Charlie: Hello, I’m Charlie Albone and welcome to Episode Three of Season Two of That’s How We Grow in partnership with Stihl Garden Power Tools. Gardening brings with it so many rewards from creating beautiful spaces to watching amazing plants, fruits and vegetables thrive and grow. Seeing a garden that you’ve nurtured and cared for being enjoyed by others is a very satisfying feeling. My guest today is an Australian food icon, a widely recognised amazing chef. You probably have one of his cookbooks in your kitchen.

Yes, it’s Matt Moran, a love for fresh food and local produce. Matt knows the benefits of looking after a beautiful veggie garden. For me, it’s hard to beat the taste and satisfaction of freshly picked fruits and vegetables from your garden. They are always the most delicious, the most juicy and the most rewarding to care for the plants and then see a beautiful crop grow. Well, words struggle to describe the satisfaction for Matt Moran, he needs to grow large amounts of seasonal crops to supply his many diners every single night.

How does he work with his team to deliver this large quantity and ensure amazing consistency throughout? Well, hopefully Matt will have a couple of amazing cooking tips to share with us as well. Let’s jump into the veggie plot with Matt and see what we can cook up. My guest today is a world renowned chef with about a million restaurants, and I’m lucky to say that I have eaten quite a few of them. There’s Aria, Chiswick River Bar, North Bondi Fish, Barangaroo House, Opera House, Opera Bar, Chophouse, and a new pub called the Rockley. He’s also an author who, let’s face it, has a cookbook in every household in Australia.

So everybody welcome Matt Moran to That’s How We Grow. How are you, Matt?

Matt: I’m well, mate. I’ll tell you what if I had a million restaurants I’d be in trouble because there’s no way I’d be able to staff them at the moment.

Charlie: Yeah, it’s the trouble isn’t it? How does somebody get into…Well, first of all, being a chef and then into owning so many restaurants and doing so many different things with that time?

Matt: Yeah, look, that’s an interesting thing. Look, I. I had a farming background when I was very young, and then we moved off the farms, lived in the western suburbs of Sydney. Pretty rough sort of area around Blacktown. And wasn’t that academic, which is bizarre because there were two very academic kids, one doing medicine and the other one doing school. And I would have done anything just to leave school, you know, I would have been a mechanic or a painter or whatever. I just wanted to get out of school.

My father wouldn’t let me unless I had an apprenticeship and I started baking a little bit in a… In a Woolworths or something, I think from memory of something like that it was like a, you know, bakery in a, in a supermarket. For work experience. And then I started working on weekends in a RSL and I kind of thought, you know, this cooking thing’s alright, but wasn’t really that passionate about it, didn’t really care about it because, you know, everything came out of a packet or a cool room or, you know, bread rolls were put on a tray and baked. We didn’t really actually make em’ and then start looking for an apprenticeship.

And I would have gone for about 20 interviews before anyone gave me a job, I was only a 15 year old kid. And a big kid. I used to play a lot of sport and everyone used to say, look, you know, you don’t really have much experience in this. You know, we’re not looking for someone like you. And I remember it might have been about the 18th or 19th – One guy said to me, guys, look if the first ten don’t work out, we’ll give you a call. And I was pretty, pretty, you know, pretty down after that one. Yeah. And I had an interview in a place called La Boheme which is on the north side. Which little did I know, but was probably in the top, sort of, you know, ten restaurants in the country.

And I found out where it was from Blacktown. It was about an hour and a half, and I said to my father, look, you know, I don’t really want to go for this interview. I was, you know, pretty beaten down before. There’s no way I’m going to get it. And he said, look, you’ve made the interview, you’re going, whether you like it or not. And I walked in there and I saw the owner who was also the Head Chef, Michael de Lawrence, who I owe a lot to. And I saw a piece of paper and had about 20 names on it. They all had crosses next to them. And then my name and I thought.

This is my opportunity. So I just absolutely bluffed my way. And I said, look, you know, I know that you’re probably not looking for someone like me. I’m only 15. I don’t really have much experience. But I said, I promise you, if you give me a go, you won’t be sorry. And because I said that he actually gave me a trial for three days and then told me on the day that he rang me on the Sunday night and said, look, you can leave school tomorrow. So I left school and I stayed there for four and a half years. I was actually head chef there by the time I was 18, believe it or not.

Charlie: Wow. That’s amazing.

Matt: Yeah, look it. You know, but it was back is different back in those days Charlie where, you know, I saw my apprenticeship as my education basically. So, you know, I went from school to working six days a week. We were working anywhere between 80, 90 hours a week. So if you put that in time, you know, I did two apprenticeships really in four years, which, you know, obviously gave me the knowledge to learn how to cook. And, you know, it was very French and very classic. And now learned or the, you know, French techniques have been strangely enough, at college. I actually pretty much topped college all the way through because one: I was working in a very good restaurant.

And we learned everything, you know, the proper way. And then I have to be honest, you know, I reckon it was in the first week of starting LaBelle, I went home and I said to my father, my father used to come pick me up every night at midnight because I couldn’t get home. Yeah. And he said to me, is this what you really want to do? And I said, Dad, you don’t get it. And you know, I’m a little bit obsessive compulsive and I just absolutely become addicted to it. And I fell in love. It’s been, you know, one of my greatest love affairs in life.

