New Gourmet Providore Brings Rare Foods to Sydney

portrait

Josh Rea forages the world’s delicatessens for rarefied goods from caviar to truffles, choosing only the most exceptional for his Sydney providore.

Ironically, it was the popularity of a mass-produced vanilla-flavoured soft drink that kickstarted importer Josh Rea’s career in fine foods – a calling which now sees Rea stocking truffles, wild mushrooms and caviar from around the globe at his fledgling venture, Gourmet Life, in Sydney’s Rushcutters Bay.

Pasta at Gourmet Life Sydney“I had a sunglasses business which was plodding along nicely when a food importer friend asked me if I was interested in selling some vanilla beans, at a time when Coca-Cola had dried up the world’s supply. I ordered two kilos and discovered a demand from restaurants who were willing to pay more than I had,” says Rea. Saffron followed and, soon afterwards, Rea found himself selling wild French mushrooms, truffles and caviar to the restaurant trade from home.

Truffles at Gourmet Life SydneyRea opened his retail space six years later, after it became apparent that most retailers would not take on stock of the costly, high-risk delicacies. The white truffle, for example, grows only in the wild and can cost up to $15,000 for a kilo; the farmed European black truffle is about $2000 per kilo. Both varieties have a shelf life of about 10 days, but are best eaten within five. Australia’s strict quarantine laws make importation a labour-intensive process. “Last year was the first time I was able to bring in fresh porcini from Europe,” says Rea. “It’s a very delicate mushroom and the temperature control on the way over has to be spot on. The porcini are hand-cleaned before leaving Europe and usually twice again once they reach Australia. You have to be very passionate to have them flown in week in, week out, but when a chef puts it on the menu and expects them every Monday, the product has to be in premium condition to ensure it gets into the country.”

 at Gourmet Life Sydney

Rea also stocks caviar, which once came only from the roe of wild sturgeons from the Caspian and Black Seas; the listing of the wild variety as an endangered species has meant farmed varieties of the fish eggs have become popular, too. Rea’s preference is for Spanish Per Sé caviar. “The eggs are always consistent in size and colour and each tin is packed perfectly, with delicately textured eggs that have flavours of walnut and cream,” he says. Rea also stocks the world’s only sustainable caviar, Mottra of Latvia, which is gently ‘milked’ or massaged out of the sturgeon before the fish is returned to the water.

hazelnuts

Olive oils, pasta, coffee, spices and salts were hand-picked by Rea to complement the fresh produce on offer. He is interested in sourcing from small producers with interesting backgrounds: hazelnuts produced by a family in Italy are dried in the shell and only broken open for roasting after an order is made; mother and daughter then sit down to sort through the nuts by hand. A range of sauces and jams from Italian two-star Michelin chef Moreno Cedroni come bottled in handmade Venetian glass with flavours of pineapple and lime, 
or plum and ginger. “His aim was to capture what he was producing in his restaurant.”

fennel

Plans to provide local fruit and vegetables as well as an on-site cooking school will attract those who appreciate fine produce. Rea is on the constant hunt for new products. “It’s about stopping in at every small delicatessen to try the new products that have 
never made it outside of their home country.”

garlic

Gourmet Life, 60 New South Head Road, Rushcutters Bay NSW; 0409 219 280, waimeatrading.com.

Text: Conor Burke
All images copyright photographer Sharyn Cairns

This story was first published in Vogue Living April 2013, on news stands and on Zinio now.

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Comments
3 Responses to “New Gourmet Providore Brings Rare Foods to Sydney”
  1. Lenny says:

    Learning more and more sometimes you have to pay for the best and that it can truly be worth it. I hope other people are starting to realize that with their food! Wish Gourmet Life the best of luck and will certainly pop in if I’m ever in the area!

  2. Ingrid says:

    Really look forward to popping in to check out what sounds like an exceptional range of produce. Finally we can access boutique fine foods. Thank you! Will pass the word around.

  3. Ingrid says:

    Wow looks great unique brands fantastic

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