We’ve been watching a lot of Jamie Oliver. Cooking in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, seeing 8 seconds of him here and there. Wall to wall Jamie.
That’s OK, he’s mostly a good egg. Putting his clout where it matters, with kids’ food at schools, working with the homeless, and just generally getting us all thinking about what we eat and cook.
About three years ago, Jamie was going to make a flying visit to Sydney. I had long harboured a desire to convince him to run a Fifteen restaurant at Redfern. It had come into my head on one of those long, balmy Redfern afternoons when I was in an obscure role in state government, ensconced in the unloved TNT buildings (which I loved). I did nothing with the idea at the time, and Jamie and Tobey Pittock put a Fifteen in Melbourne, global cool capital at the time.
If you don’t know the concept, here’s some background: Fifteen has always been about providing opportunities for troubled youths or those from disadvantaged families. Fifteen youths from across a city undergo training, work in the restaurant for a year, and hopefully move on to long and successful employment in the food industry. Then another 15 youths start the program…
I thought Fifteen at Redfern was an opportunity to do much more. What if half the intake each year was Koori kids from the Block, and the other half were from the Redfern-Waterloo housing commission towers?
What if the restaurant had a stream of cooking traditional native foods?
Then you’d have a project that helped address the systemic economic and social issues facing Sydney’s iconic indigenous population. But it would be a project that united all of greater Redfern, the west and the east side of the railway. It would place a major tourist attraction in the heart of the Redfern-Waterloo redevelopment, helping to make it a place, not just a redevelopment.
My dream was that the restaurant could be the catalyst for rejuvenating the old art deco classic Redfern House building opposite TNT tower. This is a glorious building, but also a highly visible site for passing traffic. It may not be suitable for a commercial restaurant, but a similar site, in downtown Redfern, shouldn’t be hard to find.
In March 2010, with Jamie already on his way to Sydney, I bashed a submission together and sent it through to the then Premier, who was also the local Member and Minister for Redfern-Waterloo. I heard nothing back. Then I tried to get it through Jamie’s elaborate online fortress. Again, nada!
Now I have a blog, and an undertaking to share with you some of my crazy ideas, either to get them off my chest and move on, or in the faint hope that someone sees a glimmer of merit and starts taking something forward.
Lots has changed in Sydney, NSW and especially Redfern. The woman who does a lot of cooking training with the local kids now runs the fancy new café in Victoria Park. The model would be different, but the basic idea the same.
I must stress that I have never consulted with the local Aboriginal community, and I think that would be an absolute priority if anyone wanted to do anything with this. Their land, their people, their culture, their food.
Thanks for taking the time to read this. It’s free. And without prejudice, it’s yours. Happy to hear any feedback….
Using the Fifteen model to bring economic opportunities to the under-privileged youths of Redfern and Waterloo.
- A branch of the globally recognised Fifteen chain in central Redfern
- Annual intake of 15 local youths aged 16-24 for training and employment – 8 from the Block and 7 from the housing estates
- Emphasis on using traditional native foods
- Potential to reflect the broader multicultural nature of Redfern
Fifteen is a globally recognised brand, the brainchild of chef, entrepreneur and activist, Jamie Oliver. But it is a charitable foundation, with a proven record of establishing and maintaining programs – Fifteen restaurants to train youths in culinary and life skills; healthy lunches for school kids etc.
It has major economic and social disadvantage.
It is the cultural centre of Sydney’s indigenous population.
It is undergoing significant gentrification and commercial redevelopment – there are fears this could exacerbate economic and social disadvantage. But an immediate home-grown clientele, of residents and office workers, is emerging.
It is highly accessible – all lines except the Airport line feed it; it is walking distance from the CBD; it is served by many bus routes; and cycling connections are strong.
Why a Koori focus?
It is (Ab)original – no Fifteen project has yet focussed on a specific group.
Empowerment towards economic development is crucial.
It would help break down barriers between indigenous and non-indigenous people. And link Redfern at its heart.
It would make the restaurant a national icon, not just another restaurant.
The food would be innovative – Redfern could become the heart of a new (very old) culinary trend (from a peak in the late 90s, it seems many “bush tucker” restaurants have vanished.)
International tourists would love it.
Key stakeholders/potential partners
|Stakeholder||Potential Contribution||Likely Requirement||Comment|
|Fifteen Foundation||Establish restaurant. Administer training and employment program.||Suitable premises. Possibly start-up or ongoing support – either direct, or for fundraising efforts. Planning approval with RWDA area.||Jamie Oliver in town in March. Would Tobey Puttock be interested (he established the Melbourne branch.)|
|Redfern Aboriginal community (e.g. Redfern Aboriginal Housing Company)||Support – for restaurant establishment, and for participation.||Consultation and project ownership likely to feature.||Could assist the Foundation with the governance of the program.
Consultation before any announcement advised.
|Redfern-Waterloo Development Authority||Site selection and development approval. Possible financial support (perhaps in-kind, or peppercorn rent?) Assistance with marketing.||Long-term commitment from Fifteen.||Has the mandate to transform Redfern, and the cachet to achieve objectives across a range of economic, social and cultural issues. Should easily be able to locate a suitable site in the heart of Redfern. Within the parameters of sound policy, should be able to expedite development approval.|
|Sydney City Council||Inclusion of the concept in its Sustainable Sydney 2030 Strategy – especially the Eora Journey cultural initiative.||Consultation. Consistency with RWDA objectives.||Council can assist with marketing the restaurant – e.g. signage along the Wilson St cycleway, support in its publicity materials etc.|
|Other Redfern cafes/
|Support during the program for placements. Possible employment of graduates.||Consultation. Recognition.||Could be expected to benefit from emergence of Redfern as an eat street/centre.|