But I never really envisaged owning restaurants because chefs didn’t own restaurants back in those days. They were restaurateurs. And I think, you know, I’m pretty ambitious and it just it just sort of, it changed as it went along. And, you know, I never thought I’d ever be in this position. But, you know, at the same time, I opened my first restaurant when I was only 22, so that’s amazing. Yeah, something had to progress. And I’ll tell you what, there’s not a day that goes by that I’m so grateful that I chose what I did because I still- my position’s changed a hell of a lot, you know? I have seven or 800 staff these days and-

Charlie: Wow

Matt: But you know, at the same time I love every minute of it and I love being part of it and I love building things. And, you know, I keep thinking that I’m going to slow down, but, you know, I keep buying more stuff and doing stuff.

Yeah, look, I’m very grateful and I love it.

Charlie: Yeah. And what amazing support from your dad to come and pick you up every night at midnight and travel an hour and a half back home. That’s… That’s incredible.

Matt: Yeah, like an hour and a half by train, I used to get there and look, it was probably not quite an hour, it’s probably about an hour to get home. Yeah, and he did that for a long time. I think he was more… My brother was a little bit more academic. He’s a year older and I was a little bit of a bad boy and, you know, played more sport. And I think he was more worried, if I quit, then I couldn’t go back to school and I’d have nothing. But he didn’t quite understand… Well he does now, obviously. But, you know, yeah, I’m very grateful for what he… What he’d done in those early years.

Charlie: And you mentioned you started out on a farm. Is that where your love of food and growing vegetables and things like that comes from?

Matt: Yeah, look, you know. That’s a really great point coming from you, you know, being the ultimate gardener. Look, I, I had a great upbringing, you know, in my early years until I was about eight. And then Dad bought a little farm when I was in my teens, and I used to go down there on weekends. I don’t have one of those beautiful stories about the romance of, you know, produce and farms and veggie gardens and then, you know, into the restaurants. It was the other way around. You know, there was the farming background when I was young and the older I got, the more passionate I got about farmers, mainly because I know how hard farmers did it. And I, you know, I know how hard my parents did it. And I know my parents had a dairy farm that they never had a day off for five years. And, you know, drought, floods. And I was lucky enough to get involved in the family farm, which is a new one, actually. We bought it 21 years ago. My dad, his brother and myself, my father since retired enough, bought them all out. So it’s now its Moran and family farm, but it’s actually my farm. And, you know, I think, you know, by seeing farmers and loving what they do and you know, let’s face it, if it wasn’t for farmers, I wouldn’t be the chef that I am.

Because if we didn’t have this incredible produce, you know, we wouldn’t be able to, you know, have this incredible food. So it’s sort of like the chicken or the egg and it really sort of brought me back into farming a lot more. And I love it more and more. And I, you know, grow veggies. I actually have an ambition to set up a market farm on the farm. And, you know, we obviously farm sheep, cattle and I’ve got pigs too, which I love. But, you know, I want to… I bought a pub next to the farm about 10 minutes away.

And the strategy behind that was to obviously bring a town back to life a little bit and put a bakery and a general store and a pub and beautiful accommodation and things like that. But also for the guys that work at the pub to actually work at the farm and vice versa. So they actually sort of, you know, they start to work together. You know, I’m growing stuff only for myself, but, you know, I’m not there all the time. So I get to just go out there and raid it every now and then. Yeah, which is great. And you know, it’s important, I think, for chefs to actually see where stuff comes from.

Charlie: And how hard it is to grow it as well. And it takes a long time to grow a cauliflower and a broccoli and. Yeah. And to ruin it. It’s just devastating.

Matt: Funny you say that because I’ve got a heap of brassica because we’re cold country. And nothing else will grow in Winter because we have a bit of frost and snow. So I planted brassica at my restaurant at Chiswick, which I’ve got a little market garden out the back. And, and I’ve planted brassica in the farm and it’s just amazing how far the farm is behind, because the weather obviously is very different up there. But, you know, cauliflower, brussel sprouts, cabbages, I’ve got all that growing at the moment, which I can’t wait.

Charlie: What’s your favourite thing to grow?

Matt: Oh, look, anything that I can eat! You know, look, I’m, you know, I’m that sort of person. I’ve got a veggie farm at home, too. I live on the on the coast in Sydney, but I’ve got a little veggie garden that I’ve sort of claimed as my own and it’s the same gardener that actually helps me there, that does Chiswick, Peter Hadfield. He’s, he’s just brilliant and I love him.

And you know, during those sort of Spring/Summer months, I’m growing all those things that you use a lot of, you know, things like, you know, cucumbers and zucchinis and, you know, cherry tomatoes and normal tomatoes and things that sort of grow that you can use all the time. There’s nothing better for me to actually, you know, go and buy a piece of protein from the butcher shop and not knowing what I’m going to get, going and see what’s fantastic and then come home and just go down to the garden, and raid whatever I can. You know, there’s something about, and I know I’m talking to the wrong person, but I know that, you know, when you grow something and you know the story behind it and the way you’ve nurtured it and the way you’ve looked after it.

And yeah, and whether you’re a farmer too, and you’ve bred something and you hear that story from whoever you’re getting it off or you do it yourself and you can relay that story. I don’t care what anyone says. If you know the romance and something about where the produce comes from and you can tell a story, it just tastes bloody a lot better.

