Monday, December 26, 2005

From Business Strategy to Bottled Stupidity

There are some interesting developments afoot in the authentic Australian food industry and some marketers hoping to ride the trend.

Some strategic alliances building business

In January, we roll out a promotional campaign announcing one new strategic alliance with an Australian family restaurant chain. The early menu testing has had fantastic results so we are expecting a huge response on the full roll out. We also plan to launch the rolled Wattleseed pavlova as a frozen dessert and begin to ensconce it as our national dessert. For a recipe to make your own and a reminder of Australia Day 05, have a look at my past blog. I won't get into the argument as to if we or the Kiwis invented the pavlova but I am happy with leaving our neighbours with the cow-pat pav (pavlova) while we exploit the sophistication of a roulade-style pavlova dessert.

A second strategic alliance is with Descendance and we are very excited to have the major Aboriginal performance troupe in Australia associated with our global Dining Downunder™, Australian cuisine promotions schedule. Our collaboration of authentic Australian food and Aboriginal dance and didjeridu (yidaki) was extremely successful in Moscow this year and we look forward to our joint promotions during 2006.

Another go at the supermarkets

Last week saw a major Victorian food manufacturer embrace several ingredients from a group of desert Aboriginal communities and wave the flag for authentic Australian foods. They are targeting the supermarkets with a stated aim of having authentic Australian foods an everyday part of Australia’s diet as well as hoping to build export markets.

This is great news as the existing range of sauces, dressings and seasonings is not doing big numbers in Coles and really needs a shot in the arm with the injection of some food technology from a company with some manufacturing expertise. One company makes an Illawarra plum chilli sauce which is clear in colour when everyone knows that Illawarra plums are a deep purple from the anti-oxidants in them (highly nutritional ingredients and all the more reason for using the plums).

I also saw that the seasonings by the same company are currently being dumped at 50c a pack and hope that this heralds their re-development to also address quality issues.

When will manufacturers learn that you can’t dupe the market? It will always sort out the quality products from the rubbish, given enough time.

More on this later …

Cherikoff authentic Australian foods help more companies grow for another record year

I firmly believe that we need more high quality products on the market. From seeing what my own range does to build the authentic Australian food sector both for my own company but more importantly, for the many clients I supply, I know the benefits to be gained from products which are different, unique, invaluable and passionately desirable.

Just have a look at the products of companies I supply, including Dick Smith Foods' Bushfood Breakfast and two of his successful soups, McCormick's spices, Charles Sturt Uni and Tilba cheeses, SPC Ardmona (Taylor's) sauces and even Woolies' Australian pepper sausages. And watch the shelves for Quandong hair care products in the New Year along with at least 5 other new food and cosmetic product range launches.

Of course we can always come unstuck. For example, the two supermarket buyers in our major Australian stores decided they didn't want to stock the exceptional King Island Lemon myrtle and maple yoghurt and so no Australian can now get this product as a result. Even though it proved itself in food service and made the grade in the specialty stores and deli's, not scoring the supermarkets meant that the volumes just weren't there for a multi-national like National Foods (owned by San Miguel of the Philippines). This fantastic yoghurt has gone the way of the dodo unless consumers begin a campaign to the supermarkets encouraging the buyers to reconsider.

In the food service sector and for the manufacturers we supply, Cherikoff authentic Australian ingredients provide the tools the end user needs to build my clients’ businesses. Think about this as it is a difficult concept to communicate. As I supply the best ingredients available, the discerning, creative and innovative chefs and manufacturers who are my clients are able to make equally invaluable dishes and products which are then talked about by the ultimate consumers of the products. We know that the best promotion money can buy is the passionate endorsement by those who know first hand – diners, consumers, end users. However, it is interesting how so many chefs and manufacturers continue to do the same thing year after year and expect a different result. Isn't that a definition for insanity?

I am convinced that if everyone believed your marketing, everyone would be your customer. Having people who try my authentic Australian ingredients and love them, talk about, refer, recommend and rave about them is the best marketing strategy I can employ.

Bottled Stupidity

And now another marketing strategy which is practicing that adage; if you can fool some of the people some of the time...

A company which I predict will struggle is marketing bottled water with ‘bush flower essences’ – read this as marketing fluff. I have to agree with Neil Shoebridge from the Financial Review who perfectly described the range as Bottled Stupidity.

Unfortunately, they demean the real marketing substance of authentic Australian ingredients.

As Neil points out, consumers are not idiots but the marketers of this water obviously think they are. He goes on to say these guys take the concept of questionable benefits to a new level. They are co-opting naturopaths who seemingly do not care about their reputations and lend their endorsements to the product claiming it has calming properties; enhances well-being; or is particularly suited to women. What are women less able to judge the authenticity of a claim of benefit where there can be none or do they mean it's just the water which is good for you?

There is absolutely no scientific evidence that flower essences have any beneficial effects whatsoever. The marketers know this and make claims which cannot be tested such as improving your intuition, insight or creativity (sic). However, should their supplier of this snake oil choose the wrong flower (if they actually even pick a single blossom), they could extract an unhealthy concentration of compounds such as histamines (which could cause dramatic allergic responses) or equally worrying, chemicals called fluoroacetates, which are similar to the compounds in the bait poison, 1080. Do these marketers really know or understand the risk and consequences of what they are doing? I hear that the supplier ‘discovered’ the ‘remarkable’ qualities of the flowers by “meditating in the bush” and then made infinitely dilute solutions of the flowers to make his snake oil. Spare me. I actually know that he simply wrote down the names of plants I presented at a short course on Aboriginal foods years ago at Sydney University. Who could really think that there's any substance behind this product despite the full colour advertisements in the glossy magazines and stands of the water in retail stores. I know I'd be wanting my money back if my purchasing manager bought the stuff in to retail.

I fully endorse Neil’s comments, “If the people (behind this water) think that anyone will buy this hogwash, they are delusional.”

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Saturday, December 24, 2005

MSG and obesity - If it tastes good it probably makes you fat

I saw an interesting note on about the link between MSG and obesity and thought I’d read the article. Unfortunately, it was for members only but a quick copy and paste of the title into Google yielded not only the background article but it opened up a Pandora’s Box.

If the topic of MSG interests you, have a look over this site for some really disconcerting information. But as to the topic of this blog, the gist of the headline is a quote from the Spanish scientists who did the research:

A team of scientists in the Faculty of Medicine at the Complutense University of Madrid has discovered that when given to rats, E-621 (monosodium glutamate) produces a massive 40 percent increase in appetite. The scientists think the additive affects the arcuate nucleus area of the brain and so prevents proper functioning of the body's appetite control mechanisms. According to this hypothesis, people (and children) who consume foods with large quantities of E-621 just feel more and more hungry the more they eat.

I guess this explains why we often over eat what Westerners accept as cheap Chinese food (moreoften found in rural towns and RSL clubs and nothing like traditional Chinese fare) and find that we are hungry about a half hour later.

Now, of course, the problem of obesity cannot be blamed on just one chemical as there are a huge number of differences between the hunter/gatherer diet of wild foods and our modern intake of highly refined, agriculturally selected, industrially modified edibles which are more adapted to the market supply chain than human nutrition. See my previous blog on this topic.

But it is certainly more grist for the mill.

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

Oz lemon - more than just lemon myrtle

This is my first product blog which is on Oz lemon, my lemon myrtle sprinkle and I hope to look at one of the Cherikoff authentic Australian ingredients in a two weekly post. My intention is to create a collection of short reports as a close look at these still new, exciting and uniquely Australian foods and flavours. I hope it inspires you to track down a local source or use our on-line store and experiment in your own cooking. Anyway. Onto my feature product:

Oz lemon, my lemon myrtle sprinkle

The use of the authentic Australian food industry's best quality ingredients and their state of the art formulation in Oz lemon (lemon myrtle sprinkle):

saves you money (high economy of use)
gives a better result than just ordinary lemon myrtle (far stronger and flavour-balanced) and is a lot more versatile (because of the complexity of flavour).

Oz lemon is a unique blend of lemon myrtle, encapsulated lemon myrtle essential oils, forest anise, lemon aspen and rainforest lime pulp along with some of their encapsulated juices as well. Compared to lemon myrtle alone, it can be up to twice the flavour impact because of the unique formulation of Oz lemon.

