Q&A with Halliday

Fast Five: Jo Barrett

By J'aime Cardillo

17 Dec, 2023

In this series, we ask industry members to share the five drinks that shaped their lives.

Jo Barrett is one of Australia’s most inventive (and sustainable) chefs. Jo made her name at Oakridge in the Yarra Valley before joining futurefoodsystem, which involved a year living and working in a zero-waste urban farm situated in Melbourne’s Federation Square. She recently opened Little Picket in the seaside town of Lorne. Fearless and visionary, there is no one better placed to write the ultimate guide to cooking consciously. Jo’s book Sustain: Groundbreaking Recipes And Skills That Could Save The Planet is out now.

Jo Barrett

01. 2022 Cullen Wines Grace Madeline
Margaret River, WA
Vanya Cullen has always been an inspiration. Her love and care for the natural world gives me hope and a huge amount of drive. Before I’d tried any Cullen wines, I didn’t quite understand there could be life in a bottle. It wasn’t necessarily about flavour, acidity, or sweetness – it was a feeling. I’d only ever had that from eating fresh ingredients and well-executed dishes. It gave me a benchmark for what I enjoyed in a wine. I met Vanya in 2014, a few years after that first meeting, I was lucky enough to cook for the James Halliday Chardonnay Challenge. It was the most excited, nervous, and honoured I’d felt cooking for an event.

02. 2019 Oakridge Wines 864 Single Block Syrah
Yarra Valley, VIC
Oakridge has a big place in my heart. I worked there from 2015 to 2020. Saying I learnt a lot would be an understatement – wine, winemaking, the pressures of vintage, growing food, cooking food, how to manage a restaurant, regional dining and best of all, I cooked with some of the most talented chefs. Oakridge felt like a family. I came away from my time there with a wealth of knowledge. David Bicknell and his crew of extremely talented winemakers produce some delicious wines. It’s hard to pick one wine from that period, however I remember when this syrah was released, and it was so different from anything else. So light and truly of the region. 

03. 2022 Reed Wines *Coeur* Reserve Riesling
Geelong, VIC
It was a whirlwind opening Little Picket in 2022. Dave (Osgood) and I had taken the lease of the Lorne Bowls Club, wanting it to be a quaint, humble local’s restaurant and bar. This was the first wine list I had ever put together. We wanted it to be all Australian, and as local to the surf coast region as possible. It wasn’t the biggest list, I must admit. Then, like an angel, Sierra Reed appeared, bottles under her arms. The way her wines pair with the food we cook is perfect, even with our ever-changing menu. Like Vanya's, Sierra’s wines are full of life and technical skill, however they are also playful and slightly quirky – just like our restaurant!

04. 2019 L.A.S. Vino CBDB Chenin Blanc Dynamic Blend
Margaret River, WA
For me, this is the wine of futurefoodsystem – one of the most memorable experiences of my life. As one of the resident chefs at activist Joost Bakker’s 87m2 off-grid house in Melbourne’s Federation Square, I grew food, raised fish, collected water and turned waste into energy to feed 14 people each night. As an experiment to show how our urban environments can sustain us with productive buildings, it was one of the most challenging and exciting projects I have been part of. Those who got to try Nic Peterkin’s wine always asked for more. His winemaking is exciting, inspiring and always cutting edge – just like futurefoodsystem was. 

05. 2019 Mac Forbes Hugh Cabernet Blend
Yarra Valley, VIC
It’s spoken about a lot, how the hospitality industry is hard and demanding. Both the service side, the hours and the physicality. There is also the magic side, the creativity, the hospitality, the connection to nature through ingredients and the amazing people you get to meet. Mac Forbes has always been the smiling, positive face of hospitality for me and his wines are no different. I like to serve Mac’s wines within my work; however, they are also a big part of my life outside of work, which is important because we are not just what we do for a living. These are the wines I like to share with my friends and family. 

Instagram: @jobarrett