Stone serves up bugs
Picture: Supplied

He's the kitchen wunderkind who looks like he should be a rock musician. But the precocious talent of Matt Stone has won over those who might judge a book by its cover. Little more than a decade ago, Stone was beginning his apprenticeship at Leeuwin Estate. By 20, he was sous chef at Star Anise, two years later head chef at Greenhouse.

Innovation and sustainability became the trademarks of Stone's rising star. And though Greenhouse is now part of his past, and the wunderkind is edging towards 30, those trademarks remain constant.

Stone, below, continues to evolve as a chef and today he's in Sydney, still pushing the boundaries, still big on sustainability and now serving up insects at his latest eclectic eatery.

He moved to Melbourne at the end of 2011 and opened Silo by Joost - like Greenhouse, a restaurant designed and owned by Dutch sustainability architect and entrepreneur Joost Bakker.

Silo by Joost has a zero-waste philosophy, as Stone explains.

"The hospitality industry is so wasteful and it's very simple to make small changes that will reduce waste," he said. "Sparkling water and milk on tap are two small things that make a massive difference to waste and they're also more cost effective."

Stone describes Melbourne as a great city, with plenty of attractions. "It's easy to get around on a bike or public transport and there are so many good bars and restaurants - I'm spoilt for choice," he said.

But that hasn't meant the 27-year-old is standing still.

This year he uprooted himself again and moved to Sydney - not for one of the Harbour City's classic eateries but to become head chef at a restaurant at a crowd-funded pop-up called Stanley Street Merchants. It opened in May and when Stone spoke to _Fresh _, the restaurant was one month into its three-month lifespan.

"Stanley Street Merchants has been awesome so far," he said. "It's cranking. The produce in NSW is amazing."

And "amazing" is definitely the word for the tucker at his new restaurant. In keeping with Stone's views on sustainability, the menu includes native fruits and a varied selection of insects including ants and crickets. Stone has become an enthusiastic supporter of foraging.

"Insects are one of the most sustainable sources of vitamins and nutrients there is," he said. "They are widely consumed throughout Asia and Africa."

And for those repulsed by the thought, Stone has this riposte: "The flavour of the ants is amazing - very citrusy. The response had been great. Most people are willing to try them."

(They have, and one food reviewer noted the worst thing was getting the legs of a cricket stuck between his teeth.)

And yet there's more to Matt Stone than avant garde.

Though his radical approach might send a shudder through many foodies, they may be surprised to learn that he cites as one of his influences the Country Women's Association (CWA) cookbook, first published in 1937.

"The CWA book is amazing, full of awesome recipes," he said. "I take a lot of inspiration from history, so this book is perfect."

So which Matt Stone can Perth foodies expect at the Perth Convention and Exhibition Centre - the conservative CWA-influenced version or the insect model?

"I'm cooking with a heap of Australian native ingredients at the Good Food & Wine show," he said.

Though Stone enjoys coming home for visits ("my family are all still in WA so it is hard being so far away"), he says there are no thoughts yet of returning permanently.

"I've left Perth for good," he said. "I may move back in my later years but there's no plan to any time soon. I'm currently living in Sydney and loving it.

"Who knows where I'll be next?"

And who knows what he'll cook next.

Matt Stone appears at the Seven West Good Food Theatre presented by Ilve at 7.30pm on Friday, July 11, and at 3pm on Saturday, July 12.

The West Australian

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