Another feature is that our brains compare new flavours (in fact, any new experiences) with a set framework of past 'accepted truths' and lemon as a taste is generally linked with acid. Try to think of a sweet lemon and it confuses rather than being immediately logical like sweet honey. To address this initial reaction to the 'lemon' in lemon myrtle, I added two indigenous sources of acid or tartness - the two rainforest fruits; lemon aspen and rainforest lime. An advantage of these fruits is that they also add complexity to the final product.

Just try my new Oz lemon mousse mix or get it already made up as a freeze-thaw stable, exceptionally high quality, scrumptious dessert from Sticky Foods in Mortdale. Here's one made up and ready to eat:

So when you next think of grabbing for the lemon juice, try some Oz lemon instead. It is far superior in any of the following where I have also suggested a range of pseudonyms to add interest to a menu:

Wild lemon and lime tart
Oz lemon sorbet
Rainforest lemon bavarois
Lemon myrtle cheesecake
Oz lemon brandy butter over Xmas pudding
Lamb shanks with garlic, rosemary and Oz lemon gremolata
Stir-fried chilli prawns on Oz lemon fettuccine
Grilled snapper with a mango and aromatic lemon myrtle salsa

and offer a revitalising Oz lemon tisane

There's a myriad of uses for this enhanced lemon myrtle formulation in menus featuring authentic Australian food, far more than for just ordinary lemon myrtle. Check out my food service pages or subscribe to the e-zine for occasional recipes you can cook and of course, Oz lemon is available through our on-line store. In addition, check out Benjamin Christie's Oz lemon recipes here.

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Native Australian foods? You must be crazy.

A lot of people ask how I've stuck at developing Australian native foods for the two and a half decades from when I was introduced to the wild food resources of Australia's Aborigines and recognised that we could not afford to lose this knowledge as Aboriginal culture changed and I knew there was an industry in commercialising these amazing ingredients. Well, with 20:20 hindsight, I must have been crazy.

To create the native food industry meant working with suppliers, collectors, chefs, caterers and small manufacturers and moving into export markets as well. As I created demand for any particular food other entrepreneurs, often those who I trusted and with whom I worked closely grabbed a piece of the market and carved out a niche for themselves in competition. That's business, I guess and it isn't in our Australian nature to collaborate too much and it did force me to run that little bit harder to stay out in front.

So I used my science background to develop leading edge processing ingredients for larger manufacturers who needed more than just simple herbs, spices, fruits or juices. This included:

encapsulated essential oils, fruit juices and extracts
sub-critical carbon dioxide flavour extracts
juices, purees and concentrates
special formulations and blends

and on to support documentation of:

specification sheets
certificates of compliance
material safety data sheets
application information and more

The science of turning wild Aboriginal foodstuffs into ingredients for the modern food, beverage, cosmetic and pharmaceutical industries has the potential to keep an army busy for several lifetimes. I know it is what keeps me interested and forward-thinking (and way out in front of the industry).

But now, even I think that I must be crazy.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

One opinion goes to a city's head

It is amazing what a single travel writer's opinion from one, unqualified trip can do for a city's reputation (a bit like a food critic's opinion on his one night stand at a restaurant). Lucky we don't measure the efficacy of clinical drugs, agricultural chemicals, military armament developments or anything that really matters in the same way - check it out on a free junket trip and say it's the best there is (until the next city pays the freight for a visit). Forget the triple blind trial. This is a totally blind test.

I am not saying that Sydney is not a great place for good food but the restaurants the reporter visited were just the same old highly promoted establishments with predictable menus and a strange similarity to one another. In fact their menus could come from equivalent restaurants in many food capitals around the world. What was really different about them? Where were the really unique authentic Australian ingredients? Mentioning the restaurants using these would make Sydney special and worth visiting to dine. Had the reporter tried the carpaccio at Deep Blue Bistro in Coogee he would have really been blown away. Chef Thomas makes the absolute best use of crocodile in this dish that I have ever tried. Check out Thomas’ menu compared to the pedestrian menus our reporter found interesting …

Olive oil poached organic vine ripened tomatoes with Mintbush marinated bocconcini and micro basil
Baby rocket and Wild Rosella flower salad with Asiago and Aniseed Myrtle reduced balsamic
Ahi Tuna Tartar with avocado and a wild lime reduction
Deep Blue Crab Cake with Munthari apple slaw grapefruit reduction
Wildfire seared Sea Scallops with roasted beet carpaccio
Pan fried King Prawns and Murray River Yabbies in sugarbag honey and lemon aspen on a bed of garlic shoots
Grilled Paperbark Baby Barramundi served with sautéed prawns, wilted greens, and a sweet corn foam
Rainforest Rub Seared Salmon with grilled asparagus spears and potato fondue
Slow roast crispy skin Duck breast with sweet pea risotto and riberry jus
Chargrilled Kangaroo Loin served with pumpkin, quandong relish and pepper berry jus

For more of the offering, go to the menus at Deep Blue Bistro's website.

I must admit that their cocktails need help to yet be stunningly appealing but this is still a work in progress and add a riberry or two to a vodkatini or some wild lime to a caipirosca and the anticipation for things to come will really fire the menu.

Meanwhile, down in Redfern, above the Sky Bar on George St you’ll find Gunya Lounge and Bar with Chef Brian Campbell at the helm. This is a cut above pub food and well worth a visit. His menu is about to go through a seasonal change and I for one will be looking forward to the new menu.

Brian gave me a bunch of his sauces, preserves and syrups to taste and he was right on the nail with a bunch of them. Great taste, unique and well balanced with complementary ingredients. If this is a reflection of his place in Sydney’s dining scene then get that reporter back here and have him try some really special tastes of Sydney. Not just tourist tucker from the PR chefs.

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Technorati tags: food critics, Sydney, Australian food, authentic Australian ingredients

Thursday, September 01, 2005

Dining Downunder in 39 countries

Dining Downunder, the Australian TV cooking series which features our authentic Australian cuisine and ingredients, is set to replay on the ABC Asia Pacific network in October.

We are inviting companies that already export to the Asia Pacific region to become involved with our Strategic Marketing Program. We understand the difficulties of establishing and maintaining a brand overseas and more importantly the costs that go along with it. So we really add value to a highly cost effective media buy and keep your investment working for years after the television exposure.

The show, along with your commercial positions will be shown 5 times a week for 13 weeks and then we provide the opportunity to keep promoting your products for the next 2 years to retail and food service markets during our scheduled Australian cuisine promotions throughout Asia.

Information about our program can be downloaded from here on our website.

A snippet from the show can also be viewed on-line.

We apologise for the short deadline, but indication of participation is required asap. Please indicate your company's involvement by emailing or phoning (02 9554 9477 or 0415 164 536) Dan Clark now.

We look forward to taking your product to market on Dining Downunder.

