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  • Gavin King

    Tropic Now editor

    Email Gavin King

    Capital city "overnight food trend" native to Cairns for over two decades

    It’s the overnight food trend in capital cities that’s been two decades in the making here in the Tropical North.

    Suddenly, native Australian and bush tucker inspired dishes are everywhere, featuring on menus in some of the nation’s best restaurants. Southern media outlets are praising the use of ingredients like riberry, lemon myrtle, salt bush, finger limes, native basil and meats like wallaby, kangaroo, emu and crocodile.

    The latest series of Masterchef even featured an episode that challenged contestants to utilise bush foods in a cook-off.

    Noting the trend, the Australian Financial Review recently proclaimed: “A new generation of chefs is reigniting the interest in native food, and a modern, sophisticated use of the produce could fuel a growth in this niche supply industry.”

    It’s not news to Craig Squire from Ochre Restaurant. He’s been using native foods in his cooking for more than 25 years.

    “It's great to see native ingredients gaining traction as it's been a slow burn for a long time,” Craig told TropicNow. “There has been great success by some dedicated chefs that have given natives a strong presence on their menus, like Attica in Melbourne.

    “We have a lot of interest from international gourmands but still many locals that aren't interested. I hope we can attract a younger generation that appreciates the cultural significance as well as the nutritional, economic and environmental benefits.”

    Despite supply issues – these are often wild harvested and foraged ingredients after all – Craig believes the Tropical North holds great potential to become a globally recognised native foods destination.

    “TNQ has the greatest variety of food of any region in Australia,” he said. “Right now, Taste Paradise is trying to reinvigorate itself as our regional food brand but it needs consistent funding that is sensibly used.

    “We also need TTNQ to support food tourism but the organisation has often dismissed it as an after-thought, even when Tourism Australia began using food tourism as its major campaign focus.

    “The public needs to support restaurants and retail that feature local produce and the media and tourism authorities need to pull their heads out of the sand and catch up with the rest of the country. I hope I get an opportunity to brief the new TTNQ CEO Pip Close as soon as possible.

    “We can’t ride on the Reef’s back forever.”

    MORE: ochrerestaurant.com.au