Eating with the AU: OzHarvest 10th birthday celebrations and new HQ launch

“Our Purpose is to Nourish our Country” is proudly emblazoned on the freshly painted walls of the converted warehouse in Alexandria that OzHarvest, Australia’s leading food rescue organisation, has recently opened, with the support of founding partner Goodman Group. The opening is testament to the organisation’s continuing growth and success and is the perfect place to celebrate 10 years of exercising the caring, sharing and generous philosophy CEO and founder Ronni Khan embodies.

Since its inception in 2004, OzHarvest have rescued 10 million kilos of good quality food and delivered 30 million meals to Aussies in need, an amazing feat in itself and something that Ronni is still overwhelmed at the thought of “We had a tiny office in Alexandria and we had no staff, only a handful of brilliant volunteers and a big dream, one that we could never imagine would see us arrive here at our 10th birthday,” she said.

The newly refurbished warehouse will house a growing team of volunteers and staff, a commercial kitchen for training and skilling up disadvantaged youth, and a newly developed community garden. The kitchen and garden in particular will be utilised as part of OzHarvest’s Nourish Program, which aims to educate and empower disadvantaged youth, by supplying a pathway to employment in the food and hospitality industry.

It was heartening to see hundreds of guests already lining the 500 square metre space inside the warehouse and marquees out front, upon arrival. The friendly relaxed vibe of the place was already punctuated by wonderful smells emanating from a huge pan of Paella merrily simmering away, and the sizzling aromas of lamb roasting on a spit.

Keeping in theme with minimising food wastage, mobile bar service Trolley’d were on hand blending together Gin Cocktails laced with Strawberries and Egyptian Ice. Mixed on reclaimed airline trolleys, the company aims to use organic and sustainable produce for their drinks, tonight’s resulting cocktail a punchy, refreshing, citrus laden number. Guests were spoilt for choice, with a selection of thirst quenchers ranging from red and white wines supplied by Fesq and Company Wines, beer and cider supplied by Young Henry’s, delicious dessert smoothies and fizzy drinks from Where the Wild Things Grow Smoothies and to hit that after dinner spot, fresh brewed coffee and gelato from Vittoria Coffee & Gelato.

Canapes had a casual alfresco feel with much of the produce supplied by local businesses, the spit-roasted lamb courtesy of Feather and Bone and Vic’s Meats was juicy and glorious paired with creamy labneh in a soft Brioche bun baked by Brasserie BreadGatto Matto’s crisp Arancini balls, dressed with a dollop of creamy cheese sauce delighted, the strong savoury flavours of mushroom infused rice a welcome surprise. The highlights however had to be the crunchy, buttery and just plain good all over Parmesan and Porcini Popcorn and the massive Will Studd cheese table laden with all sorts of heavenly things including a sharp tangy Colston Bassett Stilton, a bold Cravero Parmigiano Reggiano and a smooth and uniquely tasty La Couronne Fort Aged Comte, which we were informed had been maturing comfortably in a cellar in Fort Saint Antoine.

Amongst other culinary delights was a fragrant Dahl produced by the chefs at Aki’s Indian, Meatballs from La Scala and Massimo’s Fine Meats and Butter supplied by Pepe Saya as well as Goats Cheese and Beetroot crudites and Sausage slices dusted in Rosemary Salt. Unfortunately the Vegetarian Kofte from Efendy missed the mark, proving bland despite the fresh herb seasonings and the tantalising Paella whilst beautifully presented missed a crunchy Socarrat crust, and lacked flavour, despite the moreish nuggets of seafood and chicken strewn throughout.

A meal is nought without a sweet ending and here Vittoria delivered a dense creamy vanilla and chocolate gelato. This was only trumped by Sweet Art Australia’s rich fruit cake masterpiece, covered in detailed fondant objects and standing pride of place within the warehouse.

It wasn’t all about the food though, the event included the launch of OzHarvest’s second cookbook UrbanHarvest, a collaboration of recipes from 50 well-known Aussie chefs celebrating kitchen gardens of all shapes and sizes. These were sold along with different coloured sponsorship spoons to go along the warehouse’s far wall.

Band Air Land Sea fronted by Ronni’s son Nadhav Khan and including Lior have put together a special tune in tribute of OzHarvest, a catchy Beatle-esque number titled ‘If You’ve Got Love’ which they performed backed by the soulful stylings of the Sydney Street Choir. Entertainment rolled on well into the night with dancing and DJs and some familiar faces were spotted amongst the crowd including Chef Matt Moran who ducked out back to check out the kitchen, Food Safari host Maeve O’MearaHouse Husbands star Firass Dirani and Federal Parliament member Tanya Plibersek.

The main star however made a moving speech where she broke her many promises to herself not to ‘blubber’. Humble, inspiring and brimming with an infectious passion, it’s no surprise that the night was a roaring success, not because of the guests who were grateful just to be a small part of an incredible milestone, or the wonderful food and drink, or even the warm feeling of inclusion from the staff and the knowledge of the good that has been effected through the organisation. It was just seeing her overjoyed, fulfilling a lifelong dream, and a great one at that.

To find out more about OzHarvest and to check out the ‘If You’ve Got Love’ video visit >> http://www.ozharvest.org

For every food pic you post to Instagram, Facebook or Twitter with #mealforameal, Virgin Mobile will deliver a real meal to someone in need! Get involved >> http://www.makingmobilebetter.com.au/meal-for-a-meal/mealforameal

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