How SA’s Meez On Plus is reviving Native Australian Foods

The resurgence of Native Australian Foods is gaining momentum, with ventures like Meez On Plus leading the charge towards sustainability through events and education.

Images: Owner of Meez On Plus Billie Cornthwaite by Baxter William

In an era marked by diversity and sustainability, the resurgence of Native Australian Foods has started to re-gain significant attention.

Among the groups helping to keep this movement alive is Meez On Plus, a South Australian venture committed to reintroducing ‘superfoods’ into mainstream cuisine. Celebrating its monumental 10-year anniversary this year, Meez On Plus stands as a testament to the enduring tradition of First Nations foods.

Image: Baxter William for Meez On Plus

“It’s all about reintroducing native foods. They’re superfoods and we would love them to become so mainstream that they’re available in supermarkets,” Billie Cornthwaite, the visionary behind Meez On Plus, says.

With a background spanning from farming in Country Victoria to marine biology, Billie’s commitment to sustainability permeates every facet of not only her business, but her life.

Image: Baxter William for Meez On Plus

“Sustainability has to come first,” Billie says. “It’s about using what we need without decimating our landscapes.”

This principle guides Meez On Plus’s sourcing practices, which prioritise local providers and seasonal, water-efficient cultivation methods.

So what are Native Australian Foods you may ask? Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander communities have been harnessing the powers of native ingredients which have been around for over 65,000 years. Today “bush tucker”, as it’s known, is increasingly being featured on restaurant menus and cocktail lists across the country. 

There’s a whole list of standout Native Australian Ingredients, including Warrigal greens, which are akin to spinach, and thrive year-round and spring up in gardens at their whim. Bush peppermint, a ground-hugging plant offering its unique flavour. Native mint, with six different varieties to tantalise your taste buds. Saltbush, a vital part of First Nations fire management, perfect for lamb coatings or gourmet bar snacks. And Geraldton Wax, a stunning garnish adding flair to any dish, best enjoyed fresh.

For Billie, the importance of cooking with native foods extends beyond mere sustenance. “I always knew where my food came from,” she recalls. Raised in an environment where resourcefulness was paramount, she learned to appreciate the intrinsic connection between food and land. This appreciation blossomed into a passion for sharing indigenous knowledge with future generations.

That idea of sourcing from what we have already is even in the business name – Mise en place (MEEZ ahn plahs) being the French term for ‘everything in its place’.

Meez On Plus’s outreach efforts extend far beyond the kitchen. From corporate gatherings to community events, to school groups, to festivals like festivals Blakyard Picnic and Dupang Pangari, Billie and her team tirelessly promote the cultural and nutritional value of First Nations foods. During those events Meez On Plus passionately employ Indigenous youth as well as use local producers where possible.

“We want the knowledge to pass on,” Billie affirms, underscoring the imperative of preserving Indigenous elders’ wisdom. She often travels to places across the state (like Bon Bon Station, Oodnadatta, Ceduna) with her mentor and best mate Aunty Daphne (Kaurna, Narungga, Ngarrindjeri, Latji, Latji) talking about where food comes from and how to grow Native Australian Foods.

Image: Billie Cornthwaite and Aunty Daphne (Kaurna, Narungga, Ngarrindjeri, Latji Latji Elder)

One of the highlights of Meez On Plus’s journey was the opportunity to cook for NASA and the Australian and UK space agencies. Yet, for Billie, true fulfillment lies in reconnecting with communities and country. “It’s about learning, not just talking to people,” she says.

As Meez On Plus enters its second decade, Billie remains resolute in her vision. “It’s never too late to start,” she asserts, echoing the sentiment of empowerment that defines her approach. With a team comprising mostly mothers and grandmothers, Meez On Plus embodies the spirit of intergenerational knowledge-sharing.

Through Meez On Plus’ dedication to sustainability, seasonality, and local sourcing, they embody the principles of conscientious cooking.

As Billie aptly puts it, “Taste, smell, and feel – people are tactile.”

Meez On Plus invites diners to experience the vibrancy of First Nations foods and the stories they carry either through hosting your next event (corporate, intimate, fine-dining), or sharing their knowledge with others.

For more information about Meez On Plus, head to their Facebook page here, or contact Billie on 0438577509.

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