Cyclist and fermented-food advocate Patrick Drapac takes veg message to kids

By
Jane Willson
Added
05 February, 2015

Patrick Drapac is spreading the good word on cultured foods.

Patrick Drapac

In another life, Patrick Drapac was a professional cyclist. Today he is increasingly well known on Melbourne’s farmers’ market circuit as the fermented veg guy. As well, he has a shop selling his organic cultured vegies on Sydney Road in Coburg. His business is called, simply, Pat’s Veg.

Patrick is taking a kids’ raw food class at South Melbourne’s St Ali during the upcoming Melbourne Food and Wine Festival. It’s planned as a hands-on experience that broadens young participant’s taste horizons. I quizzed him recently on how it will unfold. And whether he has secret powers for kids who don't do veg – fermented or otherwise.

Q: How, exactly, do you plan to convert the kids?

I don’t think that you need to convince kids to embrace new flavours – I think it’s something they attune themselves to. Having options available encourages (rather than convinces) them to try new things. Mind you, I’m not a parent.

Q: And your experience of kids’ approach to veg?

Sometimes more open-minded than their parents!

Q: What are your own memories of food growing up?

I think I had expensive taste. When I was eight, my favourite food was pickled octopus and snails.

Q: What’s in store for your festival classes?

The kids might just teach me more than I’ll teach them! We’ll be incorporating seasonal produce and learning how to use whole foods – all without cooking. I’m excited to do the class.

Q: How will you win them?

I think I’m going to have to improvise and read the crowd. They’ll see right through my tactics.

Q: What’s your favourite ingredient – and what are you enjoying cooking at the moment?

Lately, I’ve been really getting into cabbage.

Q: Any food discoveries of late?

I’ve been rediscovering my love for brussels sprouts. I’ve also noticed that people are making tasty food with health in mind. There seems to be a shift towards real food and a decline in fast food. Being a coffee lover, I’ve also noticed some wacky coffee concoctions.

Q: What about the synergies between sport and food?

There are many. During my sporting life I was always incredibly passionate about health, food and cooking; it was almost a necessary hobby. I came across fermented foods during a stint riding in America and I had absolutely no idea what they were! Due to my existing passion for food and health, the transition from a career in sport into one in food felt natural.

Q: And Pat’s Veg: how has that evolved?

It began two years ago. We started at farmers’ markets (and we’re still there!) but we’ve also set up our own small retail space and our business has permeated the market into the likes of health food and grocery stores, in addition to cafés. We’d like to think that Pat’s Veg will continue to grow organically. In the facets of taste and effect, we’ve had an amazing response.

We’ve been busy experimenting and constantly trying to broaden the potential of the product [which, essentially, is organic vegetables that have been cultured in natural brine and salt. The fermentation process creates lactic acid bacteria that is thought to be essential for digestive health].

Pat's range

Q: What should we know about fermented foods?

They’ve existed as a rich part of many cultures over time. I think everyone should learn how to make them. It’s not as hard as you think. We should also learn how such foods are able to impact our health [see Pat’s blog for more]. Despite the length of the fermentation process, you’ll find that it’s a truly convenient fast food as it is a staple that can come out of the fridge, and onto the plate.

Q: Where to start for people who want to learn more?

Sandor Katz’s book The Art of Fermentation; it’s the bible for home fermenters.

Patrick Drapac’s raw food class at the Melbourne Food and Wine Festival are being held at St Ali, South Melbourne, on 8 March from 11am to 1pm, and cost is $25. Bookings here. His shop is at 105 Sydney Road, Coburg. In addition to retail stockists – including two that sell online – you can buy his products at Flemington, Coburg, and Fairfield farmers’ markets in Melbourne.

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