Technorati tags: Dining Downunder, export, ABC Asia Pacific, brand building

Breakfast in Australia

I thought that I’d put together a range of breakfast ideas to show how innovative Australian ingredients can take a pedestrian menu to deliciously decadent heights. Incidentally, in the menu below, the Yakajirri is a spice mix made from bush tomatoes (akudjura) blended with garlic, Alpine pepper and dried conventional tomato flakes. Oz lemon is a lemon myrtle mix perfectly balanced for flavour with dried wild lime, lemon aspen and aniseed myrtle. It even makes a superb infusion either on its own or sprinkled over a good strong coffee (remember LA Story’s “I’ll have an espresso with a twist of lime”). The other reason to drink Oz lemon as a tea is when you’ve been out screaming all night at a bar and the throat’s a bit raw. It’ll heal a sore throat in just a few sips.

breakfast buffet

  • mini bagel with oven roasted tomatoes seasoned with Yakajirri topped with wild herb ricotta and basil
  • Tasmanian smoked salmon, rocket & crème fraiche frittata dusted with Oz lemon
  • traditional Burcher muesli with poached apple, rhubarb, King Island lemon myrtle and maple yoghurt, scorched almonds, served in a glass
  • coconut rice with wild lime syrup and fresh mango
  • mini Wildfire spiced bagel with ham, tasty cheese & Wattleseed mustard mayo
  • Aussie toast with Alpine pepper bread soaked in egg and served with sour cream and lemon aspen syrup
  • Belgian waffles drizzled in Wattleseed syrup with lemon myrtle and maple yoghurt
  • melon, watermelon, sweet corn, sago and thick vermicelli in fresh coconut milk with slivers of fresh coconut flesh seasoned with Oz lemon

cooked breakfast

  • mushroom, wattleseed & aniseed myrtle omelette with mintbush marinated fetta & wilted baby spinach
  • soft boiled truffled eggs in bowls with bacon & Alpine pepper sourdough toast soldiers
  • Oz lemon pancakes with riberry confit & snow sugar
  • Red Desert dusted potato latkes with smoked salmon, rocket & horseradish cream
  • lamb cutlets in Illawarra plum sauce with your choice of eggs
  • eggs Benedict with Yakajirri hollandaise with aniseed myrtle brioche
  • grilled pineapple slices seasoned with Alpine pepper and served with rosella yoghurt and an Oz lemon tuile and blueberries
Naturally, you can make the above ideas as glitzy or mundane as you like to suit the style of your café but whatever, you can bet your clients will rave about the food and flavours. I know this as fact because we get amazing feedback from the Australian cuisine promotions I run with my chef colleague, Benjamin Christie, in destinations all over the world. And there's the build up of interest and demand from Cherikoff Australian Ingredients and our on-line store.

This article first appeared in Cafe Biz magazine (Aug 05).

Edna's gone but the lesson's there

I know it’s been a few weeks but I'd like to wish Jennice and Raymond Kersch from Edna's Table all the very best in their new ventures. Their Clarence St restaurant closed its doors recently and with it, another chapter in the development of Australian cuisine.

Raymond had a passion for arty food and his dishes were always visual masterpieces. From his self-made uniforms to the Aboriginal inspired restaurant decor the eatery oozed a visual theme which could only be Australian. That Edna's Table lasted so long, is testimony to food being eaten first with the eyes before the palate tests the meal.

My frustration with many restaurants using my collection of indigenous ingredients is that meals can look great but lack that Wow! factor which makes them valuable in terms of culinary expression. I have a tested belief that there should be surprise (and science) in every dish created and great dishes can be conceptualised well before the hob is hot and the mise en place is started. I have written previously on the merits of delivering the 7 tastes - sweet, sour, salt, bitter, aromatic, pungent and Maillard as well as maximising the textures - in every dish and the benefits ensuing from tantalising all our senses of taste and mouth-feel. How much better is a dessert with all of these notes than one which is just sweet? What about a salad which lacks half of the flavours - it's probably one tenth as satisfying as another salad which has them all.

Consider the Caesar salad which is indisputably the most popular salad/light meal in any Caucasian food outlet in the world. A well made Caesar has all of the component tastes and lessens in appeal as the pungent anchovies or the Maillards of well-fried bacon are left out. A vegetarian Caesar needs a lot of thought in adding back the Maillard products.

Think of a creme brulee and ensure that there's bitter and pungency from the burnt sugar (the crunch), aromatics and Maillard products from Wattleseed (if you can bastardise a French dessert with Polynesian vanilla, why not Wattleseed) and salt in the cream (smooth firmness as well). How much better is it with some sourness from an accompanying fruit garnish? The same applies to the Australian classic – the Wattleseed pavlova (soon to be available as a ready-made, frozen dessert).

So with Edna’s gone where is the Australian food industry’s iconic restaurant now? Well, out of the ashes comes the 15 strong Black Stump chain at one end of the market, Deep Blue Bistro at Coogee Beach and Gunya at Redfern.

But you’ll have to wait for my next blog for more details ...

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Friday, July 29, 2005

Folly as Neil Perry foils a fish

It absolutely amazes me just how many chefs have no idea as to the true nature of the materials with which they work. I'll use Oz lemon which is my awesome lemon myrtle mix as an example of how chefs cock up cooking with new ingredients in a future blog but there are countless other more mundane products.

Take aluminium foil for example. I recently saw Neil Perry's August newsletter with a recipe for baked snapper where Neil poured one of his ready-made sauces (so much for Neil Perry Fresh but I guess starting with a fresh fish is a good idea before you poison yourself with the cooking method). Where was I? Oh yes. You pour this ready made stuff all over the fish and then wrap it all up in foil.

Now let me ask you a question? Once baked and unwrapped - and you might have done it yourself with potatoes on the BBQ - what colour would the foil be on the inside? Is is still bright and shiny or dull and grey?

I can tell you if you can't remember (and I'll tell you why you can't remember too). The foil goes a drab grey and doesn't look anywhere near as pristine as when you rolled it out of the package. In fact, it's probably lethal in the long run and definitely bad for your health in the shorter term.

What happens, is the plastic coating - yep, the foil is actually a fine layer of aluminium metal with plastic on both sides to protect this highly reactive metal from oxidising and turning into the powdery white, aluminium oxide - as I was saying, the plastic coating dissolves in the fats and oils of the food you're about to eat.

You might recall the ruckus about plasticisers (mono vinyl chlorides) which were found to be carcinogenic, mutagenic and teratogenic (they cause cancer, mutations and tumors, respectively) and were released from the lining of milk cartons before the problem was sorted. Let me refer you to an excellent website on plastics which will scare the pants off you. Anyway. These are the same problematic plasticisers! So where's the education about this common product? We're not just drinking cold milk that's been stored in cartons with a few free plastic monomers, we're being shown how to cook with this stuff, apply heat and make it actually dissolve through the process we use. You can see what's happening!

Help! Who was it who was said to have said "Forgive them for they know not what they do."?

And it doesn't stop there. Once the protective layer is picked up in your food, the aluminium metal is free to react with the oxygen in air and the more soluble and certainly more mobile aluminium oxide is also taken up by your food. Now Altzheimer's disease has a characteristic feature of high brain levels of aluminium and while no one can definitively say that the metal is a causative factor in the disease, wouldn't it be a good idea to avoid getting the features of a disease if it were a simple matter of doing so?

Where's ANZFA (the food authority people) or the ACCC (yes they also meddle in food affairs) now?

On a positive note, foil can be an excellent barrier to moisture and so is a great material in which to bake or steam food but please, add a layer of paper or paperbark, even cabbage or lettuce leaves (none of which you eat) in between the food item and the foil. This renders the cooking method safe. I suppose that the only good thing about Neil Perry's way of cooking is that you won't remember doing it as you suffer the cellular damage and your family suffers your ultimate memory loss.

(My apologies to any sufferers of the disease and to their families who really bear the brunt of this modern ailment).

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Sunday, June 26, 2005

Dick Smith Foods - in the soup

Dick Smith is a well known personality in Australian society and his valiant efforts to make us think about our food supply have been enshrined in his Dick Smith Foods operation. It is unfortunate that Dick Smith himself, had to learn about Australian consumers and that while they were willing to try his alternate foods made by local companies instead of the multi-nationals, quality still had an important part to play.

It is now obvious, that the foods of comparable or superior quality under the Dick Smith Foods brand have proven to be preferred alternatives and his peanut butter, asparagus, biscuits (including Temptins) and his breakfast cereal have stood the test of trial and time.

It so happens that I provide the Australian ingredients for the fruit pieces in the Bushfood breakfast cereal even though I, along with most consumers who have written in about the product, think that the resultant taste should be more intense and definitive. It would even be possible to improve the fruit pieces so that they have a low glycaemic index, or contribute an anti-oxidant or an immune-stimulant activity or simply have more distinctive and interesting flavours.

My ingredients are highly functional but I am still waiting for an Australian company to recognise their true worth as food additives and flavorants. It will probably fall to a foreign company to take advantage from the use of my ingredients as there are much bigger markets than ours. An innovative edge is just what most food manufacturers need outside of the closed offering now being shrunk to a choice of two by Australian supermarkets.

