Meet The Locals - Wild Pepper Isle
Owners Chris and Corinne hand-forage native pepperberry and Kunzea from carefully selected and managed locations in the Tasmanian wilderness.
Their vision is to share Tasmanian bushfood with the rest of Australia and showcase the unique range of flavours and aromas that our native plants have to offer.
Learn more about Corinne, their business journey, where and how they forage, and her 'aha' moment when covid-19 struck in our interview below:
>> Wild Pepper Isle is featured in the Spring 2020 Discovery Box
What's your food philosophy?
Humans, by nature, are hunter gatherers. We have become so disconnected with our food through daily life, seeking convenience over sustainability, quality and health. Foraging is important because it helps us reconnect with our food, and land.
What was the inspiration behind starting Wild Pepper Isle?
I have always had a passion for wild food and foraging. Ever since I was a kid my dad would take me out gathering mushrooms, berries, fishing…
Prior to Wild Pepper Isle I was a Quality Assurance manager in various food production facilities. A well paying desk job but not quite my passion. It just made sense to take that knowledge and start my own business in something I loved.
Can you tell us a little more about the region you forage and produce in?
We forage throughout Tasmania. The kunzea we collect from the dry sandy soils of the East coast. The pepperberry we harvest from private land in high altitude, high rainfall regions such as the north & south west. We harvest from private land, mainly livestock agricultural land, and pay the landowner for what we harvest on their land. It helps the community realise the value in protecting their patches of bushland and the community then look after it.
As a small batch producer, what’s the most challenging part of your job?
The most challenging and the most rewarding aspects are so integrated! We have had to learn so much. In running a small business you really do have to be a jack of all trades and a multitasking ninja! My background is in the food industry. Chris is in agriculture and science. Neither of us had any idea how to run a business or manage finances. It still is a huge learning curve!
Also, when you’re small, everything is expensive. Everything is hand picked, hand made, hand labelled and very, very slow. However, people can tell that our products are premium, hand made and use the best quality ingredients. It’s because of these processes that so much care and quality goes into them.
And the most rewarding?
We love the pride of creating something that is completely ours. And we love the variety of the tasks we do. Neither of us are suited to a 9 - 5 office job. One day we could be camping out in the wilderness, the next day designing our own labels, or chatting to the public at the market, or in the kitchen coming up with new recipes, or just staying in bed until 1pm because... well, why not! I’m my own boss and can do what I want!
If we looked inside your fridge, what would we find?
Jars. Lots of jars. Preserves, pickles, chutneys, jams. The thing about the foraging lifestyle is that when you get a bountiful harvest, of say rosehips or crabapples, you have to store enough to last you until next season.
Plus we are always exploring and developing new recipes incorporating bushfood.
What do you love most about Spring and why?
The warming of the days, the excitement and freshness in the air. My chickens starting to lay eggs like mad again.
What is one thing you couldn’t work without?
Hate to say it, but being a business owner means I am glued to my phone.
That and my Blundstones.
If you weren’t a food producer, what would you be doing?
I also currently work part time as a Food Safety consultant and auditor. Although it is nowhere near as exciting as being a producer I can’t imagine not working in the food industry.
My other passion is my old heritage listed cottage previously owned by Tassie bush ranger Martin Cash. It is in dire need of some love and attention and if I had more time I would be spending my days DIY-ing and bringing that cottage back to its beautiful former glory.
Maybe open up a little cafe there?
How has covid-19 impacted you? Have you had any aha moments from this experience?
I always knew that we were reliant on tourists, but having the borders closed for this long has really hit home how much we had all of our eggs in one basket. We have had to adapt quickly and realise we have ignored so much potential in having an online store.
What advice would you give to someone who is considering launching their own food business?
It’s such a competitive industry. Make sure you have something unique and promote it well.
Also, it has to be in something you love. You will basically live, eat and breathe your business for years. If you don't love it then there is no point!
If you could have any celebrity/renowned chef cook you dinner, who would it be & why?
Pepperberry is fantastic in asian style cooking and I love Vietnamese food but can’t cook it well myself at all. So I would love to have someone like Luke Nguyen in my kitchen experimenting with pepperberry with me.
What would your ultimate last supper be?
I believe eating the food is just one part of the greater experience.
Summers day. Diving for abalone, cooked over a fire on the beach.
An antipasto platter of Tasmanian produce, including our quince paste or Bush jelly.
Tassie gin & tonic
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