Charlie: It sure does. You know, it’s funny when you grow your own food and you obviously do it on an enormous scale. But for the home gardener, when you’re growing your own food, you’re not going to really become sustainable. So you do fall in love with what you’re growing and you make you know, you really make sure you cook it well and cook it properly. And you have to make a celebration of it when you’re cooking it and have family around and truly enjoy it.

Matt: But also you’ve got to use it. You know, that’s the great thing. And what I love about being a chef and restaurateur is about seasonality. And, you know, gone are the days, Charlie that my restaurants, you know, used asparagus, when it’s in season and then we start buying it from Peru and Mexico. You know, that’s not a…that’s a no go zone these days. You know, I love the idea of using produce that’s in season. And when it’s gone, you know, you look forward to getting it back again. And, you know, whatever you’re growing in the garden and whether you like it or not, you know, you’ve got to use it. And to me, that’s all about sustainability and that’s all about, you know, and doing the right thing.

Charlie: Do you ever have any time where a crop finishes earlier than you’d like and you’d have to quickly change the menu?

Matt: Yeah, look, that does happen all the time, you know, or you know, in my case, I have things that, you know, I might be away, I might be shooting, I might be traveling or whatever else, and I’ve just got too much of it. And I suppose that’s when the chef thing kicks in. And, you know, if I’ve got too many, you know, cucumbers, I’ll pickle them. If I’ve got too many tomatoes, I’ll make a tomato relish or, you know, kumquats, you know, I get kumquats because, it’s a good story, actually. I’ve got a kumquat tree and I always pick it every year and I get so many kumquats but I don’t get enough to make a heap of marmalade.

And there’s a lady next door across the road from me, and I live on the coast, so, you know, you get that beautiful salt spray and everything, and she’s got these organic oranges. And I remember saying to my gardener one day, I need some bloody oranges. I’ve got to go get. And he goes hey, over the road’s got oranges. You know, if it’s over the fence, it’s yours. And I went oh, I can’t do that! So I actually walked over. I know her, and I walked over and I knocked on the door and she goes Oh Matt, what can I do? And I said, hey, look, I’ve just noticed you’ve got all these oranges.
How about I do you a deal? I said, if you can give me two kilos of your beautiful oranges, I’ll give you a jar of marmalade. But I’m not stupid. Of course I will! So just a little bit of contra there too, which is great.

Charlie: Yeah, that works. Well, I’m at the moment, I’m madly juicing lemons because we have a lemon tree that just has got so much fruit on it and it goes off before you can use it. So I’m juicing them, putting them in the in ice cube trays and into polythene bags.

Matt: So what you can do and, you know, this time of year that you sort of do it is you can make preserved lemon. Preserved lemons is one of the easiest things to do, you just need big airtight containers. And you cut the orange into… You don’t cut it all the way into quarters, but you just leave a part of the navel at the end. And what you do is then you sprinkle salt in it everywhere, heaps of it, and then you put it into the jars and you just keep squashing more and more lemons into it. And all the lemon juice comes out, mixes with the salt and, you know, and then you just you can put a bay leaf in there, a bit of herbs and if you want and it just preserves the lemon. So you’ve got all that juice that you’re actually not wasting, but you’re actually not wasting the skin either. And you end up making beautiful Moroccan curry with preserved lemon.

Charlie: Nice. Yeah, I’m going to do that because I’ve got bags and bags of them at the moment. Absolutely. So you mentioned you’ve got a gardener and obviously you would do having growing so much produce, and so much property, do you get your hands dirty as well?

Matt: Yeah. So in Sydney Pete Hatfield does the Art Gallery in New South Wales for me and also Chiswick also at Woollahra. And then he does my house in Gordons Bay, which, you know, he looks after that. And, you know, I sit together a little bit, but when it comes to farm, it’s too far for him to go. So the farm is actually… Is me. So I do get my hands dirty. I’m not much of a gardener, but I’m getting better, Charlie! I’m getting better, you know? And I think that’s with anything that you’re actually quite passionate about and you love it. You know, I obviously know what’s in season.

I know what I should be planting, and I want it to be as organic as I possibly can. Well, yes, pretty much is. And, you know, I’ve got sprinkler systems set up and all that sort of stuff. So I’m actually enjoying it a lot more. It’s just getting the time when I’m up there because I’m, you know, either at the pub or, you know, I’m marking lambs tomorrow.

Charlie: Right!

Matt: So and we’ve got a bit of a competition on how many lambs we’ve got. This is our second year for these ewes. So they’re going to produce more lambs. And, and I think it’s only 200 ewes in that mob that we’re doing. We’re all having a guessing game. And everyone keeps saying to me, Well, what are we going to win if we if we get the number right? And I go, well, it won’t be a leg of lamb.

Charlie: So does… Does the menu come first or does it growing vegetables come first? So do you… Do you think of a menu and then plan for it? Or do you just say, this is what we’ve got, let’s make this?

