Friday, December 24, 2004

Australian food ingredients from Cherikoff Rare Spices

I often concentrate on the penetration of Cherikoff ingredients into restaurants to showcase how they are being used domestically and in our overseas' promotions. However, manufacturers like Moores Bakery, Dick Smith Foods and McCormicks, amongst many others who use my products in their offerings, are making it easy for everyone to try authentic Australian flavours.

I would like to give you a little insight into the science and product development behind one of my trading names; Cherikoff Rare Spices.

The first step in the ladder is the analysis of the herb, spice, fruit or extracts from them. Just to give you one obstacle I encountered some years ago. I had collected this amazing wild pepperleaf from the mountain ranges behind Canberra. It was draped in snow at the time so the name 'snow pepper' wasn't too inspired but I thought very appropriate. And the flavour was this incredible peppery heat with a taste/smell coming through quite late of over-ripe banana and a hint of tropical fruit. Mangosteen maybe. Or black sapote.

So I thought; here's a new commercial variety. It's going to be worth millions! Well it still might be but not in the food industry and I hope I don't encourage too many entrepreneurs with my next comments.

I collected a bag full of leaves and laid them out to dry in the back of my truck to be analysed when I got back to The Human Nutrition Unit at the University of Sydney where I was working at the time. As it turned out, the leaves contained a compound which could have prejudiced the whole fledgling native food industry - safrole.

Safrole is a naturally occurring substance and has been used as a flavoring agent in drugs, beverages and foods. Safrole is an important raw material for the chemical industry because of two derivatives: heliotropin, which is widely used as a fragrance and flavoring agent, and piperonyl butoxide (PBO), a vital ingredient of pyrethroid insecticides. Natural pyrethrum in particular would not be an economical insecticide without the addiction of PBO as a synergist and the future of the natural pyrethrum industry is linked to the continued availability of PBO. Safrole has many fragrance applications in household products such as floor waxes, polishes, soaps, detergents, and cleaning agents. Oil of sassafras, which contains safrole, was formerly used to flavor some soft drinks, such as root beer. However, as of 1960, this use was no longer permitted in the U.S.A It has been shown to be a cancer causing agent in animals even though it has had no testing in humans.

The cruncher is that safrole is also an ingredient used to manufacture Ecstasy, a psychoactive drug that affects the brain's use of the naturally-produced chemical serotonin, which regulates mood and aggression. Safrole can also be chemically converted to morphine and then heroin. Hence the problem.

Diary notes follow: Great product. Huge potential. Evaluate night club market (only kidding).

There is still some safrole in our diets from spices such as mace and nutmeg but our mountain pepper and pepperberries contain extremely tiny amounts. In fact, the extract from the leaves which is a highly concentrated, green-black goo contains only parts per trillion of safrole, making it totally safe to use in food. The spice we use today, comes from wild harvests and pepper plants growing in valleys and up hillsides have been screened for their safrole content and only those plants passing our tests were documented and are now routinely harvested.

The same sort of approach has been applied to lemon myrtle, aniseed myrtle, Australian mint and peppermint, wattleseed and all the other foods now entering international markets as authentic Australian ingredients. Probably more testing than most conventional foods and hence safer than them as well.

So on to step two: I then took the ingredients and considered just how their actual flavours are best delivered. Many chefs find lemon myrtle a challenge and I can totally understand. It smells more than it tastes and being very volatile, the flavour can improve the kitchen but not the dish. The first step is to realise when to add lemon myrtle (as in after the cooking) but the next step was back in the food development lab.

The smell-taste of lemon myrtle is unbalanced. It lacks flavour on the palate (the tongue and the lips). We expect some acid taste from lemon, lime and lemongrass notes but they aren't there in lemon mytle. And so I developed Oz lemon which is a complete lemon myrtle mix and not only more intense in flavour because of the encapsulated lemon myrtle essential oils I add (that's another story but have a look here for more information if you're interested) but because of the aniseed myrtle, lemon aspen and lemon peel I combine with the best quality lemon myrtle available. Taste it for yourself and compare the colour of Oz lemon to any lemon myrtle on the market today. I am proud of only stocking the best.

I could go on to my discovery and development of wattleseed and many other stories but I'll leave that for another day and to what I have already written in the past. There's a lot covered in the Dining Downunder cookbook too adding to it's value as a reference book on the development of Australian cuisine and a must have for anyone reading this blog. Get your copy here.

Monday, December 13, 2004

Australian cuisine in Thailand

It's been a week since I and Benjamin Christie got back from an Australian cuisine promotion we ran at the Sheraton Grande Laguna Phuket followed up with meetings in Bangkok with numerous chefs from various international hotels. Have a look at Benjamin's blog for a great write up on the promotion we ran. There was the Loi Krathong Festival and local beauty pageant which coincided with the full moon on our arrival and then we took the reins for the start of our Australian food promotion. We had a la carte dishes in the Tea House restaurant, some contributions to The Marketplace buffet and Benjamin and I had centre stage for our demonstration cooking presentations each night from 7pm.

