When Covid-19 hit the hospitality and music industries, chef Clare Duncan began delivering care packages of homemade dips to her friends who’d been affected by the downturn.

“I wanted to try and help Melbourne’s fellow creatives the only way I knew how – through my love of cooking,” she says.

After losing her own hospitality job, Duncan decided to spread the dip-delivery love even further. Soon after, she launched Minimum Dips, a delivery-only service for seasonal dips and accompaniments that showcase Victorian produce.

The name is a take on the Aussie order of “minimum chips”, and references a time when Duncan was stuck in bed sick and could only stomach hot chips.

“As much as I just wanted to eat minimum chips, once I started eating outside of the potato, I felt a whole lot better,” she says. “You can have so many different sorts of full, and I want people to feel energised.”

Dips include hummus; baba ganoush; chimichurri; almond-milk tarator (made with garlic, tahini and biodynamic nuts from Manna Farms in north-west Victoria); slow-cooked carrot and fava bean (topped with caperberries and pickled onion); and Duncan’s personal favourite, muhammara (a chunky dip made with chargrilled capsicum, King Valley walnuts, garlic and pomegranate).

A 10-strong vegetable soup and a sweet-sour borscht with dairy-free cream cheese and fresh dill are new to the menu, and you can also add pita bread, sumac-dusted crispbread and crudités as sides, or a saffron-custard flan with burnt caramel for dessert.

Duncan says that so far, the care package has been her biggest seller. The $50 box comes with a selection of dips; fresh and pickled vegetables; olives; spiced pita; homemade soft drinks (apricot and ginger iced tea); and melomakarona (a Greek walnut-and-semolina cookie).

Duncan is a self-described “one-woman show”, cooking in a commercial kitchen on Smith Street, Collingwood and delivering her vegan menu to addresses in inner Melbourne herself.

Her cooking career began with a volunteer position at her school canteen, but it quickly skyrocketed when her supervisor put her in touch with highly awarded chef Greg Malouf, an authority on Middle Eastern food. After begging him for an apprenticeship at the now-closed Momo, Malouf finally acquiesced.

She stayed two years before taking jobs in other kitchens around Melbourne, including Epocha, Rumi, Pastuso and San Telmo.

“I was working in a two-hat restaurant when I was 15,” says Duncan. “It was another world and I just decided I wanted to stay in it. It was so compelling.”

Dips come in 300-gram packs and cost between $10 and $12 each. Delivery fee is $5, pick-up is not available. See if you’re within the five-kilometre delivery zone here.

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