Matt Golinski Goes Foraging With Nick Blake
Matt Golinski shares his insights into what wild foraging is all about – or what it should be about.
Every delivery I receive from Nick Blake of Wild Forage Australia is like a new adventure, a snapshot of the what’s-in-season wild vegetation on the Sunshine Coast for that particular week. Often I’ll order things from his weekly mailing list not knowing what they are, just to have the opportunity to experience them for myself and get to understand their flavour and texture.
There are a lot of fads in the food industry; a lot of chefs looking for the next cool ingredient to make their menu unique, and they’ve often been and gone before you can say ‘are the activated charcoal bao local?’ But the ingredients that have substance and integrity, that speak of a time and place, and that tell a story, will always stand the test of time in kitchens anywhere in the world.
And that’s exactly the philosophy that drove Nick to start his business in 2017 after working under world-acclaimed Chef Rene Redzepi at Noma’s pop up in Sydney and finding inspiration with Noma’s notion of ‘time and place’.
Not only is he a qualified chef who has worked in some of the best restaurants in the world, he also holds a degree in Environmental Management Ecology and conservation and a post-graduate diploma in Environmental Science, making him the perfect candidate to understand the quality expected from the restaurants he supplies, and how to identify suitable foraging environments and manage them sustainably.
It’s no wonder he was one of the first to receive Slow Food Noosa’s Snail of Approval.
Despite what the young hipster chefs would have us believe, it’s not quite as simple as hitting any median strip sprouting some edible weeds, pulling out your designer scissor and tweezer set and helping yourself to some free garnishes. Heavy metals, chemical sprays and contaminated waterways can all make inexperienced foraging dangerous.
Nick’s qualifications mean he is able to identify where to pick only pure, safe produce, whether it’s out of rock pools or dunes at the beach, or the creek lines of the hinterland. He is fiercely protective and respectful of the environment in which he operates.
Wood Sorrel, Sea Blight, Ice Plant, Karkala, Sea Parsley, Sea Celery, Beach Mustard, Purslane, Warrigal Greens and Stinging Nettle all make appearances at different times of the year, all meticulously trimmed and carefully packaged and delivered directly to restaurants across southeast Queensland. Everything is pre-ordered through Suncoast Fresh so only what is needed for the week is picked to avoid wastage.
Wild Forage Australia’s commitment to quality and consistency adds another dimension to menus and provides diners with a very special, local experience. But the most valuable thing they have given me over the past few years is new-found mindfulness about my environment and the various interesting edible plants that are all around me everywhere I go. I can’t wait for next week’s delivery!