Like most chefs, Jock Zonfrillo craves his daily coffee fix – he has 10 and 12 espressos a day. But that's not the reason this hipster and world famous chef has just signed on as an ambassador with coffee giant Lavazza.
This new three-year partnership evolved thanks to a moral alignment, says Zonfrillo, who owns Adelaide's exclusive Restaurant Orana and sister restaurant Bistro Blackwood.
"The values of that company are closely aligned to us at Orana. Lavazza is a family owned business who actually cares about their employees and source of product," he says. "All the way from growers and farmers through to the sales team, they are protective of every single link in the chain, and for a company as big as theirs, that's pretty incredible.
"Put simply, they have a greater purpose and the purpose is often to give back and we're always looking at ways to do that, so all that aligns very closely with us at Orana."
As part of his ambassadorship, Zonfrillo is set to appear at major Lavazza events (to be confirmed), collaborate on bespoke recipes using coffee beans, and showcase dishes incorporating Lavazza coffee on his menus.
Two new offerings have been added to the menu temporarily including Paperbark Ice Cream with Ferrero Lavazza – 'Ferrero Lavazza' (made using milk and dark chocolate, roasted hazelnuts, and Lavazza coffee infused hazelnut oil), paperbark ice cream, macadamia praline, oat crumb, paperbark wafers, and paperbark syrup. Then there is Vitello Tonnato Lavazza, a simple dish of poached and sliced veal, tuna mayonnaise made using Lavazza coffee infused grapeseed oil, crispy capers, vinegars and finished with a lemon wedge.
The idea of coffee as an ingredient in dishes such as a tuna mayonnaise served with veal seems somehow wrong – yet in the hands of a master like Zonfrillo, it is perfection. Of course.
A chance encounter
The ideology of giving back has been at the core of Zonfrillo's career since a life-changing conversation in Circular Quay in 1999. At the time, the young chef had just arrived from England (where he had been mentored by the iconic Marco Pierre White). He was also a recovering heroin addict still searching for his true path when he struck up a conversation with an indigenous busker called Jimmy.
A fascination with native Australian ingredients blossomed into a whole new purpose for Zonfrillo thanks to Jimmy, who opened his eyes to the power and importance of bush food. They spoke for four hours initially and went on to have one more conversation. But when Zonfrillo went back a third time, he learnt that Jimmy had passed away.
However, the legacy of that conversation is the Orana Foundation, a database of native ingredients where each ingredient is logged with full nutritional and cultural information. It's a massive undertaking for Zonfrillo who is working in collaboration with the University of Adelaide and Royal Botanic Gardens. The database is up to 2000 ingredients.
"The whole purpose of Restaurant Orana was to start the foundation because I could not get backing, no one understood the purpose of the foundation," says Zonfrillo who won the Food for Good Award in the National Good Food Guide 2018.
"We are nine months down track in the database, we've got 12 professors and academics working on that project alone. We also have a couple of other projects lined up which I can talk about later in the year, one in the Northern Territory and one in the Kimberly. There's definitely a lot going on."
Giving back to the community
The next stage is to give indigenous people access to the database in a user friendly format, but there are hurdles to overcome.
"We need a company to make the platform for that," he says. "In the beginning, I wanted to get all this information in one place but of course it's much more complex than that. There is culturally sensitive stuff there, for example a community in the Kimberley will have something that only their community will see."
Even when he's travelling, Zonfrillo maintains this idea of giving back. He recently attended a food conference in Brazil and went on to visit the favelas in Rio where he did a cooking project with local kids. He will go back this year to do a workshop with kids and young parents about the economics of cooking or "cooking for not much money" he says.
"The favelas of Rio are one of the most dangerous places I've ever visited –a kid got shot 12 hours after we were there," he says.
"But when we travel we always have that mentality of giving back more than you take. I just think it's the right thing to do.
"Jimmy was the guy that said it to me first and started me on this path. Whatever you do, give back more than you take. For me it is the foundation of our business – it's very simple and it's just human."