Charcoal Lane

Posted 25 Jan 18

Bush foods are the next big thing. I know it.

Australians, we consider ourselves foodies. And its true – we have some of the best fresh produce around. So why do 38% of Australians consider our national dish the meat pie?

I enjoy a Four’n Twenty pie, smothered in Rosella Tomato sauce. But these are brands. I can’t think of any other country with a branded national dish.

Melbournians are opening up cafes all over Brooklyn, sharing our love of café culture around the world. I recently met some Canadians who told me about Northside, a café in a tiny University town, and when I check out their Instagram, it really did look like a Collingwood café in a Canadian town.

But when international guests ask me to show them our national dish, I am meant to head down to the 7Eleven to get some microwaved pies?

When I have friends in town, I take them to Charcoal Lane. It’s a social enterprise run from the old Aboriginal Health Service Building on Gertrude St, Fitzroy.

They serve kangaroo, emu, barramundi and veggies steaming hot, wrapped in paperbark seasoned with local herbs and spices.

Kangaroo is one of the leanest meats in the world. The Kakadu plum is perhaps the most potent vitamin C food known. When we talk about health and nutrition in Australia, we need to be talking about bush foods.

Charcoal Lane introduces local produce in new ways.

And they train up young Aboriginal people in hospitality who have worked at almost every event we have been involved in.

We recently worked on an event at David and Sallie Prior’s home in Toorak to raise awareness for Culture is Life, a not-for-profit organisation working to reduce self-harm and suicide among young Aboriginal people. The brief for the event was to show that with culture comes resilience. To see the young staff from Charcoal Lane, floating around a home, that lets face it – is pretty intimidating to most people – with absolute confidence as they chatted about crusted emu to the heads of philanthropic trusts, it made me to really proud.

The food is delicious, but the young staff – they are the stars of this social enterprise.