How do you make an impression on Rene Redzepi? Turn up with 300 wild plants - painstakingly gathered over four days - to present to Noma's award-winning chef.
That's what Elijah (EJ) Holland did - and hand-picking lemon aspen and diving for seaweed definitely paid off as EJ became a key part of the Noma Australia team when it opened in Sydney earlier this year. He joined the kitchen as a forager and a chef.
EJ is the most casually fearless people I've ever met - and he's unafraid to scale a cliffside to pluck Spanish daisies for a dish or fill his ingredient basket by spear-fishing and bow-hunting for produce.
His ingredient list is incredibly vivid - from sandpaper figs and sea coriander to an eccentric plant that Redzepi called the "most unique-tasting fruit" he’d ever tasted in his entire life.
EJ shares his panoramic knowledge about native cuisine - and reveals that we've been thinking about "poisonous plants" the wrong way. (Council even asked for the removal of lantana flowers from the Noma Australia menu, even though it's mainly cattle that are at risk of lantana poison.) And of course, EJ's career goes far beyond just his time with Noma's Sydney residency. He started as an apprentice at 13 and went on to work at acclaimed restaurants such as Jonah's and Aria; set up his own bar, The Powder Keg, where a lot of the produce was either hand-picked, hunted or spear-fished. He currently runs Nature's Pick, which supplies wild Australian ingredients to well-renowned restaurants such as Bentley Restaurant and Bar, Gastro Park and Aria.
PS Big thanks to The Vincast for featuring me on the latest episode - it was a total honour to be featured; you should take a dive through James Scarcebrook's podcast archive if the sound of in-depth interviews with wine makers sounds highly appealing to you.