Have you heard this news? One supermarket has decided to reduce the number of brands on its shelves and replace them with in-house brands. However, should a company really want the shelf space, they can offer to pay a fee simply for the right to compete with other companies for the same limited space. The only winner is the supermarket which pockets even more money for their real estate while pushing up prices on all but their own brands. Read more about this disasterous development driven by our grocers here.

Wouldn't it be great if we could move back to more of a village strip retail precinct where you get to know your butcher, baker, gourmet food outlet and perhaps we might even get fruits and vegetables which are not engineered for maximum shelf-life irrespective of how they taste. What if this village strip was virtual and the stores could benefit from bulk buying and effective distribution? Maybe there's an on-line business for someone. I know my own virtual store is growing rapidly as discerning consumers demand supply of quality products wherever they live. And with the security of on-line trading these days, who doesn't shop via the Internet when they want that difficult to find, prestige or special something?

Personally, I'd love to see Walmart come to Australia. Their policy is never to charge shelf or line fees, they don't insist on an advertising and promotional contribution and they change their buyers regularly so that relationships do not extend to extra-curricular activities. Sure, everytime a Walmart opens in a town or suburb, dozens of strip shops find it hard if not impossible to compete but if we have to have supermarkets (and I'm not saying we do), then at least we can support the more ethical amongst them (even if they are foreign-owned). I know quite a few Australian manufacturers which have made the decision not to play with the big guys because the supermarkets dictate such unreasonable terms as to make businesses difficult if not impossible to run, borderline financially and therefore high risk but with no commensurate high return.

Consider the struggles of another Dick Smith Foods product in the supermarkets: There has been a very quiet launch of four new soups onto the shelves. The manufacturer, Windsor Farm Foods and I developed a delicious range including Cream of green pea with Australian mint; Tomato with basil and Wildfire spice; Butternut pumpkin also with Wildfire spice; and Minestrone with Alpine pepper.
The range comes in generous 500ml tins as heat and serve, low fat recipes and would be ideal with a dollop of lite sour cream or some home-made bread flavoured with Alpine pepper or Wattleseed. As a meal or snack in the depths of Winter, my choice is to add a sprinkle of Oz lemon to any of the soups or bake a bread using some as an immune stimulant. And as the weather warms up in Spring, I'll go for these soups chilled for a delicious starter. Give them a go yourself and let us have your feedback on these new products.

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

King Island yoghurt - a right Royal flavour

I had my wife, Clare tell me on the phone that other day "I hope you are supplying King Island because I've just tasted the best yoghurt ever!"

Luckily she was referring to their new Lemon myrtle and Maple variety for which I do provide the maple and Oz lemon extracts as flavouring. And I have to agree that the product is hard to put down and leave some for later.

King Island tested their yoghurt in food service for many months before getting the thumbs up from chefs and their clients and only then did they expand production to retail. The product is only available in specialty and gourmet food stores but if it proves popular it might make it to the supermarkets. Try some for yourself and let me know what you think.

Another product with the chefs at the moment is my Belgian white chocolate mousse in three flavours - Oz lemon (again), Forest peppermint and Wattleseed. The mousse comes as a powder to which you add an equal weight of water. This mixture then gets added to twice its weight of whipped cream and left to set overnight. I am planning to re-pack it into retail sizes so keep an eye on this blog for notification on its availability through our on-line shop.

The formulation is such that the finished product will keep chilled for 10 days or it can be frozen (even for months) and later thawed with no loss of quality.

My favourite would have to be
as this nutty, coffee, chocolate, hazelnut taste is really good with dairy products. I must admit, since inventing it as a flavouring way back in the 1980s (September of 1984 to be precise) I have always known that it will one day be a world flavour. Sure. It's taking some time but from bread mixes in Switzerland, chocolates and ice cream in New York and added to risotto in menus in Russia and marinated mushrooms in Nagoya, it has come a long way.

My next aim is to market a Wattle beer which I make regularly as a home brew but I just need an innovative beverage company. Anyone listening?

Sunday, June 19, 2005

I'll never clam up about this win!

Who would have thought that a couple of larrikin Aussies (Benjamin Christie and I) could fly into Rhode Island and Newport's 24th Annual Schweppes Clam Chowder cook-off and walk away with a 2nd place in the creative chowder category? Sure. We brought with us some Wildfire spice to add those delectable pungent notes and of course, a goodly amount of Oz lemon for the aromatics.

These ingredients took the clams, clam juice, bacon, potato and cream to new heights of taste and generated hundreds of compliments on the day, followed by emails for weeks as to how our chowder should have taken first place.

For anyone wanting to compete in this chowder competition or any of the others held around the world, there's a strategy to recognise in order to have any hope of winning: Because it is the publc who votes for the grading, you have to get your chowder samples out to as many of the attendees as possible. This means not just handing out tastings over your stall table but serving the 7 and 8 deep mass of 'chowderheads' but getting out amongst it and attacking the multitudes from all sides with tray service. Your judges have to taste to adjudicate.

There's another clue to a prize too. Be the furthest travelled. It seems that the Newport pilgrimage was too daunting for anyone further away than Sydney so we picked up that prize as well.

Anyway. We apparently worked miracles in pulling off 2nd place in the chowder grading as New Englanders are rightly chauvinistic about their regional culinary specialty. I think it urked a few locals to lose, judging by the low scoring red (Manhattan) chowders and next to no scored meat soup which was entered as a means of avoiding the manufacture and service of the vast volumes of soup we tackled - 140 gallons of it! That's 532 litres, give or take some for evaporation. We were certainly chuffed in taking out our award and look forward to next year when we will cook .... on second thoughts, I think we'll keep our winning recipe for 2006 a secret for at least a short while.

To tell you about the rest of our Rhode Island visit I'd need to remind you that the US is the home of hospitality and our hosts wined and dined us until we were approaching blimp dimensions. One highlight was a brunch at the spectacular, Castle Inn function centre which sits on a grassy ridge over-looking the Sydney-harbour-like waters of Newport.

We'd seen this majestic venue from the sea a few days before from on-board the Andirondeck, a 50 foot yacht which we sailed for a few hours before sun-down.

I'd like to thank Rich Hopkins and his energetic, charming and endearing wife, Ania for their hard work and friendship and 'Hutch' Hutchinson for his guided tour of the homes of the rich and famous (as well as those poor souls who had to donate their estates to the State in lieu of paying the taxes on them) and then on to the pubs and restaurants which make Newport the place to visit in their summertime. I know I'll be heading there again come the cold wintery days of a Sydney June.

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Aussies Battle Yanks Over Chowder

Sunday, May 22, 2005

Victory Day for the Russians and one for us

Who could wish for a better time to be in Moscow than on the Victory Day weekend?

27 million Russians died in WW2 and Victory Day celebrates the end of this lunatic period in history. But Russians also love to celebrate life and so Benjamin Christie and I were in Moscow adding flavour to the Australia Week events organised by Gregory Klumov and his hard-working team at Austrade, Moscow. See Benjamin's blog for more info on the Australia Week event.

We also met and talked with one of Vladimir Putin's guests, none other than our own Governor General.

We started the week of the food promotion with a gala cocktail event which showered as many complements on us as there were fireworks which lit up the city the night before.

I'll always remember the feedback of "That food was at a very high level"; "Great flavours, really interesting food"; and "Everybody's talking about the food"; or "I loved the noodles with quandong and the seafood sausages, in fact everything was great"; then, "The desserts were incredible" and literally, a smorgasbord more.

Oz lemon monkfish cooked in paperbark

Chocolate and pepermint mousse
Belgian chocolate and Australian peppermint mousse

It's totally satisfying when over 450 people get what we worked hard to accomplish - a menu which can only be Australian cuisine because of the unique ingredients which made it so. And today, both Benjamin and myself were really chuffed when we learned that were acknowledged in Moscow in the speech by the Governor General, His Excellency Major General Michael Jeffery when he said:

"I also hope you will sample some of the magnificent Australian cuisine ... available in this (The Radisson SAS) hotel’s Talavera Restaurant during the Australian Food and Wine Week. Two of Australia’s finest chefs (Vic Cherikoff and Benjamin Christie) have come to Moscow to prepare a selection of dishes using Australian ingredients that are renowned for their quality, taste and purity."

