A CHEF with a passion for wild bush foods and exotic ingredients is taking his message to a global audience with a new 10-part travel and cooking series on Discovery Channel.
Jock Zonfrillo, the creative genius behind Orana and Street-ADL in Adelaide, South Australia stars in Nomad Chef which will screen in over 220 countries across Asia, the Pacific, Europe, Africa and Latin America.
The new series was co-produced for Discovery Networks International by Beach House Pictures in Singapore and Chemical Media in Melbourne, Australia.
“Nomad Chef is an exciting new program which combines extreme adventure and cuisine, two genres which have worked well for us in many worldwide markets,” says Kevin Dickie, from Discovery Networks Asia Pacific.
“We have an amazing new talent in Jock Zonfrillo, and Nomad Chef showcases his understanding and curiosity for the nutritional and healing properties of indigenous produce from different cultures.”
Although the series begins and ends in his adopted hometown of Adelaide, Zonfrillo, 38, filmed segments for the program in some of the world’s most remote destinations, including the Amazon, Vanuatu, Arnhem Land and the Faroe Islands.
During his travels Zonfrillo hunts, harvests and goes foraging with indigenous people, learning their recipes along the way. He then returns to Australia where he serves these dishes to his guests at Orana – a restaurant which already features many Australian bush foods.
Despite becoming ill and losing 8kg while filming in Ethiopia, the Scottish-born chef says that making Nomad Chef has been one of the highlights of his career – and a very steep learning curve.
“It was both the most exciting and the most humbling experiences,” he says.
“So many culinary traditions on this rock we all share are being lost in this ever-expanding global modern world we live in. Nomad Chef was both an education and the most exciting trip of my life and I am honoured to share my experience.”
The concept of foraging for wild ingredients, some of them discarded as weeds, and native bush foods is central to the philosophy behind Orana, a new concept in fine dining, which opened in late 2013.
“A weed is really just a plant that no one wants,” says Zonfrillo. “It doesn’t mean that it isn’t delicious. Nine times out of ten weeds are so plentiful that they should be eaten.”
The menu at Orana (which means “welcome”) features many things which are unfamiliar to most Australians, such as bitter grass, bush cherry, ox eye daisy, saltbush and green ants.
Many of these ingredients are sourced directly from the hills and seashores near Adelaide. Other fruits, nuts and seeds come from Byron Bay in northern NSW or remote Aboriginal communities.
“Our current menu features 34 ingredients that are unique to Australia,” he says.
Unlike an earlier bush tucker experiment in Australia which alienated mainstream diners, Zonfrillo believes that native ingredients, either foraged or cultivated, could provide the basis for an authentic and sustainable national cuisine.
Perhaps the message is beginning to resonate. Orana was recently named one of 50 hottest restaurants by The Weekend Australian newspaper.
Nomad Chef will premiere exclusively on Discovery Channel in December 2014.