What is foraging? Essentially, it's the act of looking or searching for food– in the way humans used to do to survive before agriculture was introduced. “Searching the woods or parks or even cracks in the pavement for edible plants has become the latest culinary obsession,” according to Time magazine.
In Australia, chefs like Ben Shrewy from Attica in Melbourne and Daniel Pepperell from Oscillate Wildly and more, have practically made foraging into an artform, sourcing local produce like nasturtiums, elk, sea succulents and salt berries for their menus.
Here are a chefs who champion the art and their restaurants.
275 Australia St Newtown NSW 2042
(02) 9517 4700
It's been Newtown's favourite fine diner since 2003, and with gun chefs like Karl Furla (head chef) and Daniel Pepperell (sous chef) on the burners, things are showing no signs of slowing. Going off the beaten track, you'll find plenty of interesting locally sourced produce to included in the menu. The eight course, $100 extravaganza showcases seasonal ingredients and foraged favourites like Beef, Burnt Cassava, Wood Sorrel (sourced from the Georges River area) and Alaskan King Crab, Horseradish, Seaweed (picked up from Sydney's northern beaches).
Sous chef Dan Pepperell's aunty, author Jennifer Isaacs is a pioneer in moves to gain respect for Aboriginal culture, and has written several books including Bush Food which explores "50, 000 years of trial and error" when it comes to native Australian food....so you could say that foraging is a family pursuit.
355 Crown St
Surry Hills NSW 2010
(02) 9332 3300
Mike Eggert, chef at Billy Kwong is a known entity among Sydney chefs for his foraging behaviour, most recently seen in a SMH article written about edible bush bashing during Rene Redzepi's recent trip to Sydney. Although there's a lot that is edible out there - native violets and celery, dianella flowers, blueberry ash and smilax leaves, chickweed - it's also a fair point that there's plenty that isn't, so if in doubt, ask an expert before you chow down. At Billy Kwong, you can find soursop flowers, presented on their sashimi platter. More than just decoration, the lemony acidity cuts through the fattiness of the fish. Soursop flowers, or yellow oxalis is a common weed, found pretty much everywhere in Sydney and Billy Kwong sources theirs from a dog-free park in the North shore (and we know why that's important).
83 Percival Rd Stanmore NSW 2048
(02) 9568 3355
Inner west bistro The Codfather is known for it's friendly, bustling neighbourhood vibe, where everything, not just the fish, is fresh, fun and yes, filling. Seafood lovers will appreciate dishes like seared ocean trout with shaved fennel, oyster mushrooms, charred shallots and dashi tea, but we're told you can also find foraged ingredients like samphire, a native succulent found in mangrove areas. Samphire is considered best for use in summer when the fleshy leaves are bright green and aromatic.
Other forager chefs to look out for:
Dan Puskas at Sepia Restaurant
Darren Robertson, ex-head chef Tetsuya's, who runs events and pop-up dinners as The Table Sessions
Luke Powell, current head chef at Tetsuya's