Two of Australia’s most respected chefs have announced they will step down from their positions as joint executive chefs at the lauded Oakridge Wines restaurant. The pair’s been at the helm of the Yarra Valley estate eatery for five years, carving a name for themselves with their innovative waste-free, always-local approach.
“Oakridge is a prime example of a contemporary Australian restaurant that’s in tune with both its region and what’s happening in wider dining circles, starting with a keen interest in DIY,” Broadsheet’s senior food writer Max Veenhuyzen wrote of the Victorian eatery in 2019.
That included milling its flour on-site, using leftover milk to make brie served with crackers made from leftover bread, composting its cardboard, championing lesser-known proteins, plus a lot more labour-intensive, sustainable and closed-circuit pursuits.
“Admittedly, not every restaurant has as much arable land as Oakridge, but looking closely at waste streams and supply chains and the way they can work with one another is something every operator should be doing. Cynical eaters, though, will be relieved to hear lunch here is more about deliciousness than preaching,” continued Veenhuyzen.
Aaron Brodie, who has been Oakridge head chef for four years, will step in as the new executive chef. Owners Tony D’Aloisio and Ilana Atlas say he will continue to deliver food in the same style but adding his own spin.
Barrett and Stone – partners in life who met while cooking in Melbourne in 2011 – say they feel like it’s time for a change and a next step in their ambition to develop local, sustainable and no-waste food production.
“Like many of our peers in the hospitality industry, the past few months of closure has allowed us to take stock and develop new projects outside of our day-to-day jobs,” they said in a statement.
“One particularly big project is the Greenhouse – Future Food System, which is currently being built by our friend Joost Bakker at Federation Square. Greenhouse has been a dream of ours for many years and we are thrilled to see it finally becoming a reality.”
Stone is a long-time collaborator of sustainability pioneer Bakker, and the ambitious Greenhouse project is a combined home and urban farm in Melbourne’s CBD. Its goal is to grow all the food its inhabitants cook and eat – which Bakker says he hopes will be a catalyst for change.
Stone and Barrett will move into 87-square-metre Greenhouse shortly and live there until the end of May, surviving only on produce grown on-site. They’ll use preservation, pickling and fermentation techniques to transform much of what they grow – which includes using crickets and snails to make garum, a powerful fermented sauce.
While the couple previously said they would be able to live at Greenhouse and still work at the winery, that seems to have changed. “The project has evolved quickly over the past few months and we have realised that it will require significant input of time and energy.”
“It’s rare that you come across a Matt Stone and a Jo Barrett – such young and talented people with a passion for their craft,” Oakridge owners D’Aloisio and Atlas add. “It has been a privilege to have Matt and Jo at Oakridge and while they will be missed, we understand their desire in these uncertain times to move to the next stage of their careers and we wish them the very best.”