stars,” he says. “They’re the ones who are caring for the land and putting back into the community.”
Over the next few months, Wilkinson will be putting out hay to host some boer goats from Seven Hills, free-range chooks from Milawa, Berkshire pigs from Bundarra and a prize bull from Warialda.
But to begin with, Katrina and Tim Myers from Barham Avocados will be bringing their waxy green delights to Brunswick. Wilkinson, who has been buying their produce for the past three years, says the Myers’ Victorian avos are some of the best around.
Wilkinson’s fascination with local produce has little to do with a desire to go green. For him, local food is tasty food. “I’m not trying to change the world. All I’m trying to do is cook the tastiest, most flavoursome food, and for me that’s food that’s in-season and local,” he says. “Sustainability is one of the last things I think about. But it just so happens that if you want flavour, you eat local, in season, you care for the animal, you’re eating sustainably.”
Whatever the reason, there’ll be some good grub – and some farming royalty – down at Hams & Bacon.
Meet the Producers takes place once a month at Hams & Bacon, with the first event on Tuesday August 6 from 4.30pm to 7.30pm. Entry is free.