Matt: Yeah, look, it’s interesting because I obviously have Head Chefs in all my venues and then I have Laura, who’s been with me for 15 years. She sits in between me and the Head Chefs. As you know, I’ve got a direct relationship with them too. So we always try and change the menu seasonally, so four times a year. And we always take in consideration that some things may not last that whole period or, you know, something might be damaged or whatever else. So we can always just change it quickly, but we’re always sort of planning ahead. And same with the market garden in Chiswick, we’re always planting, whatever we’re growing in there has to be on the menu.

Broad beans are about just about to come on, so they’ve got to be on the menu. Obviously it doesn’t supply the restaurant fully because the restaurant’s too big. Yes. It just gives an indication of Taylor, who’s the Head Chef there that he has to abide by what’s in season. That’s what he’s got to use. You know, when it comes to protein, obviously we choose different proteins to obviously mix it up. But the menu is really determined by what is in season and what vegetables and herbs and things are around.

Charlie: So what would your top three vegetables be like? What do you really get excited for? Like knowing that coming up, do you know what you’re going to be bringing to the restaurants?

Matt: Look, I. I only did it the other day, actually. I was at the farm and I had a beautiful cauliflower and I hated cauliflower as a kid because it just used to be boiled. And it was boiled within a millimetre of its life, until it was mushy and horrible. And sometimes you put a Mornay sauce on it. Whereas to me, cauliflower is one of the most diverse vegetables you can use. You can cut it in steaks, even roast it. I bake it whole in a casserole dish with a little bit of, a little bit of olive oil and seasoning.

And then I let it, ah, I then take the lid off and let it get a bit brown and under the grill. And then I’ll put some anchovies, some capers and lots of burnt butter and let it brown and baste it and that, and then squeeze of lemon juice. So you’ve got this beautiful sort of, you know, acidic, you know, dressing with the nuttiness of the burnt butter melted, and lots of parsley at the end. It’s one of my favourite things to do. So cauliflower is probably it.
But I also I love cabbage and cabbage is obviously in season now, and you know, I love you know, making coleslaws and things like that.
If I’m going to do like a Boston butter pork, which is the shoulder of the pork and slow roasted—when my son’s mates come around they all love that sort of thing, anything sort of, massive cuts they love because they’re growing boys. Yes but I don’t mind actually getting a little bit of like a Savoy cabbage and cutting it into wedges and a little bit of hot oil in a pan.

Olive oil, good olive oil and roasted. And do something similar that you could do with the cauliflower or not. You know, you can put like a gremolata, which is a parsley, lemon juice and garlic over the top of it. So you’ve got the fattiness of the oil and the cooking of the cabbage and let the cabbage brown on it. So I move it in the pan while I’m roasting it. So you get this beautiful brown crunchiness on it and then a bit of gremolata over the top. So you get that acid with the fattiness of the cabbage and the oil. Yeah. And it just balances it out really well.

So I’d have to say I’d have to say, now let me think of something that’s not in season for the other time…

Charlie: Yeah, it’s funny you say that about cabbage. I’ve started barbecuing. Yeah, and it works really well, you know, like a mustard sauce on there and some lemon juice. Lovely.

Matt: Yeah, 100% cabbage is so versatile, too. And brassica always, you know, brussel sprouts. I hated them as kids because they were boiled, you know, my Nan, God bless her. You know, she died in 2012 at 99. And she was a very country cook. And I used to go up there and she could cook a leg of lamb on a Sunday. And, you know, the leg lamb used to be so overcooked and I could never say anything because she didn’t care anyway. You know who she was cooking for. And I was a chef back then. But I reckon if the leg of lamb went on 5 hours before we were meant to eat it on a Sunday lunch, I reckon the brussel sprouts went on Thursday!

They were just smelly. And grey, and horrible and I hated them.

But you know, I love brussel sprouts and I just roast them in some oil with some raisins and capers and, you know, some even if it’s just a French classic dressing something to get some acid in there and not overcook them, but also love brussel sprouts, just chiffonade like cut really finely like you would with the cabbage and grated regianno or parmesan all the way through it. And then, you know, some parsley and just like an apple cider vinegar and really good olive oil. Yeah, and maybe some peas.

But, you know, to me, it’s like a, you know, brussel sprouts slaw. I love that because I find the flavour quite intense in the brussel sprouts. Yeah, they’re quite versatile. I’ve just given you three veggies, but, you know, I’ve got to say that. No, I love things like zucchinis in Summer because you can do so much with them every day. You know, the zucchinis as, you know, grow like bloody, you know, anything and you know, salads, you can pickle em, and you know, they’re quite versatile, when you actually got a good cucumber, not too skinny… Did I say cucumber or zucchini? You don’t really pickle them, but no cucumber, I meant to say! Yeah, so cucumbers! Because you use them in salads, you can pickle them, they’re very versatile. And you know how quick they bloody grow.

Charlie: Yeah, very quickly.

Matt: Overnight, you know, grown three inches. It’s just insane. I’ve got to put a like a slow film on one of those and watch it grow. Like a-

Charlie: time lapse. Yeah, yeah, absolutely. Yeah. So do you plant any particular varieties? Because I mean, you know, when you go to the shops, it’s just a variety that is made for long lasting, you know.