Working with the expat and local chefs was a real treat. Aussie Exec Chef Glen Roberts, showed us around and introduced us to his team then helped co-ordinate our offerings considering the Asian kitchens we had to work in. We experienced the magic cast by Prageet in the pastry kitchen and the support of Executive Sous Chef, Suwin and the supreme efforts of Chef de Partie, Prawit and the rest of the team. Thanks guys.

I should also mention that we wouldn't even have left home if it were not for GM Andrew Jessop who proved to be a real fan of our show, Dining Downunder. Andrew urged Glen to contact us to help out with some food ideas to augment an Aboriginal art exhibit being held in the resort. As time was short, it ended up easier for all concerned and feasible to get us to Phuket to run the promotion hands on. With more support from F&B Torsten Richter and my contacts in Vitafresh we got ourselves and all the products over on what was really only a few weeks notice.

So here's a bit of a photo summary just to put you into the picture.

Incidentally, you might have read about the Free Trade Agreement now being effected between Australia and Thailand. Well I learned a bit about how the Thai system has worked for a long time and probably will continue to work in the future, FTA or not. You see, getting goods to Thailand customs is one thing and political agreements on tariffs another. But if an exporter doesn't pay customs their expected tea money then goods have a habit of sitting on the docks for some time. It might be that you have to come back again later, or tomorrow or the next day. In fact, unless the gratuity is paid, it could be weeks before the 'backlog' is cleared enough for the right people to attend to the customs clearance needed to get your goods to your customer. Funny how it works and I look forward to collaborating with Keith Bell from Vitafresh for my continuing trade into Thailand.

Still, the response to and interest in our offering was terrific. We now have 2 more bookings for Thailand and referrals to 4 other hotels around the world. And you can bet we'll pursue these in our drive to promote Australian cuisine to the international food community.

So what makes our food so interesting?

And how does it differ from the fusion food offered by the PR chefs we hear so much about?

Well each world cuisine has recognisable dishes such as coc au vin (what else but French, even if written as chicken in red wine) and sushimi, paella, fettuccine, beef and Yorkshire pudding, borscht are all identifiable with their respective countries of origin. Most can be glitzed up for 4 or 5 Star service (well, maybe the traditional British offering would need work).

But I object to the often repeated claim that Australian cuisine is the simple use of fresh ingredients because so many other nationalities do simple food better than us Aussies. And what chef chooses to use ingredients which are not fresh anyway? In fact, in Zimbabwe, with little or no refrigeration, meats are often far fresher than in Australia. They just have to be.

This is an often repeated but clearly foolish description of Australian cuisine and one which belies the truth that most Asutralian chefs can't explain any differences in their cooking to that of colleagues in Tokyo, San Francisco and even London.

There is a difference and it's a wild one

What makes Australian cuisine truly different are the native ingredients which can only be found in this country. They are unique in distribution, distinctive in taste and their application yields dishes which are identifiably Australian even if the influence of the combination used is from another country.

grassfed beef with pepperberry and riberry jus

Australian lamb with a bunya nut farce and wild mint and macadamia nut pesto

paperbark smoked chicken on sweet potato slices and bok choy with Ozyaki*

Wildfire spice crusted prawn on rice noodles finished with wattleseed extract

Oz lemon creme brulee with glace quandongs

wattleseed pavlova with a wild rosella coulis and wild limes

Wattleccino** or wild herb teas

* Ozyaki is a trade marked, Asian inspired sauce infused with aniseed myrtle, mountain pepper leaf extract and pepperberries

** Wattleccino is a trade mark for a wattleseed cappuccino made from wattleseed extract and frothed milk.

Clearly these dishes might rely on some familiarity of the native Australian ingredients but it is the same with some of the culturally specific terms listed above. So it is a matter of time, education and promotion which is what Dining Downunder and Cherikoff Australian Cuisine promotions are all about.

We welcome enquiries from Executive Chefs about having us at your hotel and still have a few spots available after June 2005. But you'll have to hurry as they are filling up fast.

For my other readers, if you haven't visited already, please check out my websites at Cherikoff Food Services and Australian herbs and spices.

Monday, November 22, 2004

Anti-oxidants and Authentic Aussie foods

Just a comment on the health aspects of Australian native foods.

We evolved hunting and gathering an enormous range of foods and severely compromised our nutrition by narrowing our diet to only those food we could domesticate. What this means is that most races reduced the range of foods they ate down to 10% of their ancestral traditions. Little wonder that we have so many nutritional diseases often called diseases of civilisation.