Isn't it ironic that the interest in our native foods predominantly comes from Europe, Asia and the Americas and not from our con-fusion chefs back home? Isn't it embarrassing to fly Qantas and be served food which would be more at home on Alitalia or Singapore Airlines?

The GG went on to refer to the wisdom of the Russian proverb which says “it is not the horse that draws the cart, but the oats.”

And I think that perhaps it will not be the food media personalities, the PR or celebrity chefs who create Australian cuisine but the quality, taste and purity of our once wild ingredients which are quintessentially Australian. It will come from those creative, newly trained chefs just out of college or chauvinistic cooks who do the hard yards, both groups of chefs who feel Australian, are proud to be Australian and do not pretend or feel the need to be MediterrAsian.

Victory Day in Moscow, for me at least, also reflected a victory of another kind.

It has been a battle, maybe even a war but there is a new beginning as Cherikoff Rare Spices inspire creative chefs, event guests and organisers and even the Governor General.

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Dining Downunder on Clam Chowder in Newport, RI

Dining Downunder(TM) from Australia to compete at the upcoming, 24th Annual International Schweppes Great Chowder Cook-off

NEWPORT, RI, May 22, 2005 – The 24th Annual International Schweppes Great Chowder Cook-Off announces that Dining Downunder(TM) from Sydney, Australia will be competing in the “Most Creative” category with its “Wildfire Chowder” at the upcoming event, to be held on Saturday, June 4, 2005 from 11:00 a.m. – 6:00 p.m. at the Newport Yachting Center in Newport, Rhode Island.

Dining Downunder(TM) is a concept by Australian wild food devotee, television host and author, Vic Cherikoff, who travels around Australia and the world with his fellow chef, Benjamin Christie, cooking native cuisine and putting a twist into dishes inspired by the special places they visit. Cherikoff, an expert in native Australian foods, has been credited with pioneering the development of a uniquely Australian cuisine through his commercialization of a selection of indigenous species. Through his Australian spice and seasonings business, Cherikoff Rare Spices, he now provides ingredients for a long list of restaurants, caterers, airlines and a growing number of manufacturers, from mainstream to boutiques, in Australia and over 16 countries.

“We love taking local recipes from different cultures and putting an Australian spin on them by incorporating indigenous flavors to add that authentic Australian taste,” said Cherikoff of Dining Downunder. “For the Great Chowder Cook we’ll be using some of our native Australian herbs and spices in combination with some Aboriginal cooking methods. We hope adding a little Australia to a traditional New England soup will be a winning combination!”

The Great Chowder Cook-Off features all-you-can-eat “chowda” made by chefs who work at leading restaurants, businesses and institutional dining facilities across the country and around the globe. Chefs serve samples to the thousands of chowder loving judges while competing for the coveted title of “Best Clam,” “Best Seafood,” and “Most Creative” chowder, as well as “Best Clam Cake”.

“We’ve had competitors from as far away as Ireland and Bermuda over the years but an entry from Australia will definitely be the longest traveled,” said Rich Hopkins, Festival Director for the Newport Yachting Center. “Having Dining Downunder participate this year is further proof that the word is truly spreading around the world about the quality of our Great Chowder Cook-Off. I have no doubt that our festival-goers will get a taste of Australia they will never forget when they sample Vic and Benjamin’s creative chowder.”

Three stages of live entertainment, an expanded children’s area, a Silent Auction and other fund raising activities for local non-profits, a Culinary Stage showcasing creative specialties and a Marketplace with a variety of crafts and specialty items add to the festive atmosphere.

After a close competition for bragging rights and over $10,000 in prizes and awards, last year's first place chowder winners were “Best Clam” - Captain Parker’s Pub, West Yarmouth, MA; “Best Seafood” - Davenport’s Bar & Grill, East Providence, RI: and “Most Creative”- Blue Mermaid Chowder House and Bar, San Francisco, CA. The “Best Clam Cake” winner was Chelo’s Restaurants at locations throughout Rhode Island.

This year, the gates will open at 11:00 a.m. and the celebration will continue until 6:00 p.m. when the winners in each major category will be announced. Ticket prices for the International Schweppes Great Chowder Cook-Off are $10.00 for adults in advance of the show and $15 the day of the event. Children under the age of 12 are admitted for free as long as an adult accompanies them. Tickets are available through the Newport Yachting Center Box Office at (401) 846-1600. Tickets can also be ordered on the web at:

David Hughes, Dodge Associates, Inc.
(401) 273-7310

PHOTOS: Downloadable hi-res images are available online at:

Tuesday, May 03, 2005

Opportunities for building your market in Japan

Dining Downunder* is currently planning a week long Australian Cuisine Promotion at the Hilton Nagoya from the 8th to the 15th of July 2005.

The Australian food event has been triggered by our show’s broadcast into Japan via the ABC Asia Pacific and the World Expo which is being held in Nagoya till September.

We are currently seeking Australian food and wine companies to benefit from an association with the event. These partner companies would either already be exporting or be interested in developing exports to Japan.

Partners already confirmed for the event include Australian Airlines and MLA but other products to be showcased during the promotion are still sought. Companies will receive their logo on menus and promotional brochures; gain exposure in the local media and press releases; be presented to a food service market during the promotion and be included in the supply chain options we build.

Japan has been Australia’s largest export market for 35 years and accounts for $22 billion, or 19 per cent of Australia’s total exports. We hope to add more Australian foods, beverages and other produce to this significant trade through an association with our very popular Australian cuisine promotions and television cooking show. The Japanese market is a difficult one to penetrate and then to maintain as the competition for discretionary funds is very high. However, the food scene is changing rapidly and locals actively seek new food experiences, for example, Italian cuisine is growing in popularity and breakfasts are changing from hot, soft and savoury to cold, crunchy and sweet.

There is also the opportunity for companies to take a commercial position for the next broadcast of the 13 weekly episodes of Dining Downunder which will go out over 13 million homes and to a business and holiday market in over 192,000 hotel rooms. The audience is predominantly Asian locals with a significant disposable income and more than a passing interest in Australia. ABC Asia Pacific has a measured expat audience of 1.6%.

The 438-room Hilton Nagoya, located at the centre of the business, shopping and entertainment areas of the city and only 12 kilometres from Nagoya Airport, offers a wide range of leisure and business facilities as well as a ballroom which can host up to 1,200 guests.

For more information please contact me via email.

* Dining Downunder is a trade mark of the Cherikoff Family Trust and is used under licence

Sunday, May 01, 2005

Robert Maklowicz and Australian cuisine

It seems there's never enough time these days. Too much to do, too many decisions as to the highest and best use of our precious 1080 minutes each day (I deducted 6 hours for those minor irritations of eating, sleeping and other non-productive activities).

But let me look back on the last month from this vantage point:

Four weeks ago I was asked to give a celebrity chef from Poland, Robert Maklowicz, an insight into Australian cuisine and so I took him on a tour of Sydney's Royal Botanic Gardens (notice that's botanic as in manic not botanical or maniacal, although I have been described as botanically manic on occasion). While at the RBG, we met up with Clarence Slockee who works at the Gardens as part of the Indigenous Education program, teaching visitors and particularly schoolies all about Aboriginal concepts of the interactions of plants and people.

Clarence Slockee

It is a great shame that we do not have traditions of this relationship with our country. It would go a long way to solving many environmental challenges we have and provide a huge number of opportunities for land holders to offer locally indigenous produce and then develop a true regionally local cuisine. It may yet happen in time even if to a much lesser degree than once was possible.


The scheduled next stop was postponed as the skies opened up and it began to pour down. We high tailed it to the Fish Markets and Robert set up in front of Peters Seafood and cooked up some prawns in a Thai style chilli sauce as a reflection of the Asian fusion influence in our cuisine.

The sky cleared (no, I don't have direct links up there but I am often amazed at the luck I have with the weather during events such as these) and from the Fish Markets, we moved to that promontory at the Rocks which looks out to what was once the perfect campsite but is now occupied by the Opera House. At least it is a useful tourism icon as so few Australians actually go there for concerts etc. We also had views up to the Harbour Bridge and commented on the line of human ants constantly scaling the walkways to the top. From where we stood, you could almost hear the cash registers ringing at $100 a pop.