Matt: Yeah. And Lebanese. Yeah, I do. And you know, I particularly do with things like tomatoes. Yeah. You know, we’ve got these little blushed cherry tomatoes that we grow at Chiswick every year and we get like 150 kilos over, over the course of their lifespan. Yeah. You know, and it’s not a massive patch but you know, we, we get these massive bowls, people come and we pickle them and we pick them and we just use them in the salads. And I like things that, you know, you don’t have to wait forever and you can use them and then they sort of replenish themselves.

So you’ve always got them for those couple of months.

Charlie: Mm hmm. Absolutely. How do you get the best sort of flavour out of home grown food? You know, we always say it tastes better at home. How do you maximise that flavour? I guess.

Matt: You know, try not to do too much to it. You know, that’s the simple thing, simplicity is not a bad thing in my world. Like I said, you know, cabbage just roasted, cauliflower just roasted whole, you know, try and keep it as a whole piece. Like, you know, I understand things like an eggplant that you might roast it and cut it out and make a babaganoush, or you might sort of take the middle out and put it into a curry or something like that. But, you know, to me, there’s nothing better than an eggplant that’s cut in half with a miso, Beautiful miso glaze.

So you can actually identify what it is. Yeah. And simplicity is a great thing. You know, if it’s, you know, even tomatoes like a, you know, great beefsteak tomato or a handloom and just roasted with a little bit of salt and olive oil. I mean, that’s just the best. You know, I try not to, try not to complicate things. You know, I love making a vegetable curry every now and then. I understand that, you know, it turns into something else. But, you know, if I’m going to be at home and I’ll be really honest, and I’m going to cook for four friends, I like the table to be, you know, full of vegetables and salads, which I love to do.

And then always cook a big piece of protein. And why I do a lot of salads, salads and normally warm salads or cold salads, is because I can do it all beforehand. So when people turn up, I’m actually not a slave in the kitchen. All I’ve got to do is cook the protein, and I like to see a table full of food, but I also like it to be seen. You can identify whatever it is. And you know, even things like, you know, slow roasted carrots, you know, for, you know, 4 hours. You know, another thing that I love to do is sweet potato.

And I don’t know if a lot of people know this or understand this, but sweet potato has got this incredible, you know, sweetness to it. And the longer you cook it – and what I tend to do is cook the whole sweet potato just on a tray, oil tray, kept whole. And I cook it at about 100 degrees, 110 degrees for hours and hours and hours. And the little points where the root systems come out, what happens, and I’ve got it on video, actually, and it’s absolutely amazing. And I had these beautiful sweet potatoes, cooked them for about 6 hours.

And it looks like honey is escaping the sweet potato because all those sugars, you know, start to sort of break down and they’re not caramelized, but they just start oozing out onto the tray. And what I tend to do is just then cut the sweet potato in down lengthwise and I push it out so you can see all the beautiful… And it changes colour because you can see the darkness in it. And I get that little bit of honey stuff that sort of oozed out and I just dribble over the top and then I put tzatkiki on top of it. So you got this beautiful sweetness of the sweet potato, but then you have this incredible acid of the yogurt and the, you know, cucumber and garlic, obviously.

And that just sort of gives it a beautiful balance. That’s something I do a lot. And people come in, they see it before I put the tzatkiki on it. And they say, oh, he’s just boiled a sweet potato. But when they eat it and I explain the syrup and the sugar that come out of it, they’re like, Oh my God. And they think that I’ve poured honey over it. They really do. And I sit there and, you know, and then show in the video and I know there’s no honey on it, but, you know, that’s one of the great things about vegetables.

Charlie: You’re obviously a chef who still cooks at home. You know, you imagine the real chefs go home and they just have a tin of beans. Is there any time that you just have a tin of beans when you just can’t be bothered to cook?

Matt: I wouldn’t have a tin of beans! Look, I love what I do. And, you know, I may not be cooking five nights a week. It’s a young man sport. But, you know, I’m heavily involved in the menus and I’m heavily involved because I own the restaurants. Yeah. And I love the chefs and, you know, I love talking to them about food and I’m very passionate about food. And, you know, if I couldn’t cook, you know, it would just it’d be the end of my life. I love cooking. And my great escape is whether I’m cooking at the farm or whether I’m cooking at home. You know, I still love that that that aspect of it.

And, you know, I’m very passionate about it. I’m so bloody grateful that I’ve got such a passion.

Charlie: How are you not an enormous fat chef then? If you’re cooking so much!

Matt: You know what? I’ve always, I’ve always said, I train to eat.

Charlie: Yeah, yeah.

Matt: And that’s just that’s just it. You know, you’ve you know, I don’t drink alcohol, you know, five days of the week. And never have for 30 years, unless I’m away somewhere. So if anyone ever sees me, you know, on holidays in Cairns on a Tuesday night, yes. I’m having a beer. Yes, I’m allowed to, but I religiously try not to drink, you know, in Sydney or when I’m working, you know, during the week and it’s just something that I’ve always done.

Charlie: Something I do as well actually.

Matt: Yeah, that’s crucial. And I’ve actually got a lot of injuries at the moment. I’ve ripped my bicep on my right arm doing a bit of boxing and stuff and I’ve just had cortisone injections, which is actually helped. And I went fishing with my good mate, Gordon Ramsay last month up in Iceland, and I fell on the boat and I’ve got a bursa on my elbow, so I’ve got a few injuries, but I feel a lot better now because I had a couple of cortisone injections and it feels I’ll be back into it. The last four weeks have been hard, so I’ve just been sitting on a bike and just sweating it out.

