Award is the cherry on top

By Charmayne Allison

She’s just a year in, but Zoe Birch is already raking in awards at her restaurant Greasy Zoes.

The former Seymour resident recently won a coveted hat for her Hurstbridge restaurant at The Age Good Food Guide awards.

And she said it was the cherry on top of a challenging, yet rewarding, year since opening.

‘‘This award is so exciting after working so hard,’’ she said.

‘‘We’re trying to do a good thing here and thankfully people are appreciating it.

‘‘We’ve had great local support and since the award, we’ve seen people from far and wide flow in.’’

Growing up on a property near Seymour, Ms Birch’s mum taught her a hands-on approach to growing and cooking food, which she’s carried through her years working in a number of Melbourne’s fine dining restaurants and is now channelling into her own.

Through (ironically named) Greasy Zoes, she and her partner Lachlan aim to put a sustainable spin on food and fine dining.

Based in a tiny former organic grocer, the 5m by 5m space only seats 15 at a time.

And with an open bar and kitchen, guests can easily interact with the duo as they prepare gastronomical delights.

The majority of products used are organic and sourced from local suppliers.

And everything is — often literally — hand-picked to ensure freshness and sustainability.

‘‘We source our vegetables from a local couple and my partner Lachlan and I will often go down and pick the vegies alongside them,’’ Ms Birch said.

‘‘And we only pick small amounts at a time in an attempt to keep our footprint down.’’

The menu changes daily, with the pair crossing items off as they run out.

‘‘We worked at big restaurants and they were just not sustainable,’’ she said.

‘‘But here, everything we serve we make ourselves, including butter, cheeses, pickles and preserves.

‘‘And while it’s not a vegetarian menu, we keep meat down to a minimum. We don’t use single-use plastic or styrofoam and all organic waste is turned into compost.

‘‘We also serve very small portions but lots of them — so there’s no wastage but people are still satisfied.’’

It’s an ethos which has certainly been a winner with diners and food critics alike.

And seems it will continue for years to come, with the hours the couple work as sustainable as the food they serve.

‘‘We want to keep going as long as we can,’’ she said.

‘‘Being based in a small country town means we don’t have to be open all the time.

‘‘We work five months on, one month off so we can just enjoy being humans.’’