Robert Maklowicz and Vic Cherikoff

But back on solid ground, Robert and I cooked up some barramundi in paperbark, we re-created a windswept Sydney Salad and I rolled out one of my Wattleseed pavlovas. They were pretty standard dishes I know, but still completely new to Robert's TV audience of 4 million each week who watch his cooking show across Poland. It was obviously very effective though, as we now have already had inquiries to hold one of our Dining Downunder, Australian Cuisine Promotions in Warsaw.

Robert Maklowicz is a mega star in Poland and recognised as an authority on good food and good eating. He's actually a food historian who cooks, I suppose not unlike myself (a scientist who cooks) and he found the slow development of our amazing flavours somewhat bemusing. Certainly, the flavours themselves impressed him and his whole crew of foodies too. Ingredients which stood out for him were paparbark, Wattleseed and Oz Lemon - my intense and versatile lemon myrtle mix. I even made Robert and a few of his crew an Oz Lemon tea as they were suffering from traveler's throat, probably aggravated by the air conditioning in the hotel rooms. The citral in the lemon myrtle in Oz lemon cleared up any problems as it generally does and the other components kept them buzzing the rest of the day.

The visit to Australia to film episodes for the “Culinary Journeys of Robert Maklowicz” has been supported by Austrade, Tourism Australia, Business ACT, Tourism Western Australia and of course, Cherikoff Rare Spices.

I'll post a copy of the episode when it arrives so watch this space - or better still, subscribe here to be notified by email. Alternatively, remember you can subscribe to this newsfeed by pasting either of the following links into the appropriate RSS Reader (for more on RSS have a look at this great site or check out the simple introduction to using RSS technology here).

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More than a shrimp on the barbie

Anyone who has Google alerts for anything published on the web in food, Australian cuisine and related topics might have seen the very strange article in Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail. I am stunned by the article which begs a follow up story: More than just four chefs in Sydney.

I cannot believe that Donna Hay, whose work and books I admire greatly, could recommend a glorified fish and chip shop on the harbour as somewhere to actually go and eat! Get takeaway from any corner store if you must and sit of the wharf for free, at least you will pay a tenth for the same thing all up. The seagulls will also be more entertaining than the waiters' attitudes.

Then there's no mention of the dozens of chefs who are committed to their craft and trades, chefs at Hugos, Milton Park, Banjo Patterson Cottage Restaurant, the Red Centre, Victoria Room and others who turn out great food using authentic flavours of Australia. For a good guide on these and to unlock the culinary scene which extends way past the media chefs, may I refer readers to the unparalleled website at de Groots Best restaurants of Australia?

I get the nagging suspicion that this article was written from the recycled press releases from our venerable Tourism organisation which must derive some benefit from focussing on the over-exposed media chefs of Sydney. Who can afford to go to their venues (if they are actually there) and why is it that they wipe mention of more deserving chefs in our industry. And what real benefit do these chefs deliver when all they promote is themselves.

Guam and the Pacific Hotel And Restaurant Expo

We flew into Guam courtesy of Continental Airlines and were picked up by the driver from the Hyatt Regency Guam who drove the 10 minutes around the ridge to the hotel. The promotion started badly with the rear door flung open and my laptop bag dropping the half metre to the ground. Luckily it wasn't damaged as it is my life-blood and contact with my business in Sydney.

I'm not sure if the driver expected a tip but I thought something along the lines of be good to your mother as she's the only one loving you right now. If the laptop had been damaged he'd be looking for some solid parental care about then too.

Anyway. All was well and we settled in, got the lay of the land and guided through the maze of corridors from restaurant to banquet kitchen to stores and butchery, pastry and other back of house tunnels and lifts. We got the hang of it but I still had to constantly think of where I was going and how. And the toughest part was that the pools and beach outside the hotel were inviting us from our hotel rooms yet apart from the BBQ just outside the restaurant, we didn't have the time to go anywhere.

Hyatt Regency Guam

Hyatt Regency Guam

The Hyatt promotion was in la Mirenda outlet which featured a buffet with a demonstration kitchen servicing the hot dishes, salad bars, outside barbeque for dinner and various live cooking stations. Benjamin spent a great deal of time in that production plant during lunch and dinner and churned and turned great dishes for the appreciative diners who came by.

Exec Chef, Hermann Grossbichler and Exec Sous Chef, Ian Crough really worked hard in supporting us with Hermann having kittens as we headed off to the local radio station on the morning of the first day of the promotion. They must have had some dreadful interviews in the past as they said we'd have 6-7 minutes on air. Anyway. We were sufficiently entertaining and Benjamin and I chatted with Ray and Patti, the two radio announcers for over an hour and they both came to lunch that very day. Benjamin has posted the interview on his website so go on over and check it out. In fact, Benjamin wrote up a terrific coverage of the entire event so I'll refer you to his story here.

About 7pm, Hermann grabbed me to go off to the Micronesian Chefs Association meeting and they were good enough to let me rave on a while telling them all about this new trend in food and that they should come on over to the Dining Downunder promotion and taste what Aussie food is all about. And they came. Nearly all 60 of them tried out our food over the next week and we really had some great feedback and interest. This means my ingredients should find a solid market in Guam and my new distributor, Triple J Guam is offering his services with some consolidation out of Cairns.

Two products we took over with us which were not part of the regular stable of Cherikoff Rare Spices but which I hope will grow into serious business in Guam. The first was Pastatime's Oz lemon linguini and a Rainforest herb linguini and we went through vast volumes serving them with simple cream sauces or just plain macadamia nut oil. They really complemented fish, chicken and stir-fry vege dishes Benjamin concocted for the daily changing menu.

We also had some amazing dairy free, Pistacchio heart and Oz lemon shortbread and a Wattleseed and pistacchio biscotti. These came from For Goodness Sake cookies and I will work at getting then as regular items on Guam menus. Check them out yourself.

One event which we offer as a part of our promotions is the cooking class. This had some interest so it was scheduled for Saturday lunchtime. Previous classes during promotions attracted 6-8 attendees with 12 setting the record so far.

Dining-Downunder cooking school

You can believe I was gratified when 24 starters showed up to wrap, drizzle and roll their way through my teaching menu. For a more detail lowdown on the course have a look at this.

Benjamin and I have been back a week and we are now packing for Moscow and a stint at the Radisson SAS Slavyanskaya while Dining Downunder chef, Dayle Merlo heads to Kuala Lumpur to cook at the Grand Plaza Parkroyal Kuala Lumpur. Benjamin has done a fine job in writing up both these events so I'll simply refer you to his blog on Dayle's event and ours.

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Australian food in Guam - well, getting there, anyway.

April had me and Benjamin Christie in Cairns on the way to a Dining Downunder Australian Cuisine Promotion in Guam in the tropical paradise of Micronesia.

We were in Cairns for a day and took the oppportunity to visit my Cairns distributor, Garozzo Food Distributors at Portsmith and now one of the Bidvest flagships. We are involved in a food show they are going to hold later in the year but I'll let you know more closer to the event.

There's a very well known restaurant in Cairns which uses Australian ingredients as a marketing tool (there are a few actually but I won't mention specifics and why, will become obvious) and we kept asking taxi drivers, tourist offices and other locals where we could go for something interesting to eat in town. They all recommended this place so we kept asking if they had eaten there, what they thought and generally probed for some deep seated truths. Well. If you are a restaurateur, you really need to try this anonymously. After all. Your reputation is everything, including your future.

This particular establishment was top of mind but regarded as expensive when pressed. Most commented it was good for tourists even though many hadn't eaten there themselves. Various meats were often described (with the not so subtle implication of 'if you want to eat those'). So we had to try the fare for ourselves.

I introduced myself to the chef who was too busy to come out to say hello to Benjamin and a local commercial pilot who taught Benjamin to fly and who had joined us at the table. I asked what the chef recommended and he flippantly said everything on the menu. So back I went to order at the table where the tappas plates (2 varieties) were recommended. I asked that the message be conveyed to the chef that we were looking forward to his making us something special and the two tappas plates were perfect.