And it’s been bad, but yeah, look, I try to train as much as I possibly can.

Charlie: So you can eat as much as you can.

Matt: So I eat as much as I possibly can! It’s really important.

Charlie: So when you when you do get out in the garden, tell me a bit about that. So do you enjoy being out in the garden? Do it does help relax you because you’re obviously incredibly busy.

Matt: Mhm. Yeah. I have certain things in my life that, that do relax me and I have to say I drive through those front gates at the farm and you know, a different membrane comes out. There’s no question. You know for many, many years I told them that I didn’t have phone reception. So some people still think that. So yeah, you know, they still think I can’t take a phone call.

But yeah, I’m a different person. I’m much more relaxed and much more relaxed, whether it comes to farming or whatever I’m doing there. You know, I’m leaving this afternoon. So as I said, we’re marking lambs for the next couple of days. And, you know, and I’ll spend a bit of time in the garden. I’ve got one, one bed that I’ve got to whip out. So I’ve got eight beds there and they’re all raised and, and I’ve got one that I’ve got to rip out. It’s actually under a bay leaf and it doesn’t get enough sun I’ve just realised. Yeah. So I’ve got to sort of think of something. Charlie Yeah, come on. You’re a genius, you’re the guy. What should I put? It’s cold country, right? So we do get a little bit of frost.

With frost it’s probably still going to go for another month and it’s sort of, it gets a little bit of sun, but not very much, because the sun’s pretty low at the moment. So it’s a lot of shade. What can I put there that will be hearty and grow?

Charlie: Well, if you’re looking to eat something that’s really not that much, sadly, you need a lot of sun, so maybe consider using it for some companion planting. Some things that you might be able to use, say insertions, things like that. Oh, they like a bit more sun. They will cope in the shade. You can even do some native violets. You can eat the little flowers that pop up on those as well. So maybe do that and that will introduce some beneficial insects to the garden? And then, you know, if you’re not going to produce a lot from it, then maybe look at doing something else, would be my advice.

Matt: The one next to that doesn’t get a lot of shade and I hadn’t been there for two weeks and came back and the rocket went nuts. Yeah. And the. And the Red Vein Sorrel just went nuts. And I was like, wow, that’s only three feet from there. I had some topsoil and some other bits and pieces in that corner that didn’t really work. But, you know, rocket and I know rocket love, son, but the rocket just went nuts at the farm. I don’t know why.

Charlie: Probably the drop in temperature.

Matt: Yeah.

Charlie: So your tool shed must be pretty impressive. Have you got, do you have a lot of hand tools at your place, or are you a power tools kind of guy?

Matt: Yeah. Look. I’m a farmer also, so, you know, we have a machinery shed. You know, I’ve got lots of motorbikes, that’s my other passions and tractors. And the old shearing shed, which is probably built in 18, 1880, 1870, and we’ve converted that into a tool shed. So, yeah, I’ve got everything you need, you know, and obviously living in the country, we need firewood. So we use chainsaws and power tools and you know, vices and things like that. But yeah, it’s not a bad, it’s not a bad shed and I’ve got a big shearing shed next to it that that’s obviously much more modern these days because yeah, you know, shearers, shearers, weren’t really thought of much, even though my ancestors were shearers, they weren’t thought of a lot and you know, you’ve got all the heights and things like that, are really important. Yeah, it’s a bit easier on them.

Charlie: Yeah, it sounds like you’ve got the ultimate place up there. It’s like my dream. Big shed, big veggie patch!

Matt: I love it, I love it. And I’ve got beautiful animals and, you know, they’re just, you know, gorgeous. There’s nothing better. But it’s very wet at the moment. We’ve never seen a season like this. And it’s very hard to get around in a 4WD, we’re going to use a little Polaris that I scoot around in because.

Charlie: It’s that wet.

Matt: Look, we put a post in for a fence the other day, or Brendan did, my manager who I love, he just put in a post about four feet into the ground and he said it just slid down because it’s so wet. Yeah. So the actual, the water table is just unbelievable. I’ve never seen anything like it ever. You know, we’ve had more than double the rainfall, our average rainfall this year already. And last year it started raining after the drought in in February 20 and it hasn’t stopped since.

Charlie: How has that affected the veggies you grow for your restaurants? I mean, that must make it very difficult.

Matt: Yeah, it does. And this is another thing. You know, I’m part of a foundation called Thankful for Farmers, which I sort of helped start, which is, you know, looking after farmers in many different ways. You know, people think oh, the droughts broken and, you know, its fine. But, you know, you only have to look at our food bowl in Sydney, which is, you know, the Nepean Hawkesbury River and, you know, Windsor and all those market gardens and you know, they’ve been wiped out so many times. You know, as everyone knows, you know, you’re paying $10 for an iceberg lettuce.

That’s not because someone’s gouging. That’s because it’s just not there. Yeah.

And you know, you head up the coast and a lot of our stuff is grown on the coast. You only have to fly up there to see how much of our veggies and stuff are grown up, you know, Ballina and Lismore and places like that, you know, they’ve been unbelievably affected. So it’s not just drought, it’s, you know, heavy rain can, can kill a crop, floods can kill a crop. You know, mice can kill, kill crops. It’s just yeah, the farmers just do it so tough. And, you know, we’ve really got to look out for them and appreciate them as much as we can and growers, veggie growers. All of it. Yeah.

