31/05/2005 - 22:00

Passion part of the Panache product

31/05/2005 - 22:00


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Nobody takes the idea of fiercely parochial food and wine tourism as seriously as, or treats it with more panache than, Jo and Edwin Grist.

Passion part of the Panache product

Nobody takes the idea of fiercely parochial food and wine tourism as seriously as, or treats it with more panache than, Jo and Edwin Grist.

The owners/proprietors of gourmet Subiaco food and wine specialist Panache have built a reputation for bridging the gap between premium Western Australian produce and increasingly food-savvy consumers.

Since opening the doors in November 2002, Panache has helped secure Subiaco’s reputation not just as a trendy food destination, but a seriously good food destination.

And with the appointment of a new chef, this trend looks set to continue.

Formerly of Claremont’s Star Bistro, Matt Stephens will start at Panache this week and plans to extend the  seasonally influenced menu.

Mr Stephens joins chef Samantha Vladich-McKenzie at the helm to inject enthusiasm and an unashamedly regionalist mentality as head chef.

“It is great to have people on your staff who are genuinely passionate about food and wine,” Mr Grist says of the recent appointment.

But the unique aspect of Panache from a consumer’s point of view is that it is just as pertinent to interstate and overseas visitors as it is to us locals.

Foodies in Perth are well aware of this tyranny of distance, which often means that we are almost as disadvantaged as overseas guests when it comes to finding the time to visit the producing regions to our south and east.

So it is through their branding, ‘Taste of WA’, that the Grists showcase the individuality of produce grown locally.

“We want to cater for all those people who can’t get down to the regions themselves,” Mrs Grist says.

Bridging the ‘food and wine gap’ involves creating access lines to the producers and growers of exceptional quality who may not have retail exposure or marketing capabilities.

Panache’s gourmet food store stocks a range of WA products that would otherwise have no brand outlets. These producers are micro agribusinesses whose operations are often hamstrung with freighting costs and the rigours of meeting regular supply demands.

“When we started I had to approach different producers to source their products. Now they are ringing me,” Mrs Grist says.

“We even put ranges on that have no distribution lines at all. It got to the stage whenever the neighbours or friends of the growers were coming up to Perth, they’d pack a few boxes in their cars for them to deliver to us.”

Highlighting Cambinata Yabbies as prime example of a unique WA brand emerging on the back of ingenuity and a commitment to a great produce, Panache has seen names like njoi, Blue Cow, New Norcia and Frankland River Olive products expand through local and international markets.

“You still have to stock a bit of Maggie Beer because it goes really well, but most of our range comes from small suppliers,” Mr Grist says.

Food aside, Panache also has a strong commitment to local wines.

There’s no wine list at Panache but rather a wine wall – a three-dimensional snapshot of what is drinking well from all parts of the state.

“When people, both tourists and people living here, think of WA wines, they only think of Margaret River,” Mr Grist says.

“Don’t get me wrong, there are some stunning wines coming out of Margarets, but you shouldn’t overlook areas like the Swan and Great Southern. The wines emerging from there at the moment are world class.”

Taking its gourmet products and wine as a base, Panache is busy diversifying the ways and means it goes about promoting the taste of WA.

The 80-seat restaurant now extends dinner service across Friday and Saturday nights but will always be famous for its breakfast featuring Margaret River free range eggs.

Expanding into the world of catering, Panache is pushing the Taste of WA range through corporate channels, likening it to a ‘growers market in a bag’.

It is diversifying further through its ‘food to go’ line, offering an increasingly busy Subiaco and surrounding areas, a restaurant quality alternative to take-away.

The service is proving very popular within the Subi central district where the trend continues to market increasingly diminutive apartments with even smaller kitchens.

“I don’t think it has got to the stage like New York where you hear stories of apartments being built without kitchens at all,” Mr Grist says.

“But certainly a lot of locals are taking advantage of this option”.


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