Hunter Hero: Amorelle Dempster

By , 25/04/2020 19:38

SOMETHING COOKING: Amorelle Dempster has brought slow food ideals to the fore in Maitland with markets, her cafe and her food service. Picture: Simone De Peak
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CHILDHOOD memories of fresh produce have given Maitland’s Amorelle Dempster a taste for connecting diners and cooks with the people growing their dinner.

It’s the ethos that has put her on the world stage in the Slow Food movementand helped her create a city-wide mood for fresh food in Maitland, reducing food waste from kitchens and paddocks at the same time.

Awarded the city’s Woman of the Year and Citizen of the Year, the Maitland restauranteur’scommitment spans from farm to table by way of a market that has become a beating heart in the city.

The Sri Lankan-born chefruns a cafe in the city as well as aservice providing150 meals for the disadvantaged each week alongside Oz Harvest.

Pulled together with volunteers on weekends, they are shipping out Monday morning to organisations including Carrie’s Place and other refuges.

But it is perhaps the city’s producemarkets that have made her most well-known in Maitland, its roots stretching from a 2016 pumpkin stall that helped 40 tonnes of produce dodge the scrap heap.

The former biodynamic farmer said that moment gave her a clear opportunity to put her will to cut down food waste into action.

“I knew about food waste on the farm, and I know how to cook, so I should do something about it,” she said.

“I see activists talking about this, but I think we have reversed back to finding that real grassroots solution to a problem.”

Sending them toSydney markets would barely have producers breaking even. Instead, Ms Dempster’s push for a local stall with help from Maitland City Council had half of them gone in 12 hours.Working her network in Sydney and the region, she quickly had the second half gone too.

That concept has since transformed into an institution in the city’s mall, regularly linking farmers and their customers directly and buildingrelationships that go beyond the per-kilogram price.

“People talk about Austin’s pumpkins or Matt’s greens,” she said. “Somehow they’re relating food to the farmer.”

“I think we are also educating our farmers, because they are learning exactly what consumers want.”

The market became a bi-monthly event in 2017, locking in its local flavour with earth market status byfeaturing only produce made within 100 kilometres of the stalls.

“People needed to know good quality food was being rejected because it had a bit of mud on it,” she said.

“It gives us a platform to really talk about food in a way people can relate to it.“

Ms Dempster said all the achievementsrested on the support of other Slow Food volunteers and organisations in the city.“It’s a group effort, it’s not just me,” she said.

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