Charlie: Yeah.

Matt: It’s really important.

Charlie: Do use the animal manure from your farm on your veggie patch?

Matt: Yeah, that’s a good question.

Charlie: You got a lot of it, I would assume.

Matt: I do have a little bit and you know, we have sheep under the shearing shed, we have pigs. I don’t really… I don’t you know, it’s been harder for the pigs because yeah, the pigs are a bit friendly and they try to knock you over and, and I can just see myself bending over, getting some pig poo and one of them’s bloody ranting just for the laughs I reckon, and cattle so yes, of course. So what I’m actually finding I’ve got a great, some great mates that live in Rockley where the pub is,

Jude and John and John’s a horticulturalist so he comes out quite often with his bags and he gets under the shearing shed and fills these bags up with manure. And of course, you know, I use a little bit in the garden and compost and things like that and, you know, obviously see massive results too. But, you know, I grew up on a dairy farm and, you know, when I was very young from the age of age of five, I think to the age of eight, I think it was, nine and there was Batteries Creek and Batteries Creek if you if you know anything about where the airport’s going but, many, many years ago, it was all market gardens. And a lot of Maltese and a lot of Italians. And I remember vividly, obviously, dairy farms, you know, cattle in pens, you know, when you’re milking, they put everybody’s manure everywhere. Yeah. And this guy, I can’t remember his name. I think he’s Maltese. And my dad’s name is Jim. And he’d come over in the afternoon, and I’d hear him yell out to dad, “Hey, Jimmy! Got any manure?”

“Hey, Jimmy! Got any manure?” And Dad was, of course, because he was a tomato grower.

Charlie: Yeah.

Matt: So he would get all…All the manure from the dairy farm and go in and go and use it for, you know, his tomatoes. But strangely enough, I never remember him coming over with tomatoes. So I don’t know whether he’d still be around. Buddy, you. I owe me some tomatoes for all those years.

Charlie: Yeah. So do you have a favourite thing to grow? I know you have lots of things that you like to eat, but is there something you really enjoy growing?

Matt: Oh, look, I think things that are a little bit unusual, like, you know, not a lot of people know how to grow or how brussel sprouts grow. Yeah. And to look at a brussel sprout plant, it’s pretty bloody impressive. You know, I love cherry tomatoes and growing them in, you know, really high lattice. And so they’re really easy to pick. Broad beans. I love things that I can just walk out and pick. And because they’re all at different stages, you know, tomato, and some broad bean, ones will be ready to be picked one won’t be. And I love walking out in the garden at and actually just, I get into trouble all the time because I pick things off in the garden. I just eat it. Yeah. I can’t help myself. It gets, I don’t know. It just is something about, you know, looking at something growing and picking, you know, for yourself and eating, you know, you just get excited.

Charlie: Do you? I mean, we’ve spoken a lot about vegetables. Are you a big herb grower as well?

Matt: Yeah. Look, you know, all the hard herbs I grow all the time. You know, they’re there all the time, like sage and rosemary, parsley, because I use so much parsley all the time. You know, I don’t really grow a lot of coriander and dill, you know the soft herbs? Not as much. I think you’ve got to, you know, you’ve got to put a bit more time and effort into those, don’t you?

Charlie: I don’t know, I hate coriander. Makes me feel sick, to be honest. It’s really sad. I don’t really grow them. I just can’t stand the taste.

Matt: Ah, that’s because you come from the northern hemisphere. Coriander. Cilantro, I think cilantro.

Charlie: Yeah. But if you a lot of people find that it goes to seed really quickly, so you just need to constantly sow seed.

Matt: No, see, the great thing about coriander is that when it goes to seed, you actually pick the seeds entirely. Taylor does this all the time. He picks up the coriander seeds and then he pickles them. Right. And then he uses them on the off season. Because you still get the same flavour in the seed as what you do in the plant. So he pickles them. So you get these beautiful pickled coriander seeds and he uses them. He gets jars and jars. And look, don’t get me wrong, it’s a bloody hard job and it’s time consuming. But, you know, to me that that’s if you can’t keep up with your coriander and then you pick your seeds, you know, you can use it any time of the year.

Charlie: Well, if it tastes the same, it sounds disgusting.

Matt: Mate how can you have a curry without coriander!

Charlie: Look, I don’t mind it and thinks it’s just the smell of the leaf, I guess,

Matt: You’d be surprised Charlie how many people actually say that they’re allergic to it and they just say that so they don’t get it. And then they obviously, you know, look, maybe there are one or two people that most people I don’t think are allergic to coriander and nothing else. They just don’t want the flavour.

Charlie: Is there anything you don’t like to grow or eat?

Matt: No, I’ll. I’ll have a crack at anything. Yeah. You know what? Maybe because it’s the, you know, my past, the Parramatta RSL, I’m not particularly keen on raw red capsicum.

Charlie: Right.

Matt: I’ll eat it. I’ll eat it. But you know, you used to throw it on everything, you know, salads and steaks and whatever you could and, and I could never really understand it. I don’t mind it in a ratatouille and cooked, but raw red capsicum as a garnish, man, you’d be fired if you did it.

