Andrew Fielke is an award-winning chef and pioneer of innovative Australian native cuisine. He is also the founder and owner of Creative Native Foods, which provides high quality Australian native products, ingredients and catering solutions to restaurants, cafés, hotels, sports and entertainment venues.
We sat down with Andrew to find out what drives his passion for Australian native botanicals and how he inspires Australian companies to embrace our native flavours.
When did Australian native botanicals and ingredients first catch your attention?
I first started thinking about the lack of a true Australian cuisine when I was a young chef in Europe right back in the early ’80s and later visited Sybilla and Gary (founder of Australian Native Products) up in Lismore when the industry was just beginning. Sybilla and I were both involved in the formation of the native food peak industry body, Australian Native Food Industries (ANFIL), back in the early 2000s.
Next month I’ll be launching my new Creative Native cookbook, which goes further into how I got into food and the native food industry. The book will feature a lot of lemon and anise myrtle recipes.
What is it about native ingredients that you like?
As a chef, it’s all about the flavour. First and foremost, the phenomenal diversity of flavours, like an unbelievable cornucopia of flavours and textures in my view – and I’ve only tried a snapshot of the thousands of edible foods, I’m sure! Of course, following on from that, many have amazing health properties. It’s also the fact that they belong to this country and have been a part of the Indigenous Australian culture for so long.
Tell us a bit about what you do at Creative Native Foods.
We have Australia’s largest range of raw ingredients, as well as value-added and manufactured native-inspired products. We bulk buy, repack, on-sell, and manufacture. Our ingredients are sourced from all over Australia. We service the hospitality and foodservice sectors, which of course is very minimal at the moment with COVID-19! We were supplying Qantas and Australian train lines such as The Great Southern, The Ghan, and the Indian Pacific with ingredients and meal components.
We also recently started a ready-made meal delivery service in Adelaide! One of our best-selling meals has been a Thai Green Lemon Myrtle Curry simmer sauce.
What do you find your customers want the most?
Certainly, lemon myrtle is a well-known and very popular native ingredient. We sell it in a number of forms, including ANP’s lemon myrtle essential oil in small 100ml bottles to chefs and small manufacturers. But Australia’s leading chefs, and therefore the trend influencers, are always after something new, right now it’s a native grain called Weeping Grass, and a yam or tuber – Young Boab.
Do you find that your customers enjoy the taste of lemon myrtle?
Yes, I think it has a very perfumed floral lemon citrus aroma and taste. And aside from that, I think people love it because it’s truly and uniquely Australian, and has many extraordinary and useful attributes.
What’s your favourite recipe to make with Australian lemon myrtle?
There are two. Firstly, the superb Thai Green Lemon Myrtle simmer sauce that I mentioned earlier is an absolute favourite. Back in the 90s when I ran the Red Ochre restaurants around Australia, the prawn green lemon myrtle curry was a huge hit. That’s definitely one of my favourite recipes. My other favourite is my sweet lemon myrtle chili sauce. It’s wonderful in stir-fries, with baked potatoes and sour cream, glazed over satays, or with wedges and sour cream!