'Chef’s Oscar' for champion of Australian native food, Jock Zonfrillo


The chef behind Adelaide’s celebrated Orana restaurant has been awarded the prestigious Basque Culinary World Prize for his work with Indigenous food and communities.

Jock Zonfrillo’s award-winning Orana restaurant draws food lovers from across the country, but it’s what he’s working on behind the scenes that appealed to the judges of the Basque Culinary World Prize.

The Scottish born chef says it’s an incredible honour.

“Really, it’s like a chef’s Oscar, that one,” he says.

Jock Zonfrillo gathers Eugarie on the Stradbroke Island.
Jock Zonfrillo gathers Eugarie on the Stradbroke Island.
Facebook @oranafoundation

“There’s two juries, there’s a technical jury, anthropologists and all sorts of other people in it, and then there’s a second jury, which has some of the most respected chefs in the world, who are all people that I admire, and I think that makes the award all the more special."

The award recognises an outstanding chef who is also a powerful voice for change.

Jock, who owns Adelaide’s popular Orana restaurant, was awarded for his work as a champion of native Australian foods, and long-term supporter of many Indigenous communities.

Food writer Melissa Leong says it’s an extremely prestigious award.

“If you look at past nominees there have been some of the most revered and admired chefs and thinkers and food writers in the world,” she says.

Orana’s menu focuses on native Australian ingredients.

Mr Zonfrillo says his goal is to help bring native ingredients to a broader audience while ensuring economic benefits flow back to Indigenous communities.

“When we create new dishes or when we’re working with new products, a big part of that is sitting down with the people who have used that forever, and understanding their stories, the traditional ways they used to eat it.”

Moreton Bay Fig shoots for Restaurant Orana
Moreton Bay Fig shoots for Restaurant Orana.
Facebook @oranafoundation

He’s also helped create a catalogue of native foods through the Orana Foundation, in part so that communities have the right information to gather and sell a product if they choose to do so.

“If I’m in a community and I see something great, I’ll help them lodge a section 18 so they’re allowed to harvest it for commercial purposes, and I’ll arrange a fair trade so we’ll buy it back from them and we’ll help set up a business or whatever they need to do,” he says.

Peter Watson, an Indigenous advisor and forager for Orana, says he hopes more Australians would discover the native flavours of the country.  

“These foods that our people have been using for countless generations are now being taken into the restaurant, and being, not exploited, but showcased, if you like,” he says.

Jock Zonfrillo
Orana chef Jock Zonfrillo plates up a dish at his Adelaide restaurant.

“I think it’s a really good thing them tastes are getting out there and people like Jock, who I work for, are really putting the word out there about Indigenous foods, and the value in them, too.”

Mr Zonfrillo says exactly how the prize money of 100,000 Euro or more than AUD$150,000 will be spent is yet to be decided, but that it will go towards a project that will benefit communities.

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