Back in November 2019, chef Jung Chae opened a six-seater Korean restaurant out of her one-bedroom apartment in Brunswick. The concept was simple: create an intimate, quiet space and let the food speak for itself. Fast forward to now, and Chae's restaurant now operates out of Cockatoo in South East Melbourne and combines a natural approach to cooking with traditional fermentation techniques and holistic wellness practices. This beautiful, healing and educational experience allows you to experience Korean food culture in the tranquillity of nature.
There’s never been a better time to introduce an award celebrating restaurant innovation. Coming off the challenges of the past two years, acknowledging the visionaries who question the ways restaurants are run and experienced isn’t just nice – it’s needed. Proving our thesis that the restaurant industry is a bellwether of change in the way we all live, our innovation shortlist features a host of early adapters.
First cab off the rank: the philosophy of better farming, closer to home. Anyone who’s had the privilege of exploring the Royal Mail Hotel’s incredible kitchen gardens on the outskirts of Dunkeld will see what a full-scale commitment to the paddock-to-plate concept looks like: Australia’s largest kitchen garden supplies around 80 per cent of its needs, while beef and lamb comes from the nearby farm.
Back in the big city, Dennis Yong’s Parcs mightn’t have an acreage, but it does have a steely commitment to sustainable dining utilising what other chefs would regard as scraps. A visit to the wilds of Little Collins Street is a masterclass in the way the dark arts of fermentation can turn discards into deliciousness. Or maybe you want to head to Victoria by Farmer’s Daughters, which brings the whole of the state to Federation Square thanks to Alejandro Saravia and his full-throated support of artisan growers, producers and makers.
It’s hard to know how to categorise Jung Chae’s eponymous restaurant Chae, a six-seater showcase of Korean food. Crazy brave springs to mind, with a side order of the ancient wisdom of using food as medicine. Of course, innovation takes many forms. Provoking ideas and discussion is the raison d’être of Di Stasio Città (that and serving some of the city’s finest Italian), so we’ll raise a Negroni to the restaurant walls making like a gallery and championing avant-garde Australian artists such as Reko Rennie and Shaun Gladwell. Because dinner should never be boring.