To celebrate the revival of this iconic work, West Australian Opera teamed up with prominent Perth restaurant, Wildflower, to present a gourmet dinner and intimate evening with associate director, Naomi Pigram, and legendary actor, Ernie Dingo, who starred in the original version.
Taking place on Monday, February 3, the evening featured a Q&A with Pigram and Dingo, as well as a specially curated menu by Wildflower’s head chef, Matthew Sartori.
“I grew up watching The Great Outdoors with Ernie Dingo and the Pigrams are a pretty massive name here in Western Australia,” the 30-year-old chef said.
“It was amazing to bring such important people together in one room and showcase what we’re doing.”
Wildflower is the perfect place to hold such an event, given its strong ties to the indigenous community and native Australian ingredients.
The fine-dining restaurant serves contemporary dishes revolving around the indigenous ethos of six seasons with farmer and forager-driven menus, while Sartori himself is renowned for cooking with flavours from the bush.
Birak, Bunuru, Djeran, Makuru, Djilba and Kambarang are the six seasons of the indigenous Noongar calendar.
“The Noongar people are from the land where the restaurant sits,” Sartori explained.
The Noongar people ebb and flow with the changes of Western Australia’s environment, letting nature guide them through each season.
With no start or end date to the seasons, the passing of each one is something that is felt.
“The seasons are very loose; they’re not determined by a day or date, but by the weather, the seasonal produce, the animals and the wildflowers,” Sartori added.
“We change our menu based on what’s available.”
But Wildflower’s menu isn’t just inspired by the local seasonal produce; it also draws on the six seasons metaphorically.
“For example, in the hot season we generally use more red meat and cook more with fire,” Sartori said.
The Kalgoorlie-born chef has a personal passion for foraged and native ingredients, having worked with Fervor native food guru, Paul “Yoda” Iskov, in the past.
His favourite native ingredient is the quandong, also known as the native peach, which is widespread where he hails from.
“It’s very special because it’s only in season for a very short time,” he said.
“I usually tie in a trip back home to see my family during quandong season and I like foraging for them.”
This unique fruit is just one of the many native ingredients Sartori showcased during last Monday’s event.
The quandongs he cooked with were foraged by his father and had been preserved to create a tasty canapé.
Rye tart with duck liver mousse, quandong and fennel featured on the menu. (Photo supplied)
Other produce served on the night included: blood lime and finger lime from a small native citrus farmer in Gingin, north of Perth; kingfish from Geraldton paired with Geraldton wax, which doesn’t grow anywhere else naturally other than the south-west; Warrigal greens, which is a type of spinach; pepperberry leaves; strawberry gum; and native thyme, grown on the restaurant’s terrace.
While Sartori enjoys experimenting with exotic ingredients in the kitchen at Wildflower, he tends to eat the total opposite at home.
“I like freshly made pasta with a simple sauce or tomato with burrata,” he said.
Sartori’s fuss-free, “more is less” attitude towards food reflects the essence of Italian cuisine and may have been inherited from his father’s side.
The chef’s great-grandfather migrated to Australia from Vicenza, in northern Italy, in the 1900s.
He settled in Nannup, a small town around 300 kilometres south of Perth, where Sartori’s grandfather was raised before relocating to Kalgoorlie to work in the mining industry.
Born and raised in Kalgoorlie, Sartori fell into his career as a chef and accidentally discovered his passion for food.
“I got into cooking to get out of school when I was 15 years old,” he explained.
“I needed a job and the options were basically a chef or a mechanic.
“It wasn’t until two or three years in that I developed a passion for food.”
Now Sartori is at the helm of one of Perth’s most progressive and prestigious restaurants, and even starred as a special guest on Masterchef last year.
It seems the stars aligned for Sartori without him even knowing it.
Some would argue the celebrated chef is living proof that you can’t fight fate.