12 Apr 2020

Al Brown: urban foraging for feijoas amid Covid-19 lockdown

From Sunday Morning, 11:51 am on 12 April 2020

New Zealand's lockdown will have silver linings, but it's unclear how our hospitality industry will look in the future, says chef Al Brown.

It was "quite strange" having every second table empty at his Auckland restaurant Depot when level 3 restrictions were briefly in place, he tells Jim Mora.

Al Brown by Josh Griggs

Al Brown by Josh Griggs Photo: supplied

"You lost so much of the vibe of what a restaurant is. You think it's just a place to eat and drink but it's a haven for sociability and hospitality and noise and raucousness... so when you have a room that is only half full it really negates a lot of that feeling of why we like going out."

Brown knows a lot of people are having a tough time, but he's enjoying a bit of break with time to cook comfort food and do lots of reading and walking.

Most days he and his wife Liz walk their dogs around the streets of suburban Auckland, taking a bag and keeping an eye out for feijoa trees wherever they go.

Fruit hanging over a fence is in a very grey area, he says, and they work on the principle that anything over the sidewalk is fair game.

If you're into foraging for feijoas, he recommends going out first thing in the morning after a windy night.

You can then turn your haul into a "delicious and very, very humble" feijoa and almond cake.

Recipe: Al Brown's Feijoa & Almond Cake

He also shared his recipe for a breakfast of smoked kahawai mish-mash.

When the lockdown lifts, Brown predicts New Zealanders will be more aware of creating balance in their lives.

"I think we're gonna recalibrate about what's important to us and how lucky we are to live in this country. I've always said and believed if you're a New Zealander you've won lotto ... We're gonna really need to support the tourist industry and all the small businesses and we'll do that as a country, I'm sure of that. There'll be some silver linings, I'm sure."


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