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Greenhouse goes grassroots

JAMES DESSANT

Greenhouse Perth chef Matt Stone was not around to accept his latest accolade – Young Chef Of The Year – at the West Australian Good Food Guide awards for the second year running.

Instead, he was on a mission to Spain’s Basque region to see just how Mugaritz, which ranks fifth on the San Pellegrino World’s 50 Best Restaurant list, manages to source 85 percent of its food from within a 100 kilometre radius.

“That’s pretty impressive,” Stone said.

“They’re really passionate about the same sort of stuff we are, and are a bit further along with the same thought processes …  but just to see a restaurant like that with the same ideas and values was amazing.”

Stone, 25, and the Greenhouse team, are passionate about reducing the carbon footprint of their St Georges Terrace restaurant.

The eatery’s straw-bale insulation, roof-top garden, worm farm and water recycling systems attest to that.

Honesty and integrity in food also matters to the Margaret River-born chef, who at age 15 swapped school for dishwashing at a local kitchen.

“My food is really healthy – there’s not a lot of fats, butters, creams,” he says.

“I use lots of herbs and spices, so it’s fresh and tasty, but not mucked around with – it’s honest food.”

Stone did his apprenticeship at Leeuwin Estate and Star Anise, where he became sous chef aged 20.

He also helped establish Pata Negra but left “because I was unsure of what I wanted to do”.

He was close to moving east when Greenhouse co-owner Paul Aron offered him his current job.

Stone said he was initially daunted by the workload involved in managing 15 kitchen staff.

“[The restaurant] is open six days a week from 7am until 10.30pm for breakfast, lunch and dinner, so it’s pretty intense,” he says.

Add to this the additional workload of making “everything we possibly can” from scratch and there’s little time for his other passions which include surfing and hanging out with family and friends at Margaret River.

“But I love being here, working and creating,” he says.

Stone says the restaurant makes all breads, cakes, pastries, pasta, and muesli in-house, and also mills its own flour and oats.

“We also fillet all our own fish, bone our own meats, cure our own pancetta, and make all charcuterie in-house,” he adds.

Stone is now on a mission to foster the efforts of local growers.

“I think it’s really important to support local businesses, and not to use vegetables that have been in cold stores and gas ripened,” he says.

He says the restaurant will buy a van this summer to go direct to farmers.

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