“Cooking allows me to share kinship and culture”

Taste of Kakadu chef Zach Green only discovered he was Aboriginal when he was 12.

“My grandmother wasn’t allowed to talk about it – my grandfather would hit her if she talked about being Aboriginal so she had to hide it. It wasn’t until some years after he died that I found out.”

“It was a real turning point in my life discovering I was not, as I has had always thought, a white Australian, but a first nation’s person.”

Not long after that Zach went to high school – a new school – and when he introduced himself to the class he said he was Aboriginal.

“I didn’t say it again for five years,” he says. “I experienced bullying and taunting; what I now know was racial abuse.”

Luckily for Zach, and those around him, at 17 he began cooking – it was a turning point.

Zach's green ant cheesecake
Zach’s green ant cheesecake

“Cooking took me to a different world, a different place. It let me be someone else, but also Zach. It let me be liked. I began an apprenticeship in north east Victoria, but by then I’d been to three different high schools. Six months into my apprenticeship I went back to school and got my VCE, then spent two years in a restaurant in Melbourne.”

“I’ve had breaks from cooking, but the turning point was when my fiancé and I lost our son Elijah. I lost both my sons within 12 months.”

“Cooking with bush foods became a way to tell the stories of my family and my sons. It allows me to share the significance of the animals, their cultural meanings, and the deep complexities of kinship and culture. I tell these stories when I cook. Cooking for people allows me to share these stories, so people can see that Aboriginal culture is so much more than they know, more than the negative lens the media shows it through.”

“There’s a dance for every animal, there are paintings, and food connects all those dots.”

“This sort of cooking is what Australia has been missing.”

Favourite bush foods to cook: Saltbush dukka, crocodile

Taste of Kakadu is on at Kakadu National Park from 18 – 27 May 2018. Find out more.