On Monday 8 October, Jock Zonfrillo’s Restaurant Orana was crowned Vittoria Coffee Restaurant of the Year at the 2019 Good Food Awards. The win is the latest in a long line of accolades for the Adelaide restaurant; the venue also topped Gourmet Traveller’s list of best restaurants last year and came away from the 2018 Good Food Awards with the Food for Good Award, which celebrates innovation, charity and sustainability, and is presented to venues that go above and beyond to contribute to the broader community. Then, in July this year Zonfrillo received one of the hospitality world’s most coveted honours when he was awarded the Basque Culinary Prize 2018.
There’s no doubt accolades like Restaurant of the Year boost team morale, but do they help progress the Scottish-born chef’s mission to develop Australia’s native food industry and safeguard the Aboriginal culinary tradition?
“We’ve had a massive year. For the restaurant itself, the whole cause and the Foundation, of course it’s got a massive knock-on effect,” Zonfrillo tells Hospitality. “Any kind of recognition shines a light on our purpose and why we do what we do.”
And with increased attention, comes more concrete benefits that further the cause of Restaurant Orana and its namesake Foundation.
“It opens up new doors, new opportunities, new projects, new funders, and new philanthropists so that’s great,” says Zonfrillo. “We need to keep going and [the work The Orana Foundation does] is a bit of a struggle to be honest. But stuff like this award really really helps.”
Through not-for-profit organisation, The Orana Foundation, Zonfrillo and his team are working on a number of pioneering projects aimed at developing the native food industry in Australia and preserving Indigenous knowledge and practices. The Foundation is currently implementing a three-part framework in order to achieve its goals, announcing a research partnership with the University of Adelaide in 2017.
Zonfrillo is also collaborating with a number of the world’s most high profile chefs to secure the future of indigenous foods from around the globe. The task, says Zonfrillo, is huge — both in scope and importance, and awards can help raise awareness: “Stuff like this is not something you would even think about or have the opportunity to do if you aren’t at the top of the game. It takes time and resources, and obviously recognition.”
The restaurant, which seats just 30, also received a score of 18/20, taking it from two hats in 2018 to three. “I dunno know if something changed, or if people caught up to what we were doing,” says Zonfrillo. “We’ve been going for five years and we haven’t changed tack during that time. It’s nice to get the recognition and get a bit of movement and the support of the industry as well, not just customers, which is really important.”