The new Chiswick Veggie Van, launched in celebration of the restaurants’ new spring menus, will deliver the last of its free veggie boxes on Friday 24 November. The retro 1960s van delivers boxes featuring a selection of produce handpicked at optimum ripeness and condition by Matt Moran and Chiswick Woollahra head chef Tom Haynes, along with a guide to making the most of each ingredient. Moran and Haynes will also include the recipe for and ingredients to make Chiswick’s mint salsa, served in the restaurant alongside Chiswick’s signature dish: the Moran Family lamb shoulder.

Hospitality magazine caught up with Moran to hear about the genesis of the Chiswick Veggie Van and what the future holds.

Where did the idea for the Chiswick veggie van come from?

I’ve long held an appreciation for locally grown produce and eating with the seasons. It was the idea behind my restaurant Chiswick and the heart of the restaurant has always been the garden. The veggie van is a great way to showcase that and educate people on produce and seasonality — essentially, what we should be eating and when!

How do you put the boxes together? How do you choose what goes in and what needs to be used in the restaurant?

At Chiswick, the garden really keeps us in touch with the seasons. We create dishes according to which veggies are at their peak and do the same for the veggie boxes. We’ve got radish, mint, parsley and artichoke in abundance at the moment to name just a few and we’re about to get a bumper crop of tomatoes. I’ve always found the diversity of ingredients available to us really inspiring.

There’s a lot of talk in the industry about food waste and kitchen gardens seem to be a great way to start closing the loop – how does the Veggie Van fit into this ethos?

I’m pretty passionate about reducing food waste both at home and in my restaurants so we’re really mindful of it. Fortunately, we run a pretty tight ship in my kitchens so there’s very little waste and virtually none from the garden at all — it all ends up on a plate. If there happens to be a surplus of a particular fruit or vegetable then we always find a way to use it. The chefs often make preserves and the bartenders use produce from the garden in our cocktails for example. As for in the home, I think growing your own produce is a really effective way to minimise waste, reduce your impact on the environment and save costs. And locally grown, in season produce just tastes that much better too!

Do you think initiatives like this will become more common in the restaurant industry? Is it an important way to connect with diners?

Hopefully! I think people are definitely becoming more engaged with food and connected to its origins, which as a chef and farmer is fantastic to see. We consistently receive feedback from diners at Chiswick about how much they love the garden and that by dining with us they’ve become more mindful about eating with the seasons. I really love that. The veggie van allows us to bring the Chiswick garden to people’s doorstep and give our customers the opportunity to get creative with the garden ingredients, just as we do at the restaurant.

Do you have plans to run the Chiswick veggie van again in future?

Absolutely! Keep an eye out for the Chiswick veggie van on the road near you.

Click here for a chance to receive a complimentary veggie box on Friday 24 November.

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