Chef Matt Stone has quickly risen to the top of sustainable dining in Australia with an innovative and ethical approach to food and restaurants that have challenged conventions.
At the age of 20 he became sous chef at famed Perth restaurant Star Anise, before going on to work with Joost Bakker at Greenhouse Perth and establishing restaurant Silo and zero-waste cafe Brothl in Melbourne - he's even had a cooking show with Alex James from Blur (eep!)
Naturally, I was very excited to chat with Matt about his food philosophies, practices and the future of sustainable dining.
Can you tell me a bit about yourself and your history with food?
I’m a cook, and as a cook it’s quite consuming so I don’t get a lot of time to do much else so I try to enjoy the outdoors, spend time in forests gathering food, foraging on beaches and surfing when I can. I have a real passion for growing food; at work we have a big vegetable garden and at home we try to grow quite a bit of stuff as well - so I guess I’m all about trying to find the right balance and live a holistic life.
Where are you working at the moment? What's the philosophy behind the menu there?
I’m working as the head chef of the Oakridge Winery in the Yarra Valley in Victoria. The menu's very sustainable, local and we try to minimise waste as much as possible. We try to only use ingredients from the valley; there are some really good farms we work with and we source all our fish locally. We're very health conscious with the food, lots of vegetables, not a lot of starch or carbs; it’s all very clean and vegetable driven - even the meat has a vegetable taste.
You’ve been linked with names like Joost Bakker and Alex James from Blur - how have these relationships and collaborations changed your approach to food?
I’ve worked with Joost for 6 years through various projects so he’s really cemented my passion for sustainability and localism. I had that before I worked with him but my experiences with him really made me push the boundaries and explore the effect that we as the consumers have on our environment. Alex, being a rockstar is very different but very fun at the same time. I've done bit of stuff with Alex in the UK and we had a television show that we produced for a couple of seasons while he was over here. They’re two very different ends of the spectrum in terms of personality but very awesome people and very close friends of mine.
What do you see as the core ideals of food sustainability?
Being conscious of the repercussions of each grain of food we eat and the effects it can have on the environment. It's about understanding the whole loop of food, not just saying 'here’s a lovely steak I’m going to throw on the grill" but understanding how that steak got to you; the processes it went through and beginning to understand the resources that went into its creation and consumption. People are realising they need to be less wasteful and by doing so, they have more respect for ingredients. We need to raise awareness without being too full on because when you start ranting intensely people lose interest or people feel guilty about not doing enough. You need to approach these topics comfortably; you can’t be self righteous and say ‘this is what you have to do!'. We’re just provoking thought, which is probably the short answer.
In light of reducing waste and using resources wisely, do you see alternative proteins replacing meat on our menus in future?
Most definitely. I don’t think we can keep producing enough food at the rate we’re consuming it now - we have to start looking at other sources of nutrient dense food such as bugs; they’re a real no brainer because they take up very little space to grow, they can be grown on waste and they grow really fast. I definitely see these things becoming more common on menus.
In what ways do you think our ideas and attitudes towards food are changing?
One of the biggest things I’m noticing is that people are eating less meat which is probably one of the best things that can happen for a sustainable food future, especially in Australia. People are eating less and are more conscious of the meat they do consume, so plant based diets are definitely becoming more common. People are also more conscious of waste - for example, I know people who are more inclined to buy a 10kg bag of rice instead of a 1kg bag of rice. It mightn’t sound like much but you’ve eliminated 9 small bags by doing that. I also see a lot of people walk around with water bottles instead of buying plastic bottles - small things like these make a massive difference.
What are three things people can do to live a more sustainable food life?
Firstly, only consume meat 2-3 times a week; secondly buy yourself a reusable coffee cup; thirdly try to grow your own where possible - that might even be a small parsley plant on the balcony but you'd be surprised at how much that parsley plant will get you through!