04 Sep 2018
Eat fermented foods, we’re told, and we can prevent common gut issues like uncomfortable bloating, cramping and symptoms of irritable bowel. Gavin Marks has gone one better and turned his commitment to good gut health into a burgeoning business. Here’s his story as told to Jessica Zoiti.
In 2014, Perth-based chef, Gavin Marks, began experimenting with fermented foods in an effort to reverse some minor digestive complaints. But when 60 jars of his home-made recipes flew out the farmers’ market gates in one morning, he realised he was onto something.
Green Street Kitchen was born, and by mid 2015 Marks had made the courageous decision to throw in his chef’s hat and commit full time to his new business. Today, the company is a leader in the marketplace. Marks has gone from fermenting foods in coffee jars on his kitchen bench to operating from a custom warehouse, filled with 550-kilo fermenting bins. The products (which now extends far beyond the original kimchi and kraut) stand out for their interesting and unexpected flavour profiles.
Here’s how it all happened.
TBT: What led to the creation of Green St Kitchen?
GM: I’m a chef by trade – I worked as a chef for over 20 years and worked all across the world. In 2014, I was the head chef at the Raw Kitchen in Fremantle. I was having some minor gut issues and I said to (owner of the Raw Kitchen) Heath, “what can I do?”. He said, “Mate, you need to eat more fermented foods.” That’s when I really started learning and understanding more about fermented foods and the health benefits that come with them. Being a chef, I love working with flavours, so I started developing my own mini range of kimchi and kraut for a bit of fun.
TBT: How quickly did Green St Kitchen grow?
GM: well, I started going down to the farmers’ market and on the first day I sold 60 jars and thought, “oh wow, there’s something in this.” I kept working as a chef for a couple of years and in the end I threw it all in and jumped on the business full time. That was in mid-2015, and from there it’s just really grown quickly. We’ve now got distribution nationwide. We’ve launched more products. We’ve expanded our range. We’re really trying to be a market leader in this category.
TBT: So what makes your products stand out from your competitors’?
GM: I think our flavour profiles. I really try to draw on all my years of experience as a chef and aim to get flavours that work, that are appealing and perhaps a little bit unexpected. We really focus on the colour and texture of our products, and really try to distance ourselves from old traditional sauerkraut, which people probably know as being soggy old cabbage. We don’t want to be known like that.
TBT: So who is your customer?
GM: Everyone! I don’t want our target market to simply be those looking to live healthier. We want it to be the boys having a barbecue and adding some kimchi to their steak. People having a glass of wine with some cheese, and having a bit of kimchi or kraut on the side. That’s why we really focus more on the flavour, rather than the health benefits. The health benefits, to me, are just a bonus of the product.
TBT: What are the health benefits of fermented foods?
GM: The best way to describe fermented food is basically fresh food on steroids, because it’s just got so much more good bacteria (than non-fermented food). All fresh food, like vegetables, have good living bacteria in it. When you ferment food, you basically feed that bacteria, so it can grow and multiply and flourish. Sending your gut good bacteria will help it fight off the growth of bad bacteria – the healthier your gut is, the better everything in your body works. I’m no expert in gut health, but that’s really the simplest way I can put it. You want your gut to have more good bacteria than bad in it so it can function much better.
TBT: What advice do you have for people who wouldn’t naturally think to work fermented foods into their diet?
GM: I’d recommend eating (the kimchi and kraut) with whatever you’d generally eat on a normal day. So, put it in your sandwich, put it in your burger, have it on the side of your dinner at night. Don’t treat it as a health food, treat it as you would any another condiment that’s in your fridge.
The same goes for our drinks – just drink them like you would any other beverage!
TBT: Are you still operating out of your home or do you have a premise that you work from?
GM: No! I’m definitely not working out of home anymore. I have a 300-square-metre warehouse which we fitted out with production kitchens, back and cool rooms. We probably jar, on average, a couple of thousand jars of kimchi and kraut a week. And our drinks are that, plus more. The drinks are the biggest part of our business now, probably because they are a faster moving product.
TBT: What exciting plans are in the Green St Kitchen pipeline?
GM: There’s heaps of stuff, actually! We’ve just released our second brand of Coconut Kefir and that has different flavours in the range.
Now we are working on a range of fermented mayonnaise, and there’s going to be a range of kimchi aioli, which I’m pretty excited about because everybody loves aioli, especially me, and there’s no other cultured aioli on the market. Again, we’ve created it with pretty exciting flavour profiles, which is very unique.
Want to try Green St Kitchen’s Black Miso and Garlic Kimchi, Thai Chilli and Galangal Kimchi and Ginger and Turmeric Kraut? Find them in the dairy fridge at The Black Truffle ($15.95 each).