Feasting, eating, dining and cooking are all undergoing a revolution. Just ask the leading minds in the business. Today food is more than just fuel for the engine. From intellectuals and stylists and designers, to restauranteurs and designers chefs - a new consciousness is returning to food consumption by honouring source materials.
This month at Totem Road we asked a range of top minds to explain the new food phenomena to us and to describe what sustainability means to them. And …as winter envelops us with her short days and cold mornings - we focus on the rites and rituals of dining. How and where we eat. Why we eat at all.
To get us started, local stylist Amanda Talbot thinks we need to loosen up. In her book Rethink she says it is time to shake off the formalities of traditional dining and make dining at home fun again.
“We need to ditch the stifling, old world term ‘dining’ table and ‘dining’ room and instead name them the ‘Feasting Table’ and better still the ‘Feasting Room’,” says Talbot - recently advocating a table loaded with food in her sumptuous editorial for HabitusLiving.
This way of thinking advocates the idea of presenting food for grazing upon. Just picture wild weeds foraged for on local beachfronts, wheels of creamy biodynamic cheese and locally grown wildflowers spread across the with of a giant plank. It all starts, Talbot says with making our eating spaces irresistibly inviting.
“Every feasting table should always have a bowl of fruit on it, carafe of water and glasses, and flowers. The feasting table should be the heart of all homes in my opinion where the family subconsciously flock to talk, do homework and share meals,” Talbot says.
Don Garvan from sustainable furniture brand Totem Road agrees, the dining table should be the hearth of the home. A constant place for people to meet, connect, commiserate and unwind.
“A good dining room forms the centre of any home. Like the kitchen, it’s an unconscious pattern that humans are drawn toward both the eating table and the flame that cooks our food,” he says.
“I have always been interested in how space affects our well being and how comfort and enjoyment affect the way we digest and are nourished by food,” he says.
“I always advise people to keep the central rooms in their homes very classic - with strong timeless furniture that can be matched with different soft furnishings. That way as trends change over the years, plants, fabrics and ceramics can always be updated to suit a trend,” Garvan says
“To my mind the basics of a good solid dining room are a wonderful table and comfortable chairs,” Garvan says.
“We always advocate chairs too, like those produced by Thonet. A good idea is to place as many chairs with arms near the dining table provided you have the space. This really helps to “bed people into” the room and let them relax.
Creative Director for Totem Road Elaine Bellew agrees. “A generous table, a place for regular feasting, is a good investment in any home. Solid oak and Carrara marble are alway my chosen materials for dining tables. I favour them for their timeless qualities and because they can take the weight and energy of feasting. They won’t date, they just improve with age,” Bellew says.
What you serve upon the table also makes a difference to how the sacred dining space is enjoyed. In the noughties share food is the rage and many people are also joining the Vegan movement. More and more individuals are trying to eat sustainably and to rely on new foods which won't earth’s resources.
French celebrity chef Alain Ducasse says he is certain the new trend for sustainability is here to stay in fine dining. He operates a number of restaurants including Alain Ducasse at The Dorchester, which holds three stars in the Michelin Guide.
“Cuisine should be attentive to the planet’s resources. I wrote a book on this issue that will be released at the end of year; a very personal book in which I develop a humanistic vision of gastronomy,” Ducasse says. “This current trend is here to stay and will only expand,” he says.
Reflecting a growing trend in kitchens both roadside and world-famous, chef Alain Ducasse has almost entirely removed meat from the menu of his other Paris restaurant the Plaza Athénée.
“The concept of naturalness was launched at the Plaza Athénée two and half years ago, when they removed red meat from the menu to focus on vegetables, grains and sustainable fish. This is the cuisine of the future,” Ducasse says.
Australian food authorities agree more people are eating with their minds, as well as their tongues in 2016.
Steven Snow, from Fins restaurant in Kingscliff has always offered his guests the best in sustainably sourced fresh seafood. “You will never see a farmed fish on my menu, as I believe it to be unsustainable and damaging to the environment," he says.
“I will only serve produce I would eat myself. I believe if we are going to take from the oceans or earth, we need to treat the process with the utmost respect. Fins’ clients understand this, they back me in this approach and consequently, thy enjoy the health benefits of conscious eating.
“I have built contacts over 27 years of trading in northern NSW. Our fish is line caught by fishermen who adopt “best practice” any where between Coffs Harbour and Mooloolooba," says Steven Snow.
“A conscious approach to eating, where food, longevity and respect for the Earth and living beings is honoured is our primary consideration. Certainly at Fins we believe it is of greater importance than profitability."
Another kind of restaurant taking sustainability to a mass audience is Three Blue Ducks. Newcomer chef and co-founder Mark LaBrooy started the Three Blue Ducks in Bronte with Darren Robertson. They are now very much part of a movement that’s been sprouting in Byron Shire for some time.
Three Blue Ducks run the food at The Farm in Ewingsdale where they try to embody a paddock to plate concept.
The super positive and up-beat Mark LaBrooy says their aim is to one day make the food at Three Blue Ducks food from 100% locally sourced food.
“We feel it is better for our environment. It is the way we want to eat in our personal lives and we don’t wish to use cheap or il- treated animals in our restaurant," he says.
“We started having a little play in the garden at Bronte: we had bees and we grew a little bit of rainbow trout in the garden that we started using that through the restaurant, and we really started to see the green-scaping potential of it all,” he says.
Not wanting to be limited by their small plot of land in the urban environment, the boys decided to head up north to get more space.
“We started to look at the farm where there are 82 acres of farm land available and we started digging into the world of primary industry, as well as the restaurant industry, which really excited us," he says.
LaBrooy admits that while their entire patronage might not always "get it", or feel sustainable food is value for money, he knows that persistence on this journey will pay-off.
“If as a business you can shy away from the fast food or cheap food world, where the produce hasn’t been cared for or where the the food has been created in such a way that it creates an unrealistic price point, then I believe you are definitely moving in the right direction.
“I feel we are in a transition period where people are starting to understand that food is a medicine and not just something to stop you from being hungry,” LeBrooy says.
Echoing the feeling many local designers and innovators, LeBrooy confirms a trend around truly sustainable food and a return to consciousness when dining and eating out. This shift can be seen, felt and tasted and it is encouraging to see so many innovators harking from Sydney’s lifestyle focused beach suburbs bulding brands that reflect this deeper value of honouring the source of our consumables.
Christmas day means something unique to each of us and whether it’s celebrating with a family big or small the place we create some of our most cherished memories is the dining room. This inspired us to create a Christmas table style guide so that you can impress and delight your loved ones.