Why the Culture-Cuisine Connection Keeps Customers Coming Back
Australian consumers are spoilt for choice when it comes to dining, and food continues to become more creative, with something new popping up daily.
However, a growing trend has seen customers showing a deeper desire to understand a cuisine’s roots. Culture and cuisine are an inseparable couple, and foodservice providers can capitalise on this to establish a point of difference that will keep diners coming back for more.
Cuisine Equals Cultural Connection
Food is intimately connected to culture, says chef Zachary Green of Elijah’s Kitchen – a purpose-built pop-up restaurant serving cuisine made from fresh, local produce with an indigenous focus.
“Knowing the story behind what people are eating opens doors to learning about culture and heritage,” says the Gunditjmara and Palawa man.
“As an indigenous chef, I’m granted permission to be able to tell stories from the Dreamtime that connects to the food.”
Green frequently tells diners the story of Baru – the ancestral crocodile man who created fire. The fire spread fast and Baru was badly burnt while trying to subdue it. “He slid into the sea and found the saltwater so soothing to his burns that he transformed himself into a crocodile and stayed there forever,” Green says.
Sharing stories like this one gives diners the sense of experiencing something significant about his culture that goes beyond the food, he explains. “That makes them incredibly proud to be able to dine at that restaurant.”
What People Want to Know
He says diners often ask about Aboriginal culture. This allows him to explain that “it’s many cultures within one culture.”
Different regions of Australia have unique Indigenous cultures, so the food Green cooks and the stories he tells depend on the current location of his commercial kitchen on wheels. “That’s the most beautiful part about my cuisine and culture – it differs from place to place and I think that’s why people are so interested,” he says.
And it’s not just Indigenous culture people want to learn about. “If you go to a Chinese restaurant or an Indian restaurant or an Italian restaurant, you’re actually celebrating their culture because the stories and recipes have been handed down from generation to generation,” he says.
He believes this trend is great for the industry. “Stories are something that the hospitality sector and the chef have a golden opportunity to [use to] educate people around food but also cultures where the food comes from.”
Foodservice providers can capitalise on diners’ curiosity by sharing traditions that enrich the dining experience. Food enriched in history can be a great selling point for foodservice businesses, consumers will place more value on their food and experience if they feel involved in the process.
Why Australians Love Certain Cuisines
Green believes that Australians are becoming more accustomed to cuisines from different cultures. “People’s palates are developing every year,” he says. “It’s human nature to try something once.”
He says this trend is evident across the hospitality sector and is at least partly a result of the work of great chefs. “When amazing chefs are creating amazing dishes, people will always want to try something.”
He adds that the rising popularity of international cuisines making their mark on menu’s all over Australia is largely the result of industry trends, and that indigenous ingredients are most definitely on-trend now. “Some of the world’s best chefs are using the ingredients our people have grown up with,” he says.
When 25 of Australia’s best chefs visited Elijah’s Kitchen in July, he explained that the full potential of an indigenous ingredient for them was making a perfect dish. For him, however, it “is creating a dish from the story that has been there for 40,000 years.”
“Knowing the story behind the ingredient, you grow so much more respect for that ingredient,” he says, “to the point where you’re more enabled to make an amazing dish.”
What’s Hot for 2019
Green is reluctant to predict 2019 trends, saying “everyone likes to keep their trade secrets under wraps for a little bit until they’re ready to put it out to the world.”
However, he hopes that the sharing of story and language will encourage greater use of indigenous flavours.
You’ll find the latest news on 2019 trends and announcements here, and be sure to register for Fine Food Australia from 9-12 Sep 2019 at ICC Sydney, Darling Harbour.