• Luke and Sam Bourke. (Facebook: NICI.)Source: Facebook: NICI.
Food is one of the most accessible ways of learning culture - because everyone has to eat. On Reconciliation Week, Sam and Luke Bourke are hosting private cooking classes, using Indigenous ingredients to share a meal and culture.
Keira Jenkins

28 May 2020 - 12:25 PM  UPDATED 28 May 2020 - 12:25 PM

Growing up on Darug country in western Sydney, brothers Sam and Luke Bourke were always encouraged to help out in the kitchen.

Meal times meant everyone in the family coming together, this sparked their passion for food.

But, later in life the brothers, who have ties to palawa country in Tasmania, realised another passion - native food.

After graduating from the National Indigenous Culinary Institute in Sydney the pair have made it their mission to raise awareness of Indigenous herbs, spices and other ingredients.

Sam said food is one of the ways to connect people from different countries and cultures.

“There’s so many things that connect us as human beings but food is definitely one, with the experience of sharing it together, preparing it, having people come together around food and share stories connected with food, which is very big in Aboriginal culture,” he told NITV News.

“To talk about where the food comes from, how it’s produced, how it’s used, meals that people have stories around, which can be carried through culture and learning about stuff like that.”

Sam and his brother Luke journeyed to Ireland last year to put this theory into practice, shipping over ingredients like kangaroo meat and finger lime to showcase to the world.

The pair, alongside two NICI apprentices cooked up a storm all over the country, including a feast for the Australian ambassador to Ireland and showcasing Indigenous cooking to everyday people at the West Cork Food Festival.

“The West Cork Festival was amazing with bringing us in as Australian chefs to showcase native ingredients of Australia with people who have never tried native ingredients before, or even certain ways Australians cook, compared to Irish cooking,” Sam said.

“We went up to Dublin to the ambassador and really got to showcase where he’s from to the Irish people around where he works, among all his contacts and people in the government over there. 

“Showcasing that to them was really big, just to see how happy and inspired they were from Australian cooking.”

His brother, Luke agreed, saying he learnt a lot from the Irish they met along the way, but also got a sense of pride for what he could teach them about Australian ingredients.

“It was very rewarding to take from Australia what we have to showcase and teach and pass on our knowledge of Australian food overseas, which is a big thing,” he said.

'For everyone'

But passion for sharing and showcasing Indigenous culture and cuisine didn’t end there.

Luke now works at Sydney’s Rockpool restaurant, and Sam at nearby Rosetta, both part of Neil Perry’s acclaimed Rockpool Dining group.

While they learn from some of the industry’s best, the twins still hold high hopes for their futures and the future of the ingredients they hold close to their heart.

Luke said he hopes that one day, knowledge of native foods will be more widespread, and used more in everyday cooking.

“My hope for the future is to one day expand that knowledge of native ingredients, maybe even start little nurseries or tap into Aboriginal land that’s not being used to grow ingredients for every day people, for everyone to source,” he said.

“Maybe I’ll open up a little restaurant that encourages the use of native ingredients.”

While those plans are still a little way off Sam and Luke are raising awareness of dishes using Indigenous ingredients.

For Reconciliation Week they’re hosting a private class, preparing boxes of everything their students will need, including native herbs like pepperberry, saltbush, and lemon myrtle, to follow along online. 

This treat has been put together with help from the NICI.

NICI CEO Nathan Lovett said food is an important and accessible tool for teaching culture and for showcasing what Indigenous chefs can do.

“It’s a fantastic way for us to teach culture to non-Indigenous people and build a relationship between non-Indigenous people and our culture through something that brings everybody together, which is food” he said.

“It’s a great way for us as an organisation to also use Indigenous cuisine to build a relationship with non-Indigenous people and create opportunities for Aboriginal people through employment.”

But Luke said there are also simple ways to foster this connection at home or in your own communities.

“Sharing a plate or even sharing a meal or is where you start and then incorporating Indigenous ingredients in your mainstream food items,” he said.

“Just incorporate them and get a sense of what Australia really is.”

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