• Chef, Mark Olive stands outside his new restaurant in Wollongong with local youths involved in hospitality training at the venue. (Facebook- Mark Olive's Pop-up)
“We have the oldest culture in the world, here in our country. Let’s celebrate what we’ve got. Let’s bring Indigenous cuisine to the forefront and be proud of it because the rest of the world is.”
By
Yasmin Noone

4 Dec 2019 - 2:41 PM  UPDATED 4 Dec 2019 - 4:18 PM

Celebrity chef, Mark Olive – AKA 'The Black Olive' – has travelled the extent of the country working with Australia’s Indigenous flavours, fronting many a television series to promote the cultural value of native cuisine for more than 25 years.

Now, the proud Bundjalung man who was born in Wollongong NSW, has decided to move his work back home and open a pop-up Indigenous restaurant in the famed coastal city where he lives.

The new Wollongong restaurant, Black Olive on Harbour Street, will officially open its doors for public trading on Friday 6 December and is expected to continue operations well into 2020.

“So people who visit the pop-up will be able to will be able to see, smell and taste Indigenous ingredients…"

Olive tells SBS the venue will offer diners the real deal in contemporary native cuisine and an authentic cultural experience with Indigenous staff. The chef is using the new restaurant to team up with Job Trail to offer 10 local Indigenous Australians aged 18-25 years training in hospitality via a work placement.

“All of these Indigenous kids have had a rough start in life,” Olive tells SBS. “The idea [behind the training program] is to give them a break and an opportunity to get their foot back in the door. We have some passionate foodies in our group, which is excellent.”

 

The restaurant will also showcase local Indigenous ingredients, many of which will be sourced during the filming of his TV show On Country Kitchen, airing Wednesdays at 8pm on NITV.

“Indigenous food should be used, not just as a boutique concept [in high-end restaurants] but as an everyday thing,” Olive, a former host of the SBS series The Chefs' Line says.

Mark Olive on the ingredients to success
As a chef and TV host, Mark Olive works in two of the most ego-driven industries out there, but this humble Bundjalung man is hungry for food, not fame.

“So people who visit the pop-up will be able to see, smell and taste Indigenous ingredients… Basically, the food served will all be quality food – and not food that you will look at and say ‘what are they trying to do here?'”

“We have the oldest culture in the world, here in our country. Let’s celebrate what we’ve got. Let’s bring Indigenous cuisine to the forefront and be proud of it because the rest of the world is.”

Currently, open for trading on Fridays and Saturdays, the pop-up will cater for 60-80 diners who pay $80 a head for six-to-seven canapés served over three hours with a few glasses of local wine, beer or cider to select from.

Although the menu may change according to what’s in season, right now a smoked kangaroo salad with wattleseed vinaigrette will make an appearance, along with arancini balls with native thyme. Fruits commonly grown in Australia like quandong and lemon aspen will grace the menu. “And because I designed the Australian native collection of ice creams for Connoisseur, they will be featured as well.”

Saltbush and mountain pepper squid

Make Mark Olive's saltbush and mountain pepper squid - recipe here.

 

Celebrating our cultural cuisine

The already popular venue, which has booked out until the year’s end, serves as a tasty reminder from Olive to people throughout Australia of the need to celebrate the diversity of Indigenous foods.

“Let's face it,” Olive tells SBS. “We embrace every other culture and cuisine here in Australia. We take people in and help them get through what they have to get through [in life]. Why aren’t we doing it for our own people?

“We have the oldest culture in the world, here in our country. Let’s celebrate what we’ve got. Let’s bring Indigenous cuisine to the forefront and be proud of it because the rest of the world is.”

Using food as a vehicle to enable people of all backgrounds to experience Indigenous culture, Olive’s restaurant will aim to open up an exchange of dialogue about the essential role of Indigenous foods within Australia’s dining scene.

“It’s amazing to learn how many people have no experience with Indigenous culture or have never immersed themselves in an Indigenous cultural experience at all. It’s crazy. We need to do a bit better I think and food is a good way to do it."

“Everyone’s got to eat – that’s why I love hosting dinner parties, as they open conversation through a shared experience. Once people [taste Indigenous foods] they usually ‘get it’.”

Mark Olive presents On Country Kitchen Wednesdays, 8pm on NITV (Ch. 34). Episodes also available on SBS on Demand.

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