Chef and author Mark Olive with some of the indigenous herbs he uses in his
January 27, 2007
Photo: Angela Wylie
THE Aboriginal film Ten Canoes won best film at the 2006 AFI Awards.
Aboriginal footballers and athletes are household names. Now a Melbourne chef,
Mark 'the Black' Olive, is on a mission to make native foods just as famous.
A budding celebrity chef with his own pay TV indigenous cooking show, The
Outback Cafe, Olive has just published a fine cuisine cookbook of the same
And next month an Aboriginal restaurant, Tjanabi, will open in Melbourne's
tourist heart — Federation Square — next to the National Gallery of Victoria's
Ian Potter Centre.
Its proprietor, Carolyn Briggs, a Boonwurring elder, said Tjanabi, meaning
"celebrate", would serve "a true Australian cuisine" introducing locals and
tourists to plant foods such as roasted wattleseed, quandongs and tanami apples,
and "wild harvested" indigenous meats.
Butchers at outlets including Prahran and South Melbourne markets are now
regularly stocking kangaroo, emu and crocodile next to lamb and beef. There are
also a growing number of bush-plant food suppliers, including Robins Bush Foods
of Braeside, the Bush Tucker Shop and Outback Chef, of Gisborne.
Olive markets his own native herbs-and-spices brand sourced from 12 bush-food
farms run by remote South Australian Aboriginal communities.
Olive, who is descended from the north-coast NSW Bundjulung people, said
indigenous food was shifting from the domain of adventurous chefs to the
mainstream, and to him, it's a logical move.
"We've embraced every other culture from around the world, foodwise," he
said. "Here we have this amazing produce in our own backyard and we don't
His lavishly photographed cookbook, Mark Olive's Outback Cafe: A Taste of
Australia, is based on trips for the TV series Olive took last year to
far-flung parts of Australia.
In the chapter on Tower Hill, near Warrnambool, he tells how, thousands of
years ago, the native people hunted wallaby, echidna and koala, fished for yabby
and picked sea parsley as a seasoning.
His recipes in this section include yabby salad with black olive dressing,
bush tucker pizza with kangaroo apple relish and wattleseed swirl ice-cream.
In the chapter on Kakadu National Park, Olive creates a macadamia and mustard
wallaby stack with native mountain pepper, tandoori crocodile sticks and a
sugarbag honey crumble. The honey, he writes, "is collected from small native
bees (that don't sting) and … is particularly sweet and suitable as an
accompaniment to many dishes".
Olive, who grew up in Wollongong, where his father, champion rugby player
Bruce Oliver, was a miner, has fond childhood memories of going two or three
times a year to his mother's country, Cabbage Tree Island, on the Richmond
River, south of Byron Bay. An aunt would pick lemon myrtle and wattleseed and
cook them into scones.
A chef for 26 years, and a Victorian College of the Arts graduate whose short
film Passing Through screened at Berlin and St Kilda film festivals,
Olive's television chef career began when he won a gig doing five-minute
indigenous food segments on ABC TV's Message Stick indigenous lifestyle
For his Outback Cafe second series this year, he will visit, and soak
in food knowledge of, Alice Springs, the Torres Strait Islands and Halls
Mark Olive will sign copies of his book at the Taste of Bush Food day at the
Koorie Heritage Trust in King Street at 1pm tomorrow. The Outback Cafe
can be seen on the Lifestyle Channel.