Farmer’s Daughters: Bringing the produce of Gippsland to the streets of Melbourne

After the events of COVID-19 caused many venues to shut their doors in 2020, the Melbourne food scene is coming back with a force in 2021. One such venue that’s creating waves is Farmer’s Daughters, a farm-to-table, three-level space led by Executive Chef Alejandro Saravia (chef of Pastuso and Uma). Recently opened in January, Farmer’s Daughters boasts a rooftop space, retail, functions and dining, opening until late. The space celebrates the produce of Gippsland, one of the most famous food regions of Australia, and encourages people to support Gippsland’s farmers and producers by enjoying a taste of the region at the restaurant and deli.

We spoke to Alejandro about his vision for the space, the flavours people can expect and why the Gippsland food region is so special.

Alejandro Saravia chef

Tell us a bit about how the idea for Farmer’s Daughters came about?

After I arrived in Melbourne in 2014, I was taken to visit Gippsland by one of my suppliers. During my first visit, I was reminded of the highlands of Peru, where I used to visit as a kid. The stunning landscapes, fertile land, livestock and beautiful produce inspired me to change the way I think about food and how I cook. As Gippsland serves as a major food bowl to Melbourne, I feel a responsibility to the dedicated growers and producers to give them a platform to showcase their exceptional ingredients. Farmer’s Daughters heroes and preserves the proud tradition of Gippsland’s farmers and producers and delivers their produce directly to Melbourne.

Why are you passionate about farm-to-table?

Farm-to-table essentially strips back modern food culture. It invites a reason to understand where our food comes from, and celebrate the connection between the food we eat and the people that produced it.

Alejandro Saravia cooking in GippslandImage credit: The World Loves Melbourne

What inspired the menu at Farmer’s Daughters? Do you have a favourite item?

Our menu is inspired by taking our guests on a journey from the Melbourne CBD to the rolling hills, mountains, rivers and beaches of the Gippsland region. We source seasonal ingredients and our menu will change regularly depending on what produce is available. The difference with us is we ask our suppliers what they have available, rather than telling them what we want.

It’s hard to pick one particular favourite dish, as we plan to change our menu with the seasons and what ingredients are in supply, but mountain pepper is a flavour that represents us at the moment. If I had to pick one item off the menu, I would say our Baked Baw Baw Alpine Trout served with Native Mountain Pepper cream and Trout caviar.

Baw Baw Alpine TroutImage credit: Thom Rigney

How did you get set up with Square? What tools are you using?

Having been in the industry for a number of years I have a lot of friends and colleagues across the industry who told me about Square. I was very impressed with how user-friendly the system was. One stand out tool is the live reporting which allows us to control our business in real time and monitor every single aspect of it on the go.

What has been the most challenging part of planning a venue opening during a time of uncertainty?

The most challenging part has been seeing how COVID-19 has directly affected our suppliers and Regional Victoria. Not only did the region suffer greatly from the bushfires, but in a time when they relied on tourism to help them get back on their feet, COVID-19 hit and everything changed. While we had our own challenges and delays, the effects that COVID-19 has had on our suppliers has been heartbreaking.

Farmer's Daughters interior Restaurant Image credit: Thom Rigney

How has the reception to the opening been after the difficult year Melbourne had in 2020?

We’ve just opened the doors at our venue at 80 Collins Street, so we are really excited at welcoming Melburnians through each of the three levels and sharing the amazing produce and ingredients of Gippsland with them.
We have already been overwhelmed by the positive response that Melbourne has given us and I can’t wait to showcase all that Farmer’s Daughters and the region of Gippsland has to offer.

Many of our suppliers were heavily affected by the bushfires in 2019 and if dining at Farmer’s Daughters can inspire Melburnians to take a trip to Gippsland, in my eyes, we’re winning. I also think that one of the positive things about the challenges of the previous year is that we now have an appreciation for buying local and appreciating the produce that is available in Victoria.

Header image credit: Thom Rigney