After a five year journey running one of the Yarra Valley's most exciting and sustainable restaurants at Oakridge Winery, chefs Jo Barrett and Matt Stone are moving on to focus on Joost Bakker's Greenhouse Future Food Systems project in Fed Square.
In a joint statement the chefs said: "Greenhouse has been a dream of ours for many years and we are thrilled to see it finally becoming a reality. The project has evolved quickly over the past few months and we have realised that it will require significant input of time and energy."
Oakridge will be left in capable hands. Head chef Aaron Brodie is being promoted to executive chef and has been part of the team for four years. He has often helmed the restaurant for long periods while Stone and Barrett were working on other projects.
Oakridge CEO Matt Taylor says that they plan to "go for it" as soon as diners can return to the winery restaurant, however the Yarra Valley is considered part of metropolitan Melbourne and remains under stage four restrictions. Any changes will mostly be down to operating guidelines rather than a changing of the guard.
"We have plenty of outdoor decking and the restaurant can be easily divided," says Taylor. "But we can't hold money for a full restaurant experience, and then have inclement weather on the day." The restaurant will likely return with a full set menu experience inside, and offer "very flexible dining outside", on a no-bookings basis.
The kitchen garden, which largely fuels the no-waste menu, is in good shape for the eventual return. Taylor says that, unsure of when they would reopen, they kept the patch going and have been inviting staff and friends to come and harvest to their needs each week. Oakridge has also kept 23 staff on Jobkeeper, and had them working in the vineyards so "the property is a picture".
Oakridge owners Tony D'Aloisio and Ilana Atlas said, "We have every confidence in Aaron and the depth of talent of our kitchen and restaurant teams to continue to provide first rate food offerings not only for the restaurant but for functions and family events, and to complement tastings at our cellar door."
Oakridge Winery will reopen after stage four restrictions lift. 864 Maroondah Highway, Coldstream, 03 9738 9900, oakridgewines.com.au.