In January this year we reported on the collaboration of Avani Winery in the Mornington Peninsula and Food + Wine Pop Up that is run by chef Mal Meiers and sommelier Kate Christensen.
Mal and Kate then went to France and have recently finished their three-month residency at Chardon Arles in the south which was a great success.
The couple have kept in touch with Turnip and have given us some insight on bringing little-known Australian wines to the south of France while filling us in on their next pop-ups, the first of which starts tomorrow in London!
Here we chat to Kate about their time in Chardon Arles and their tour of Europe (and Canada).
Turnip: How did the people in Chardon take to two Australians cooking for them and serving them Australian wines?
Kate Christensen: The response from our offering has been overwhelming, people absolutely LOVE this modern, fresh & quite different style of food (with its slight Indian spice application & its non-traditional bound freedom) & through a few small Aussie wines I’ve featured have people have also been so impressed & surprised by the the wine showcased, (which can be a challenge when it comes to the French & their wines & there opinions of Aust wines).
T: Can you tell me some of the Aust wines you’ve featured? What stood out to your customers about the wines?
KC: I wanted to feature some of my favourite smaller lesser known Aust producers, however the logistics of even finding them over here became very clear early on.
Only a small handful of such wines even make it to this side of the world & France, at that.
I found one importer, who brought in Tom Shobbrook, Jauma & Lucy Margaux so I was thrilled I could feature a few wines them whilst here.
Some of the Aust wines we showcased could only be found in a about three or four wine bars in all of France, so I was stoked to have some to complete the part of our Australian story.
I was really surprised by the positive, if not weary at first, response the general French public had towards the Australian wines.
As good wine can be very cheap in France, at first it’s a bit tough to convince them to spend the extra money when they have so much option here already for reasonable, cheap french wine especially on something unknown, foreign & from the other side of the world.
But my passion for these small ‘rare’ producers gave them confidence & the proof is really in the glass; once they tasted the wines, they were won over.
I was surprised by how inquisitive & excited they were towards ‘vin naturel d’australie’ but then again, most French people just love good things.
I think they were most intrigued by the wines vibrancy & energy & to quote one French customer ‘the unique taste of the Australian sun’.
T: What are some of the produce that stood out to Malcolm that he hasn’t worked with before? Or was it produce he’s familiar with and has now worked with in this new context and country?
KC: It’s been amazing for Malcolm particularly to work with what he says is ‘some of the best produce he’s ever seen’ & his food has obviously reached new levels.
The produce is all pretty similar but one of the biggest things was the accessibility to that quality produce. Right across the board the level of the produce available is at higher quality.
One thing that was really inspiring in Mal’s cooking over here was the quality of the poultry and game birds & the ability to work with actual whole birds that come with not only to heads and feet on but all the organs at no extra cost & for a chef this is fun.
Also the obvious working completely & entirely in season & with abundance which doesn’t just make sense but is almost the only option.
Within weeks of being here the whole town was taking about us & from that the ball started rolling with now numerous following pop ups & residencies that we will create over the few coming months here.
Our timeline is as follows;
– Next stop Carousel in London for two weeks from tomorrow!! A trendy space with an ever-changing offering of different chefs from all around the world.
-Afterward we head back to France to a small natural wine bar in Antibes near Nice called ‘Jeanne’ for a week, who have just begun similar feature residencies.
-Then we jump to Brussels to a restaurant called ‘Le 203’, where we’ll be collaborating for a week of feature dinners with the chef/sommelier partnership that run it there.
-Then down to a small town just outside Montpelier to a beautiful restaurant ‘Le Pic Saint Loup’ for a few weeks residency featureing some wine events there.
-Then back to the wine bar in Antibes for a second time in Sept for another week.
-Then we leave for a month in Montreal. Where we will be popping up in a friends new wine bar Monopole for the month of October.
-Then home to Australia to do the very important ‘Food for Thought’ charity dinners for a fourth year, towards beyond blue & mental health awareness in our industry. This year a dinner in each Melbourne, Sydney & hopefully Brisbane too.
So, as you can see a very busy, exciting & incredible time ahead for us. Not a lot of time off for us between events but we are just excited to have this European tour ball rolling.