Table for 2200, please - oh, and lots of local produce

Esther Han
Nature's bounty … Matt Moran and friends. Moran will lead a team of chefs to prepare food at the TEDxSydney event.
Nature's bounty … Matt Moran and friends. Moran will lead a team of chefs to prepare food at the TEDxSydney event. Photo: Marco Del Grande

THE salad bowls are rarely empty at Matt Moran's home in Clovelly. The cucumbers growing in his vegetable patch are spilling onto the pavement and the basil is growing like ''wildfire''.

The head chef at ARIA Restaurant never lets a cherry tomato, zucchini or sprig of herb go to waste in a bid to treat food in a sustainable way.

''It's so satisfying to grow your own produce, nurture it, cook it and eat it,'' he said. ''This growing awareness about the quality of what we eat, where it comes from and helping the environment is not just a trend. It's becoming the full reality.''

And he wants everyone to take part.

Moran will lead a team of chefs to prepare fresh produce and sustainably raised livestock to feed 2200 people at the TEDxSydney event at the Opera House in May.

The catch: people attending the ''Ideas Worth Spreading'' conference are encouraged to bring yields from their own plot of soil or planter box.

Two Angus steers pledged by a TEDx organiser are grazing on the Barrington Tops to reach their ideal weight. Lambs are being fattened at Moran's family farm in Rocklea.

''The steer will be butchered and aged. We'll be making something incredible out of every part,'' Mr Moran said. ''The lambs will be on the spit.''

The TEDxSydney food curator, Jill Dupleix, said the crowd-farming exercise was developed on a smaller scale by the group Grow It Local supported by Waverley Council.


''The chefs are going to have to be creative,'' she said. ''It's an incredible food production exercise.'' For anyone concerned about having nothing to bring, she suggests learning how to forage or make jam.

All biodegradable waste will be processed on location, and the compost offered to guests.

Justine Williams, a mother of two, has pumpkin, parsley and spinach in her backyard in Drummoyne. She will be a small supplier for the event. ''With our home composting system it means we're throwing away 50 per cent less rubbish,'' she said.

Robyn McConchie, a professor of horticulture at the University of Sydney, said concerns about environmental degradation and harmful chemicals were driving producers and families to understand what was on their plate.

''It's great for kids to know vegetables don't come from plastic bags, that milk comes from cows,'' she said.

Register your patch or garden at and follow the links to the TEDxSydney application page. The event will be held at the Sydney Opera House on May 4.