Artisan Food on Sydney’s Main Stage

Susie Stokes

Buttering you-up at TEDxSydney Online in 2020, Pepe Saya has been churning up a storm since 2010 with their first block of butter sold at Carriageworks Farmers Markets.

Armed with a determination to change how butter is viewed in Australia, Pepe Saya has become an unforgettable, delicious force in the industry, putting Australia on the map for artisan cultured butter. 

“Chefs were using French butter, they didn’t know there was anything of quality in Australia and they wanted the best,” says Pepe Saya’s co-founder and chief butter maker, Pierre Issa whose products is now used by some of Sydney’s best restaurants and bakeries instead of sourcing from overseas.

Originally known as a European-style butter, cultured butter has a tangier taste. The soured cream (or crème fraiche) is inoculated with culture (lactobacillus), allowed to ferment, for the pure reason of flavouring the fat in the cream and then churned. Pepe Saya is beurre de baratte (butter of the churn) batch churned from single origin Australian cream, creating a natural and less processed product with a unique fuller flavour.

Sourcing some of the best Australian cream across seasonal areas of NSW and Victoria and salt from  Olsson’s Salt on the Eyre Peninsula SA, the team are dedicated to building direct relationships with farmers. “Our focus has always been on provenance and transparency, which we believe is at the core of being an artisan. Eating local, buying consciously, food security and supporting local producers has never been more important and is what drives us.”  

Fellow artisan food producer, Merna Taouk of Crumpets by Merna, who partnered with Pepe Saya to supply a lip-smacking breakfast for TEDxSydney 2020 attendees, agrees with the philosophy of buying consciously and supporting local producers, especially when it comes to making her delicious product.

“My passion has always been to create incredible food using local produce- this is what fueled me to perfect the crumpet. My crumpets are fermented small batch crumpets, with a focus on using the best local produce. We use Pepe Saya Buttermilk, wholemeal flour from Tamworth, Australian blueberries, Zokoko Chocolate and Olsson’s sea salt. It is a 24 hour process- the crumpet batter is made in the morning, fermented overnight and then cooked on the griddle the following day for half an hour.”

Recognising a gap in the market, Merna recalls what inspired her ‘mission to bring back the crumpet’ –

“I grew up eating crumpets as a child with my brothers and sisters. As I got older it wasn’t something I ate and you could only find it in the major supermarkets.  I was sitting on a plane on the way back from San Francisco thinking about what I wanted to create to serve at Carriageworks Farmers Market where I was selling my desserts at the time. I got off the flight inspired to recreate a wholesome crumpet that would bring give that nostalgic feeling of childhood.”

Forced to transform their business when both their on-premise and direct to consumer sales dropped dramatically with the forced closure of restaurants and growers markets in line with COVID-19 restrictions, Pierre (Pepe) Saya launched Aussie Artisan Week.

The aim is to introduce Australians to a range of quality products and the benefits of choosing local products, because of taste and quality, but also because they are in turn supporting farmers and small businesses, particularly as they continue to grapple with the restrictions in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We’ve realised that Australians do value Australian made, and we want to continue to share how many amazing options there are out there from dairy to meat, fresh veg and even homewares. Like many of our artisan friends, we’ve been blown away by the support from our customers over the past few months, and we want to encourage everybody to continue supporting, buying locally, buying consciously and buying direct where they can. It’s better for you, our country and the planet.”

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