How do you spark an eco revolution? The Future Food System pop-up house and restaurant has had Melbourne buzzing with game-changing flavours and genius bits of technology.
It started as a bold experiment. Two chefs living inside an 87-square-metre off-grid house in the middle of Melbourne’s Fed Square, not only surviving but running an intimate dining experience strictly from the food and resources produced by the house itself. No waste. No cheating. For six months.
Chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone first moved into the Future Food System’s Greenhouse, which was designed by environmental activist Joost Bakker, in early 2021. But now that six months has come and gone and Bakker reports that the Future Food System is now pegged to stay put until April 2022.
Things are clearly working, but living inside a one-house eco system can’t be a breeze. Or can it? We have questions.
What are the chefs learning from living inside their own sustainable foodiverse? Will any of it really work out here in the real world?
Image credit: Earl Carter
Challenge #1: Less, but make it delicious
In dining experiences that have been met with popular demand, Barrett and Stone’s in-house restaurant has served up luxe dishes like chestnut chou farci with roasted potato and seaweed jus.
Big flavours come fresh from gardens that cascade down the walls of the house and grow in patches outside the kitchen window, brimming with apples and rhubarb, kale, beans, pumpkins and herbs. An aquaponics system on the roof has given the menu dry-aged barramundi ceviche, smoked trout and even yabbies.
But the limitations have been many: go-to ingredients like dairy, sugar and wheat are not allowed in from outside. “At first I was like, ‘without butter, we can’t make delicious sauces’ and ‘vegetables always taste better with butter’,” says Stone. “But frustration drives creativity – we came up with ways of cooking so that flavour would absorb back into the ingredients.”
Answer: Steam is the eco-cook’s dream
Top chefs rate steam cooking for sealing in flavour and up to 50 per cent more vitamins from vegetables. Miele’s combi steam oven is the hero of the Future Food System kitchen. Its combination of dry and moist heat maintains consistent temperature and humidity, making bread (Jo Barrett’s specialty) rise with a crunchy crust.
Find out more about Miele’s smart, sustainable appliances within the house at mieleexperience.com.au/joost/
Waste not, cook everything
A couple in life and previously co-executive chefs at the Yarra Valley’s Oakridge restaurant, Barrett and Stone have proven masters of ingenuity. The pair put a new spin on “ice-cream”, creating it using naturally sweet tiger nut milk. In the absence of beef bones, they have thickened broth with leftover fishbones with grains for a rich umami flavour.
“Cooking is a great way to reduce waste,” says Barrett. “If we put a little more emphasis on what we’re cooking, I feel like we can make a movement together towards reducing waste in our homes.”
Appliances are an eco system
Bakker found a perfect eco-partner in long-time collaborator Miele, a brand known for its sustainable ethos, quality craftsmanship and smart features. “We’ve got all this amazing equipment,” he says. “It’s important that we use the most energy-efficient appliances possible.”
Solar panels catch extra rain for the water tanks. Steam from the shower is captured to nourish mushrooms.
“No matter how you time it, you’re going to have surplus,” says Bakker of homegrown produce. With a compartment that automatically sets the ideal temperature to extend the life of your food plus a humidity drawer for fruit and vegetables, Miele’s PerfectFresh Pro technology cuts spoilage. “The amazing thing about the Miele fridge is even after five days, you’ll find that food is still exactly as fresh as when you put it in.”
The future of food starts now
While Bakker notes “this house is an example of what I hope a house in 2040 will look like”, the chefs noticed a real hunger for sustainable living now. “People came to draw inspiration on how to do things differently in their own businesses and communities,” says Barrett. Stone swears by easy changes like the full-surface Miele induction cooktop and smart rangehood that let him experiment with cooking without wasting energy. “It’s the most phenomenal thing to cook on because I can move a pan and it will only heat where that pan is and the exhaust will follow it so it’s only using minimal power.” We can all tighten the loop little by little.
Explore more sustainable ideas and the appliance ecosystem at mieleexperience.com.au/joost/