Have you ever had a meal which was so underwhelming that you resented paying for it? One that then annoyed you for the next 3 days as though you had been violated? Perhaps our expectations were unreasonably high that we actually anticipated some interesting flavours from this Cairns institution. I am now left with the challenge of thinking how best to approach the chef and tell him his flavours suck. It was a fine example of the fiddle factor where the price is directly proportional to the degree the chef fiddles with your food.

The tappas had a teaspoonful of salsa, albeit with perfectly diced mango but still, only mango flavour (why not some Wild mint or Oz lemon); and towers of some grated vegetables with no discernable flavour; a wonton of some dried mince you'd normally find in a chew and spew at the back of some fry shop right on clean up time. It was meant to be crocodile but even Steve (Crocodile Hunter) Irwin would have been proud of this as a way to turn anyone off eating Snappy. There were three of us but two of many of the smallest tastings I'd seen in a while and which defied cutting up. There was little to complement which disturbs me greatly for such an iconic establishment. The locals were right. You wouldn't go there again nor recommend it to your friends, only to 'tourists'. But why is it that we believe they can be ripped off and still think kindly of us?

A wild lime sauce was served next to some ponzu but should have been already mixed. How would any diner, visiting or local, know that the chef forgot to finish the lime sauce and provided the means in the neighbouring dish. I suppose it's the Cairns equivalent of those chefs who leave the pepper addition to their waiters, as the ubiquitous arm-long peppermill provides the final balance of tastes in a dish, irrespective of the intended flavour combinations. Funny thing though. The waiter never told us that we had to mix our own sauce.

I guess time will tell as to the continued success of this place. Market forces are all powerful when it comes to weeding out the businesses who do not add any real substance to the value chain. The chef may be big enough to ask for assistance and I'd be happy to give it for free. We shall wait and see. I was expecting to ask him to join our Ambassadour Chefs program as a representative of Dining Downunder but there's no way yet.

And as for Guam. It'll have to wait for my next blog. Incidentally, I wrote this blog while lunching on a home-cooked steak with crisp snow peas and a mushroom cream made heavenly with a generous sprinkling of aniseed myrtle and a nudge of my Wattleseed extract in the cream. The paperbark smoked beetroot provided colour and texture contrast and another flavour highlight on the plate. Did I mention that the steak had been marinated in Ozyaki (a trade marked sauce we are about to launch into production and full of Alpine pepper pungents, sweet soy and herb aromatics)? I just followed the tried and tested formula of a multitude of textures, all the seven tastes in balance*, concentrations of unexpected and different flavours and no fiddle factor.

* sweet, sour, bitter, salty, aromatic, pungent and Maillard or umami if you like, which are those toasted, roasted grill flavours as in Wattleseed, chocolate, coffee, toast etc

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Monday, March 28, 2005

Announcing ... refills for our popular canisters of seasonings, herbs and spices

Imagine popping the o-ring sealed lid on a metal jar which fits neatly in your hand and immediately being enveloped in the mixed bouquet of aromatic rainforest herbs, pungent highland spices or full-on berry fruit notes. Using these herbs and spices takes us into the world of the French or Italian kitchen where quality, taste and disctinctiveness matter. And yet it opens up the universe of modern fusion cooking with the promise of the unifying contribution of Antipodean ingredients which produce dishes which are unquestionably, authentically Australian.

Imagine also, the convenience of being able to get these ingredients on-line in our secure, virtual store. It's easy, convenient and we get hundreds of orders from all over the world from cooks, chefs and foodies who have discovered the benefits of these impressive flavours and use them regularly.

The launch of our Australian herbs and spices as low or no salt seasonings packed in their attractive, stainless steel storage canisters a short while ago has proven a great success. The canisters themselves underwent a great deal of testing to ensure that the Australian herbs and spices were kept at their maximum levels of aromatics and the results showed that they were definitely the best storage unit available for the range. We recommend that the seasonings are stored chilled once opened to further ensure freshness and flavour impact and the refrigerator door or a high shelf where not much else fits.

Now, in order to serve our customers better, we have released refills for the canisters with the range of 6 seasonings packed in stand up pouches. They are also a great way to sample the seasonings being a cheaper purchase option but for convenience and optimum storage, we recommend you do get the canisters as they better protect the herbs and spices from oxidation. Simply refill the canisters from the pouches and hopefully re-use the pouches as convenient, waterproof envelops for any number of applications.

Be sure to visit our website which has been designed specifically for the seasonings. It gives plenty of information as to the wide culinary uses and health benefits of the herbs and spices and in combination with this blog or our opt-in, subscription e-zine, it backs up the recipes on the labels of each available variety.

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Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Export or leave money on the table

From Austrade research, we know that only relatively few Australian companies export and yet many more could.

It's like having a whole lot of customers within easy reach and never turning to help them get the benefits of having your products. This is like leaving money on the table or just being commercially naive.

Here at home in Australia, our products can often be one of many while off-shore they become rare and unusual, particularly with the marketing twist of incorporating authentic Australian flavours. Contact me at Cherikoff Rare Spices for this service as we specialise in taking pedestrian products off the (supposedly) level playing field and pushing them into innovative, unique and distinctive product categories where media interest and exposure often comes for free.

Think of us as the means to remove yourself from competing with others in your existing catogory and adding such a novel twist that your new market sees you as totally unique and highly desirable.

Business development managers in some companies which could export, probably think that the risk of losing money; the cost of learning about the market; or understanding supply chains is too high.

However, for many companies, this is just not the case.

Contracts of supply can be negotiated as prepayment in part or in full, before goods are shipped. The internet and networking (in addition to all Austrade's services) can provide market intelligence. And distribution is the easiest - just ask your ultimate customer for referrals to good distributors, wholesalers, brokers and agents. All you need is a vehicle to get you there and we have just the thing.

In fact, with a little effort, many companies could turn the research recommended on export markets into a low cost process or at worst, a model of policy, process and procedures which can be rolled out into markets which share some similarity to one another.

When it comes to food service and some retail products, Dining Downunder** Chefs, Vic Cherikoff and Benjamin Christie have helped many Australian and an increasing number of New Zealand companies to build their brands and make sales.


You have your own food professionals who take your products overseas; introduce them to a large food service user; find a distributor recommended by local chefs; arrange a chefs' table of your potential clients and then they prepare, present and endorse your products at a hosted function. And all this for next to no cost.

How good is that?

In 2005, we continue on our global pilgrimage promoting Australia, Australian cuisine and a host of companies which enjoy the results of the support and exposure we generate. And we'd love to have more Australian companies along.

Unfortunately, not many marketers really know or understand what strategic, associative marketing is nor how to profit from its powerful results: From Australian Cuisine Promotions last year in the Czech Republic, Thailand, USA and Germany, Dining Downunder generated tens of thousands in export sales for the Australian and New Zealand food & wine companies involved. Read Austrade’s Trademark article on the continuing export success of Dining Downunder.

Australian Cuisine Promotions for 2005 have already been arranged in Guam, Moscow, Nagoya, Phuket, Bangkok and others are currently being negotiated and scheduled for Germany, Belgium, The Netherlands, The UK, China, Malaysia and Singapore. Some additional target markets include Slovakia, Poland, Indonesia, Spain and Ireland.

We look to emerging markets, often where Austrade has active representatives and are holding trade shows or other events with Australian companies. We leverage this activity and make an impact with our unique food presentations and then add serious value by working with hotel marketing departments as well as food distributors on the value of well promoted and distinctive food offerings.

Our primary focus is to complete the supply chain, from exporting company, showcase event, interested and supportive distributor to end user and then follow up in that market with a second visit within 6 months to maintain the energy. By way of example, our promotion in Prague last year found an Australian distributor who's activity was backed up by a presentation of products to 48 local chefs with the result that several products, including Australian lamb and some specialised foodstuffs have increased sales into the Czech market.

Dining Downunder chefs can add value to a restaurant or venue in numerous ways:

· Enhancing business functions, meetings or conferences providing an uniquely Australian feel with our authentic foods and the wines we endorse
· Live Cooking Shows at International Trade Shows and events promoting the best of Australian food, wine and culinary tourism
· Need strong media coverage for your activities? Dining Downunder seems to attract it like a magnet simply due to the unique approach of promoting indigenous foods

For more information view the Australian Cuisine Promotions brochure and please make contact for collaboration, joint ventures or promotional endorsements.