Charlie: And I guess I’ll ask you a final question. If someone is looking to getting into becoming a chef, what advice would you have them and would you point them in a sort of start growing your own food kind of direction?

Matt: Yeah, look, I say this all the time, and obviously I’ve met a lot of young kids that want to be chefs and, you know, as a mentor or whatever it is. And, you know, there’s no such thing as getting there, you know, becoming successful and rich, you know, as you see on, you know, the TV shows and whatever else. And you see these celebrity chefs and what it is, is a hard slog and time is knowledge. So you’ve got to put a lot of time in it to actually learn it.

You can’t learn how to cook and learn everything about it in 1, 2, 5, ten years, you know, I’ve been doing it now for… God. You don’t want to know, Charlie, but over 35 years and still I’m the tip of the iceberg. I’m still learning. And that’s the great thing about my industry is that you’re always learning. Do it because you fall in love with it. It’s too hard to do it if you just want to make a buck, because you won’t. You know, all the successful chefs, are guys that have a… They’re a chef’s chef. They love it. They love what they do.

They’re very passionate about it, very passionate about produce and do it for that reason. Do it for the right reasons, not the wrong reasons.

Charlie: I would give the same advice to anyone who wants to get into landscaping as well. It’s a hard career. You’ve got to love it. Well, yeah, absolutely. And I know you’re incredibly busy, so I just want to say thank you so much for your time. I’m sure the listeners have loved this one.

Matt: My absolute pleasure and good to see you. Thanks, buddy.

Charlie: Yeah, nice to see you again. Yeah. It is now time for our community questions and we’ll start with Erica from Brisbane. She says hi Charlie. What a great podcast. Thank you, Erika. I’ve started growing my own lettuce and other veggies since the prices went through the roof and my lettuce has some bugs eating them. To be honest, they haven’t grown strongly. I planted them in new potting mix and have watered them well. Any tips on how I can grow bumper lettuce and save some money? Well, if you’ve got some bugs, there’s a few things you can do to treat those. First of all, you can pick them off by hand. That works really well. You can also grow some companion planting around them, things like marigolds. So they’ll actually attract the bugs to them instead of your lettuce. And then you can rip those out when they’re finished and the bugs have gone elsewhere. If you have a huge infestation, you can make a mix of olive oil, water and a couple of drops of detergent, and that will knock out a strong infestation of bugs. With lettuce, they need quite a lot of sun and you need the soil to be quite, quite full of organic matter. So potting mix probably isn’t the right choice for you.

You can get some potting mix, maybe mix a bit of cow manure through it, and that should do the trick.

Virginia has sent through a question saying, hi, Charlie, I’ve just discovered your podcast and I’ve binge listened to them all. I hope you work out Maggie’s burnt fig ice cream recipe. Well, I haven’t done that, that’s for sure. But I am certainly still buying it from the shop. I’ve looked at several YouTube videos on citrus pruning and they do a harsh prune and the regrowth is prolific. Should I be doing this? Well, that’s a great question. If your citrus is no longer producing as many fruit as it has done, a really harsh prune will promote lots of growth.
You may not get fruit that year, but you’ll get a huge amount the following year. You can also do it if you’re thinking about digging the tree up and moving it to another location.

My final message is from James. Well, it’s actually from James, who’s a five year old. Well, thanks, James. Your typing is excellent. I’m assuming that perhaps your grandma has sent this through. Oh, yes. He says he likes gardening with his grandma and his grandpa, which is great, but he gets bindies in the grass. So bindies are a bit of an issue. There are specific herbicides that work just on bindies, but you want to get to these before they come to flower, because once they’ve gone to flower, they go to seed and the seed is the thing that gets stuck in your foot.

He’s also asking about avocados and they’ve got a hass avocado. And what is the best place to plant it in the garden? Well, with a hass, you’ll need two avocados. You need type A and type B, so the flowers will cross-pollinate and you’ll get fruit if there is another one in the neighbourhood that might do the trick. But imagine that this tree is going to get quite large, so you need to give it the space that it needs. Do you have a gardening question you’d like me to answer? Send an email to Charlie at Stihl dot AU.

Well, all this talk about food today has me drooling. Matt Moran was amazing. It’s great to hear his understanding and connection to local produce for the best flavours. If you want to grow veggies at home, particularly larger quantities, remember to plan your crops and how you’re going to use or preserve them. Don’t forget, there’s always going to be excess and you need to know what to do with it. When it comes to cooking. Just keep it simple. Fresh produce is the way to go, and you need to garden and cook because you love it. It’s as simple as that. I really enjoyed hearing Matt talk about his passion for cooking.

Thanks for listening to That’s How We Grow in partnership with Stihl Garden Power Tools. Need the tools to take on any garden challenge? Go to the Stihl website or head to your local Stihl dealer today. There are over 600 local dealers across Australia and you can find your local Stihl dealer on the website. On our next episode, I’ll chat with Lee Sullivan. She’s behind the very popular Instagram page, Urban Veggie Patch. Lee shares with her community great advice for growing vegetables at home and has a huge following. We’ll cover topics including what vegetables to get started with in the garden and how you can save money with your own produce.

As always, this episode will be around in two weeks’ time.