More recently, scientists are discovering enormous differences between the nutritional value in wild foods compared to cultivated ones. Sure, once correcting for water content, the macro-nutritents are roughly equivalent but the devil is in the details: Anti-oxidants are at record levels, for example, it is well recognised now that my analytical proof and scientific publication of the world record for a fruit concentration of vitamin C lies with the Kakadu plum (now used in nutritional supplements, cosmetics and foods to a lesser extent); additionally, anthocyanins in many wild fruits like rosella, Davidsons plum, Illawarra plum, quandong and riberries are also highly significant. In fact, a recent report by a doctor has suggested that Parkinson's disease can be cured with oral sprays of blends of anti-oxidants.

The interesting thing with whole foods is that the anti-oxidants also seem to come with other components such as folic acid, iron, co-enzymes and what are called adaptogens and which collectively, improve the efficacy and absorption of the anti-free radical compounds. There's a lot going for eating these super-foods rather than popping pills of synthetic cocktails (and just making the pharmaceutical companies richer).

Australian food

Then there is a whole gammet of nutritionally beneficial phytochemicals in Australian wild herbs and spices and I refer you to this website for some information and here for a more detailed collection of papers on the topic.

Sunday, November 21, 2004

Downunder taste of Jack Daniels

A recent BBQ competition in Lynchburg, Tennessee was a huge event with an international contingent including an Australian team supported by Dining Downunder, Cherikoff Rare Spices, BeefEater BBQs, A & S Meats, and NSW Tourism.

One local BBQ competitor drove their fully sponsored, $1m pan-tech fitted out as a huge mobile BBQ grilling machine. So the Downunder effort faced stiff competition. Arthur Birch represented the Aussies and found some local help willing to lend a hand while looking good doing it.

The native Australian ingredients and even some of the dishes challenged the judges who couldn't get their heads around a wattleseed pavlova. Besides, it got snuck in without being cooked on the BBQ and even a splash of JD in the wattleseed cream didn't mellow their outloook.

However, Arthur fared better with his beef brisket which, after being inspected as a piece of un-marinated meat, got covered in Red Desert Dust and slow cooked for 14 hours on really low heat. It ended up scoring 12th out of a field of 60.

On his return home to Australia, Arthur was invited to the ABC radio studio in Nowra, near where he works as a parking infringement officer (and promotes his book "Not Guilty! Your Worship" on how to get off paying your parking fines - email me if you want a copy. They're $20 each and you could save this many times over by following Arthur's advice).

Anyway, Arthur cooked up a steak sandwich with Rainforest Rub on the onions, Wildfire Spice on the roo steak and served on a Wattleseed sandwich made from Moores Restaurant style breads (from Woolworths supermarkets).

It all got rave reviews.

So watch out Lynchburg. We will marshall a team for 2005 which will grill, braise, broil, bake and generally BBQ themselves into the record books. But first we'll have to find a few chefs who drink JD....

Friday, November 19, 2004

Packing for Phuket

Only a little over a week before the next Australian cuisine promotion starts and this one's in Phuket, Thailand. I'll be at the Sheraton Grande Laguna with my colleague, Benjamin Christie cooking up a storm with my Australian ingredients in an exciting menu of Australian fusion made super special with the flavours of Australia.

If you're in the area, drop in and experience the flavour bliss of riberries, wattleseed, Oz lemon, wild limes and over a dozen other ingredients we'll be working into delicious dishes. We will also be representing Bega cheese, Springs Smoked Salmon, n'joi olive and Yarras infused oils on this trip.

How good is it to have the GM of this amazing resort see our cooking show, Dining Downunder and instigate our visit? Sure, the show's on in 30 countries around the Asia Pacific at the moment and we are getting a bunch of inquiries for promotions. So these will keep me living my life as a global citizen - these are definitely the Good Old Days!

Anyway, Xmas is almost upon us and if you're short on ideas for that cook in your life, please drop on over to our on-line store and pick up a few goodies along with our cookbook. It'll provide months of great dishes for you and your family and carry the Xmas spirit well into 2005.

Meanwhile, here's a recipe using Oz lemon which is a lemon myrtle based seasoning (but better by far than the herb on its own). If you haven't heard about Oz lemon, head over to my herb and spice site and you'll find plenty of info on this incredible rainforest tree leaf.

Over the next few blogs, I'll make up the ingredients for what I call a rainforest parfait ("Everyone likes parfait." as Donkey says in Shrek). The first component is an Oz lemon cream cheese. Now if you are in Australia, you can cheat a bit and just use the branded product, French vanilla* Fruche. Just sprinkle in enough Oz lemon as if you were seasoning it with salt and wanted to make it pretty salty. Stir and leave for at least an hour before taste testing and over night is good for full flavour development.

