The first time Paul Iskov encountered indigenous ingredients, he had a surfboard under his arm.
“Growing up I always surfed and was always down at the beach,” says the co-founder of native-food pop-up Fervor, who will be cooking at weekend food and wine festival, Margaret River Gourmet Escape. “When I became passionate about cooking, I realised we were walking past all these amazing ingredients, like saltbush and samphire, and we just weren’t using them.”
Stints in the kitchens of chefs such as Rene Redzepi (Noma, Copenhagen) and Alex Atala (D.O.M., São Paulo) convinced Iskov that indigenous flavours were the future, and led to the establishment of Fervor, a pop-up restaurant that serves native Western Australian ingredients. Since Fervor’s first dinner at Margaret River’s Fair Harvest in March 2013, Iskov and his team have hosted events across the state, often in remote rural locations. He hopes his efforts will inspire home cooks, chefs and producers to adopt and implement traditional cooking and growing methods.
A recent move from Busselton to Metricup has exposed Iskov to new ingredients. The barks, flowers and saps of different trees are being fermented and experimented with to make food and drinks.
Team Fervor is involved with a series of events at this year’s Margaret River Gourmet Escape, meaning diners have multiple opportunities to taste rare seasonal native flavours (Iskov will cook with Wildflower’s Jed Gerrard and Aaron Carr’s Vasse Felix at the all-WA opening Local Origins dinner, as well as alongside Scott Pickett from Estelle at Howard Park). Among the lesser-known ingredients Iskov will be introducing to diners is youlk, a crunchy radish-like tuber that tastes of herbs and eucalyptus that Iskov likes to serve raw and thinly shaved or roasted over fire.
He is also going to use bloodroot, which has a warm, bold flavour akin to chilli. And wattleseed, an accessible gateway ingredient whose coffee and chocolate notes make it an easy one for home cooks to work with. Quandongs and seaweeds will also feature as well as marron, Western Australia’s sweet and juicy native crayfish.
“Marron is such a beautiful ingredient and for us to be able to show it off, especially to international guests, is something that really represents Margaret River,” says Iskov.
Margaret River Gourmet Escape is on from November 18–20. Tickets to the Local Origins dinner have sold out; tickets to the Howard Park 30th Anniversary lunch and dinner featuring Iskov and Estelle’s Scott Pickett are still available online. Broadsheet is a proud media partner of Margaret River Gourmet Escape.