IT’S a scorching summer Saturday and I am feasting on freshly-shucked Coffin Bay oysters adorned with a blue quandong jelly and flavoured with non-alcoholic lemon aspen beer. The scene is sizzling and so is the chef. It’s my first foray to Brisbane’s bustling Wandering Cooks precinct for emerging food enterprises. I’ve finished my travel for the year and today it’s my taste buds which are embarking on a journey, ambling way back into ancient Australian culture, but with a modern twist. I am here as a guest of inspiring Indigenous chef Chris Jordan, who is launching Three Little Birds.
Chris, 30, named his enterprise after the favourite song of his father, who died when this creative chef was just two. He remembers little of his dad, and is still learning about his culture, but it’s through native food that he’s diving deep, searching for his mob, his heritage, his home. This is a passionate young man on a mission. He’s already clocked up 15 years as a chef, working with fine dining restaurants and hotels throughout Australia and the UK. But since learning about his Indigenous ancestry, he has focused his work on native Australian ingredients and also studies Indigenous Philosophy at the University of South Australia. Eat that, critics.
Working with elder and celebrated chef Aunty Dale Chapman, Chris has designed a menu which focuses on the four elements of Indigenous culture including air (fermentation), fire (coals), water (seafood), and earth (foraged and native ingredients). His cooking style is based on the traditional Kup Murri: cooking over or in hot coals, and your mouth will revel in the flavours of ancient Australia here. Dishes are designed to be shared, black fella way, and on this delicious day my dining companion and I tuck into this tucker which includes Saltbaked Sweet Potato with native spiced vegan mayo and macadamia; and Native Sustainable Market Fish with lemon myrtle, yoghurt, seaweed and saltbush. There’s also a surprise dish of Scallops with black squid ink. You can practically taste the campfire. If only the ancients could see us now.
Even better, each course is paired with a non-alcoholic beer, brewed by Sobah, Australia’s first Indigenous non-alcoholic beer flavoured with bush tucker ingredients. We work our way through the menu of breezy brews: Lemon Aspen Pilsner; Finger Lime Cerveza; Pepperberry IPA; Davidson Plum Gluten Free Ale; and Boab & Wild Ginger Lager – which turns out to be my favourite for its freshness and fragrance. We finish this feast with a Wattle Seed & Mountain Pepper Brownie with coconut yoghurt and native jam. It’s a five-star feast adorned with First Nations’ flair.
“I strive to use the most local produce,” Chris says.
“By incorporating native and foraged ingredients into the menu, you’ll see how imperative the local Indigenous community is, as I utilise Indigenous seeds and grains sourced from Aunty Dale, who I have worked with for a number of years.
“I’m continuing to learn about my Indigenous heritage which encourages the creativity and style you’ll see among my menu.”
You’ll find mainly plant-based, native Australian food here and meat that has little to no impact on the environment. Seafood is sustainably sourced from a local fishery. Everything harks back to the eco-friendly way in which the first Australians treated the planet and her gifts. With reverence and respect.
“Indigenous knowledge has been like with many young First Nation People, lost in my family due to social and political issues,” Chris says.
“As I reconnect with my ancestry through education and experiences, I want to share that through food and create something that showcases Indigenous knowledge and native food personally.”
I sit here on this stifling Saturday and observe this chef at work. Beads of perspiration are blending with his passion. In a country where conservatives too often want to believe the worst of its oldest surviving culture, here is a young Indigenous man, standing in the cauldron, cooking up a different story. This is a time for dreaming and a new Dreamtime is dawning for ingenious Indigenous men such as Chris, and the mob at Sobah. And like Three Little Birds themselves, this chef is going to fly.
The Global Goddess was a guest of Three Little Birds. To experience this authentic cuisine and culture, head to Wandering Cooks https://wanderingcooks.com.au
Also check out the Three Little Birds website for other pop ups and catering https://3littlebirdsevents.com
For some great non-alcoholic beer with an Indigenous twist, check out Sobah https://sobah.com.au
Three Little Birds is also hosting a major food event at the Woodford Folk Festival on December 30 https://woodfordfolkfestival.com