For my non-Australian readers, get the following:

100g (3oz) quark, cottage or farm cheese
100g (3oz) low fat sour cream
enough milk to make the above blend into a smooth, thick cream
1/2 teaspoonful Oz lemon
2 teaspoonful palm sugar

Just blend the cheese and sour cream in a processor or blender adding milk to make it into the consistency of a firm yoghurt (you can use a Greek yoghurt for this and just flavour it up with the Oz Lemon).

Add the Oz lemon and sugar (honey is fine here too, just not a strongly flavoured one or it'll fight with the lemon notes).

I usually make a kilo or more of this and have it for breakfast as it comes or on cereal or over fresh fruit for dessert at night.

You can also use the fabulous Easi-yo, Greek style yoghurt powders from that innovative New Zealand company. Just add one to one and a half teaspoons of Oz lemon and 2 tablespoons of palm sugar to their packet mix and make the yoghurt according to their instructions.

* Just a thought but when you invade another civilisation, dessimate their population and steal their resources, do they become part of the property of the Motherland? French vanilla? OK. The French ousted the English in Polynesia and took over rule from the native Islanders but since when is vanilla, French? If botanical names go back to original sources then it would have to be Polynesian vanilla. I suppose it is just another marketing ploy, just like the New Zealanders renaming the Chinese gooseberry the Kiwifruit.

Tuesday, November 02, 2004

Get more bums on seats in your restaurant

Need an Easy Way to Get
Bums on Seats?

Imagine the profit from your hard day’s work if you had 10 times the business turnover that you do now?

Can you see your restaurant full all the time and food service pumping smoothly?

What will you hear your patrons saying about your food, the service and ambience and how will they be bringing you more business just by talking to their friends?

Yogi Bera might soon be referring to your restaurant when he said
“No one goes there anymore – It’s too crowded”.

Authentic Australian ingredients work for you:

· As interesting flavours for you and your chefs
· As interest-generating items for your waiting staff and
· As a major reason your patrons keep coming back AND why they will talk about your place to all of their friends

So if you’re an Australian food outlet and want to gain a real edge over your competitors, there is nothing like our authentic, self-promoting, delicious, wild foods.

We have aromatic herbs from the rainforests, which are as easy to use as basil and coriander.

Our pungent spices from alpine regions can be used like chilli, wasabi or pepper.

We have a roasted seed from the Central Australian deserts, which is fast becoming as popular as coffee or chocolate as a food ingredient.

Our moreish fruits cover the whole gamut of fruit flavours from citrus to plum but are quite new and different for sauces, garnishes, desserts or cocktails.

❖ But how do you learn about these ingredients quickly?
❖ How easy are they to get?
❖ How can you fast-track integrating them into your menus?
❖ How do you know you’re getting the best results from using them?

Just ring, fax or email Vic Cherikoff Food Services on the contact info below.

We were the very first in this industry, in fact, we started it. And no one knows more than we do about these unique ingredients and their best use in food service.

To find out how you can explode your business and make it worth your while to go in to work each day, call us to arrange an obligation-free consultation.


An Australian chef chose to use our Australian ingredients at a restaurant where he worked as Executive Chef. We helped him incorporate our ingredients and passed on a few concepts to take advantage of the innovation and creativity in the food.

The restaurant was in a Sydney suburban business park with a multitude of take away eateries, several other (cheaper) restaurants and even an International Hotel with its own restaurant. There was next to no passing trade and you would think, an easily saturated resident market. So what happened?

Our Chef doubled the number of covers at peak times and increased business on what used to be lazy lunch and dire dinner days by 10-fold!

And it went on for years just getting stronger. More regulars helped spread the word about the great flavours and patrons made the trek to eat there, week in, week out. It eventually allowed the owner to sell his business at a handsome profit whereas only a few years before, trade was poor, the business was losing money and nearly worthless.

Was this a one off? No. This particular chef went on to another establishment up in the Blue Mountains and repeated the result, even landing wedding events with authentic Australian themes for $40,000 for the day. He is now at a newly refurbished seafood restaurant south of Sydney and the same pattern is emerging yet again.

We can also point to similar successes around the country and now we also have countless examples from restaurants, function venues, cruise ships, airlines and event caterers from the 18 countries to which we currently export our range of products.

Authentic Australian ingredients used appropriately can
significantly increase the profit from your restaurant.

Now you just have to act and make it happen. The choice is yours.

Kindest regards,
Vic Cherikoff

PS Use the busy Xmas period to establish your restaurant’s reputation as one that offers patrons something special all year. Use the added patronage over the silly season to capture interest and then build on it throughout 2005. Have a quick look at for some clues on what to do simply.

PPS Call us now to join the ranks of the highly successful. Ring 02 9554 9477 or email me on but be quick as from 24th November I will be overseas for weeks at a time on numerous Australian food promotions as demand continues to grow exponentially.