Current opportunities:

Guam in April
Moscow, Brussels and Amsterdam in May
Nagoya in July
Phuket in August
Bangkok in December

And more to come ...

** Dining Downunder(TM) is an Australian cooking show focussing on an authentic Australian cuisine using native Australian ingredients and which screened in 32 countries in 2004 and will continue its global spread into Europe and North America in 2005.

Monday, March 21, 2005

Cherikoff Australian ingredients star in Korea

Another promotion waving the flag for Cherikoff Australian ingredients is in train for March, this time with Meat and Livestock Australia promoting Australian beef in Korea.

The Renaissance Seoul Hotel will host an Australian festival from March 30 to the end of April. The Manhattan Grill restaurant offering will be transformed with traditional Australian dishes prepared with authentic ingredients supplied by Vic Cherikoff Food Services Pty Ltd. These will include Oz Lemon (lemon myrtle seasoning), Wildfire Spice and Wattleseed.

The opening night gala dinner (88,000 won) will be held on the 30th March and bookings are available by phoning the hotel (+ 82 02 2222 8637).

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Saturday, February 26, 2005

Herbs, spices and the Science of Taste

My herb and spice seasoning range has been well received by cooks, chefs and manufacturers as their flavours are discovered to work in a wide range of dishes.

I have also had feedback on how using my herbs and spices have contributed to making mealtimes a lot easier. One subscriber emailed me a few weeks ago saying that her son was a very finicky eater rejecting more than he accepted. It was my Oz Lemon herb mix which he took to like a duck to water and according to the email, it seemed to even lift his mood and dinner-time became (almost) a pleasure.

Our sense of taste

Why would this be, you might ask? Well there is no doubt that herbs and spices play an important role in stimulating different areas of the 20,000 taste buds on the upper surface of our tongues, on our cheeks, palate and throat. Interestingly, children respond to smaller amounts of flavour (and react more to taste than to smell). Adults can lose up to half their sense of taste and more into old age and it is definitely a case of ‘use it or lose it’. We can condition our sense of flavour and keep it acute by paying attention to what we taste and vary the sources of different stimuli.

But flavours of herbs and spices, fruits, nuts, salts, acids, fat in fact, any flavours, also act on our brains at a basic chemical level. Firstly, this happens as a direct response to the primary stimuli of sour, sweet, salty or bitter. Recently, the extra characteristic called umami has been added and is the overall tastiness, meatiness or savoury flavour perhaps best thought of in terms of beefiness and possibly also the toasty, roasted flavours known as Maillard products (coffee, chocolate, bread and of course, Wattleseed).

An extra degree of refinement is that we have our sweet receptors concentrated on the tip of our tongue, sour and salt along the sides and then bitter and umami in the middle at the back of our tongue.

Each of our taste buds is a barrel shaped cluster of elongated cells equipped with receptive hairs (nerve endings) reaching into the barrel. A single nerve fibre carries stimuli (yes, plural because it may react to sweet as well as bitter, for example) to the primitive taste-brain in our brain stem. This then is relayed to the thalamus and on to be further processed in the anterior cerebral cortex.

Too much information?

If you think that this is not how you taste a cup of Oz Lemon tea, it may be a bit too much detail for you. However, you’d also partly be right. And this is because we have another set of taste detectors which react to the burn of chilli, temperature, astringency and texture. These impulses travel to the cerebral cortex of the higher brain via a different pathway - the fifth or trigeminal, cranial nerve. This is significant since it is also the region right next to the triggers for vomiting, salivating and retching. Presumably, this set of reactions was important to us during our free-ranging, trial and error, hunter-gatherer days.

So, now back to yet other effects of food which are extra-curricular to taste and back to our finicky eater. There are many components of foods which can have pharmacological effects. This might result in stimulation of the type a non-coffee drinker might experience from a caffeine hit. Then there are components which slow us down, mellow us out, help fortify the immune system or affect water balance, electrolyte excretion or energy metabolism. There’s a whole raft of possible effects, just from these components and many occur in high concentrations in everyday herbs and spices. Oz Lemon contains a number of herbs which have components with some pharmacologic properties, namely the stimulating essential oils; citral and trans-anethole. It also contains a mixture of organic acids which have been shown to play a protective role in the bowel against cancer. And then there are compounds we haven't even characterised but which form part of the whole action as a beneficial herbal mix.

For more on the medicinal effects of native Australian herbs and spices, please visit this link.

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Sunday, February 20, 2005

Chefs, manufacturers and foodies - a reality check

A lot of my clients run restaurants, cook interesting food at home or manufacture products which people eat or drink to enjoy or use to add to their well-being. I have clients here in Australia and overseas and I was only thinking about them and my business this morning. You might like to share some of my insights, deliberation and strategy and apply the same analysis to your own situation.

What do I uniquely offer my end-users - chefs, manufacturers and foodies? What do I offer that no-one else can?

I add serious value to my clients by taking commodity offerings (everyday food, ordinary menus, pedestrian products) and introducing a unique, innovative, interesting Australian twist. A chef could serve a steak with mushroom sauce or they could value add it to a Wildfire crusted beef fillet with mushrooms enhanced with Wattleseed, forest anise and munthari berries. A manufacturer could make the Wildfire crusted steak or the exotic and delicious mushroom sauce. I know which dish I'd prefer to eat and which products I'd rather buy.

We all eat. Some of us, more than others and a few of us appreciate new flavours and the concept of wild, healthy foods which really contribute to our well-being. So I know that I do have a market as I know my ingredients are absolutely delicious, versatile to use - loaded with culinary and nutritional benefits.

I also know that I can appeal to my clients who emotionally recognise the marketing importance of not selling commodities where all you can compete on is price or availability.

There is no doubt that any chef, manufacturer or home cook who uses my flavours in the way I suggest or use ingredients I specially make for them, will also add value for their client base.

Sure. The end product still needs to be presented in an appealing way and through outlets where their clients shop. Shelves (real or virtual) need to be stocked or menus well described. But the market exists and can be reached economically.

My ingredients have the differentiation we all look for in following the next trend or looking to new flavours or just something different from what we had last week. My wife Clare, once described the authentic Australian ingredients I have commercialised as being for chefs and manufacturers, what a whole new set of colours would be to an artist.

Isn't that spot on? You don't even have to be a Rembrandt or Picasso to recognise the value in having more 'colours', particularly when the collection can be bundled in a whole new categories of Australian food, beverages, cosmaceuticals or nutraceuticals.

Then there's the consideration of who is behind this new wave of ingredients. Are they ethical, honest, hard-working at the same time as visionary, creative and forward thinking? Every industry has its parasites and the native Australian food industry is no exception but I know my contribution as leader and hope to continue in this role.

If I consider my 'business DNA', I see the new, original, innovative, purpose-developed array of ingredients which I have created and which keep me out there as market leader. It's just a reality check but worth doing if you analyse your own activities in your business, as a cook or chef or in whatever it is that you do.

The next check I came to was frugality. Was there waste in the systems, operations or even communications? Well there's some waste in the interest payments on loans but I reckon that otherwise, I run a really tight ship.

And lastly, the passion. It only takes a single match or spark to start an inferno but to keep it roaring you need fuel, heat and oxygen. A growing list of clients are my fuel, my passion to see these amazing ingredients world reknown could be the heat and the oxygen might be the vision and the faith that the light at the end of the tunnel is not an on-coming train.


If you are a chef wanting to make your mark through the food you serve.

If you are a home cook who likes to explore the world through the flavours you discover and eat for good health and long life as well.

Or if you are a manufacturer who needs to move off the 'level' playing field of competitive products and saturated markets and wants to make your next new product development a success.

Visit my website to discover more. Drop in to my virtual store and get a few items and be sure to grab a copy of my new Dining Downunder cookbook or manufacturers; get in touch with me (particularly bakery suppliers, ice creameries and biotechs) and join me up front as we pioneer these ingredients into world food markets.

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