Preserves, condiments and native Australian ingredients are on the menu this Christmas, according to The Essential Ingredient’s Leonie Young.
The owner of The Junction store popular with restaurant owners, chefs and the home cook has her finger firmly on the pulse when it comes to food trends – handy if you have a loved one to buy for who considers themselves a foodie.
“Forty per cent of our business is restaurants so, as retailers, we’re lucky because we’re seeing what they’re buying and what they’re doing first,” Ms Young explained.
“We can predict what is going to happen in retail and order our stock accordingly. Restaurants really do lead the way and others follow about six to 12 months later.”
A shift occurred, she said, about five years ago when fine-dining restaurant menus began spelling out what ingredients were being used and where they came from.
“People thought ‘Well, if Chris Thornton from Restaurant Mason uses this particular ingredient then it must be good so I’m going to buy it too’. And Frank Fawkner, for example, is using this amazing cheddar and vincotto right now and we know that will be in demand some time next year.”
Chefs are also, she said, largely responsible for the increasing popularity of “kitchen gardens”.
“People are into growing their own produce and foraging for ingredients. The Nordic influence is still strong and they’re very much about the provenance of food, eating clean and not using preservatives. They preserve a lot, too, so we’ve seen a lot more people making their own pickles and mustards,” she said.
“It’s not solely the high-end market, either. It’s throughout our customer base.”
When it comes to Christmas dining, grains and native Australian ingredients are already being snapped up by Novocastrians. The Essential Ingredient uses Redhead-based company Oz Tukka and Vic Cherikoff’s Australian Functional Ingredients.
“We’ve sold a lot of grains and ingredients to put in stuffings already, as well as candied fruit for puddings and mince pies,” she said.
“We are also selling a lot of wattle seed, finger limes and lemon myrtle but it is impossible to get bush tomato at the moment, come hell or high water.
“Kakadu plums are also in high demand.”