CHILDHOOD memories of fresh produce have given Maitlands Amorelle Dempster a taste for connecting diners and cooks with the people growing their dinner.
Its the ethos that has put her on the world stage in the Slow Food movement and 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 citys Woman of the Year and Citizen of the Year, the Maitland restauranteurs commitment spans from farm to table by way of a market that has become a beating heart in the city.
The Sri Lankan-born chef runs a cafe in the city as well as a service providing 150 meals for the disadvantaged each week alongside Oz Harvest.
Pulled together with volunteers on weekends, they are shipping out Monday morning to organisations including Carries Place and other refuges.
But it is perhaps the citys produce markets 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 to Sydney markets would barely have producers breaking even. Instead, Ms Dempsters 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 citys mall, regularly linking farmers and their customers directly and building relationships that go beyond the per-kilogram price.
People talk about Austins pumpkins or Matts greens, she said. Somehow theyre 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 by featuring 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 achievements rested on the support of other Slow Food volunteers and organisations in the city. Its a group effort, its not just me, she said.
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