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In conversation with Executive Chef – Asif Mamun

A sustainable, Victorian-first approach lies at the heart of the CENTREPIECE at Melbourne Park food philosophy, with the venue’s architectural design a homage to the native Australian landscape.

A sustainable, Victorian-first approach lies at the heart of the CENTREPIECE at Melbourne Park food philosophy, with the venue’s architectural design a homage to the native Australian landscape.

The food and beverage menu, curated by culinary leader and Executive Chef of Delaware North, Asif Mamun, will be highlighted by locally-sourced seasonal produce and a paddock-to-plate philosophy.   

We sat down with Asif to discuss his vision for food, CENTREPIECE and its guests.

What is your vision for food at CENTREPIECE? 

Our vision for CENTREPIECE plays on the strengths of its location. It is distinctively Melbourne, and the food is intrinsically linked to place – physically, culturally and emotionally. 

My vision is simple for CENTREPIECE, you can hear it in the venue’s name. The food is at the centre, at the heart of the experience. I speak and work from my heart and I’m aware, now more than ever, of how good food experiences can shape one’s physical and mental health.

Food brings people together. In Melbourne, this means that our food is in the centre of a culturally-diverse place and we reference this, not just through a careful assortment of cuisine, but also through our local produce. We offer clean, seasonal and fresh options for the health-conscious and also dishes to celebrate and bring people together.  

There are so many stories in food and we place this at the centre so that our guests can have a memorable experience. 

What is the CENTREPIECE food philosophy? 

We want people to know where they are when they are enjoying our food.

We want people to know they are in the centre of Melbourne, a place where people love good food. 

Melbourne is a melting pot of arts, cultures and cuisines and our philosophy is to capture this through our food. Our menu has been influenced by the city’s vibrant culinary scene and will feature local craft beers and acclaimed wines, Melbourne’s famed small-batch spirits and quintessential coffee.  

At the heart of CENTREPIECE is a focus on sustainability, driven by initiatives and ingredients, from its building to your plate.  

What does paddock-to-plate mean? 

It is a phrase we hear a bit in the food industry, but for me, it means thinking about the full lifecycle of every ingredient and how important this is with regard to quality.

Where it was planted, how it was grown and harvested and how we prepare and serve each element is so important.

My team are dedicated to thinking beyond the plate and how we think sustainably about everything in our kitchen. There is value in thinking carefully about Mother Nature. Knowing where our food comes from is an important part of this.

My preference has always been local because it is fresh and tastes the best. That makes such a difference to my work. Every step of the journey of food needs to be considered and should not be compromised, and ‘paddock to plate’ is a great metaphor for this ethos.  

Where did your inspiration for the CENTREPIECE menu come from?

Whenever I have the opportunity to write a new menu, my first thought is the people, our guests.

We are so blessed to have food lovers in Melbourne, people who want to explore the flavour and new tastes without hesitation, and also people who appreciate the quality of classics. This was an exciting prospect for me as I could embrace diversity. 

So in answer to your question, my inspiration is Melbourne and Modern Australia.

For us here in Melbourne, part of the charm of our beautiful city is how you can experience a collision of authentic cultural cuisines. For many of us who love to travel but have been in lockdown, this could never be more of an exciting concept.

At CENTREPIECE, we bring the destination to your plate as only Melbourne can do.

How have you designed the menus and crafted options to suit guests’ needs and expectations?

As an Executive Chef, I have learned to see the gaps. This is so important when considering needs and expectations.

My experience helps me to understand dietaries and I’m careful with how this is translated through the menus.

As we are working with a diverse range of cultural origins in our food, meeting a range of needs for our guests was quite a natural menu writing process. You can’t always please everyone when you have a narrow focus. 

CENTREPIECE has redefined the boundaries in that way, it was a pleasure to write, knowing we would meet so many gaps. 

Why is it so important to use local, seasonal ingredients? 

In season tastes the best!

When we are creating simple, fresh and memorable food, it needs to be seasonal. 

As our concept is about being at the centre of Melbourne, local food plays an important role in this. And local food is always seasonal. 

What do you think the biggest trends in food will be in 2022?

Talking from my heart, after the last 18 months of lockdowns in Melbourne, I do think that for 2022 we will be searching for travel experiences that are possible and within reach outside of our homes.

A good meal can really take you away to a place, it can be a ‘destination on a plate’.

I think this will be a strong trend in 2022 – capturing that sense of nostalgia from places that aren’t accessible.

For me, it would be the taste of Thailand. Whenever I make a dish inspired by my travels there, I’m immediately taken back.

What do you predict in the future of food technology over the next few years?

There are a few schools of thought with food technology.

We are hearing about 3D printers and artificial meats but for me, what I’m so excited about are the technologies that help us to be more sustainable. Because I know from experience, when food is healthy and fresh, the experience of food for customers and our skilled staff is so great.    I believe people will continue to be seeking technology to support local growth. Technology that helps people connect to their food. Technology can’t replace the joy and human aspect of locally grown food but it can definitely support it. 

There are amazing innovations that can take care of Mother Nature and finding out about these is always a great educational piece for my team. 

We are always thinking ahead in this way and have plans to continue implementing sustainable initiatives. We are starting to imagine our own rooftop garden, talking with urban beekeepers and of course we are always improving our technology in the kitchen to ensure we are the most sustainable we can be.

There is some amazing technology coming out to support that full lifecycle mentality and we are excited to be a part of this at CENTREPIECE.