About

My entrée into cookery was accidental, or so I thought. Whilst I obsessed as a small child over the few rudimentary cooking shows of my youth I wanted to be a Barrister at Law. Even the production of my own cooking show – mud pies in an American accent (get the picture) – didn’t convince me of what has become my greatest love affair: controlled spoilage!

And so…after leaving home suddenly (it’s complicated), unable to complete my exams despite my marks which had me heading to the University of NSW in a Bachelor of Laws, I found a job on Oxford Street, Darlinghurst making shitty coffees with ‘opera’ house cappuccino foam. Those were the days when the height of your barista career prospects was measured by the height of your foam; I was going places.

In my ever-present restlessness, I wanted something more, with more skill, more focus. Before I knew it – and after spending way more time in the kitchen asking the Cook all sorts of questions about the dishes he would prepare than a barista could justify – I took his job after he suddenly quit. It turns out I had learnt the menu and recipes in my annoying and persistent quizzing. 

That’s how I became a cook. Fast forward 7 years of working in many establishments and seeking out better and better ones my increased skill set would allow. Alas, the night shifts and 2am dinners at The Golden Century Chinese restaurant with other chefs was not for me. I am a lark after all and rise with the birds. The next chapter was fateful and would change the course of my career forever.

Omnivorium-Red-Circle-100
1997
The beginning

I started working for Sydney providores Australia on a Plate. I was exposed for the first time, first hand to Australian farmers and boutique food producers. Farmhouse cheese makers and artisanal smallgoods producers were increasingly making their presence felt and gaining traction in the marketplace. Australia on a Plate brought those producers into the marketplace. Chefs and retailers were all suddenly on a steep learning curve in the fine art of cheese-making and charcuterie. And indeed so was I. Farmhouse and artisanal cheese would become the great love of my life.

2003
London

After working then managing a couple of other providores, I decided to move to London in 2003. I found myself working for Marco Vineis and his wonderful business Gastronomica, a retailer at the famous Borough Markets and providore supplying many of the city’s high end restaurants and retailers with regional (raw milk) Italian cheeses and artisanal smallgoods.

The revival of heritage breeds of pigs, lambs, beef cattle and poultry became the main distraction of the food movement at that time in Europe: spurring on the establishment of the Slow Food Movement. The preservation of and establishment of new artisanal food production was also gaining traction: perhaps in response to fears of regional differences becoming another victim of globalisation.

2004
Boutique Providore

On my return to Australia, I landed a position managing a boutique providore, unique in their sourcing of game meats, game birds and poultry from small farms as well as artisanal, locally produced smallgoods and charcuterie. Our customers were many of Sydney’s toqued restaurants and boutique food stores and were keen to source pigeon, venison, duck, pork and turkey and many more interesting game meats and birds as well as preservative free smallgoods.

I saw an opportunity in broadening the thinking about the origins of breeds and their unique health and flavour attributes and set about finding rare breed pig farmers in NSW. I also formed alliances with award winning smallgoods makers and developed a range of preservative and chemical free, certified organic smallgoods.

The business was truly unique in its relationship with small farms that many of the larger wholesalers overlooked or couldn’t work into their larger scale operations. We made the unthinkable happen in sourcing from such boutique, micro farms into the Sydney gastronomy and grocery food scene.

2008
Affineur & Beyond

Nearly 3½ years later, I purchased the business (with my old bosses from Australia on a Plate) and rebranded to Affineur. Later, I sold my shares and focused on selling the products through Sydney’s finest farmer’s markets. The next step was to develop a range of retail-ready fresh cuts and sausages. Initially engaging a butcher, I developed a range of plain and value-added cuts. My point of difference became showcasing all the many cuts one could prepare and use from the entire carcass. Most consumers were only familiar with the cuts chefs would use in their restaurants; think belly and loin cutlets or chops. It wasn’t too long before I set up my own production and was taught to butcher the pigs myself.

My repertoire expanded along with my skills and I set about creating an amazing range of products from the entire beast; from snout to trotter with an eye to Italian, French, Greek and Asian regional specialities.

The range was completely unique and unprecedented. We were subsequently invited to participate in the upcoming Eveleigh Farmer’s Markets (Sydney’s Borough Market equivalent). This would provide an excellent opportunity to showcase the products directly to the retail public. The punters (like the chefs and retail operators) took to it like wildfire.

2013
CHOP SHOP Carnivorium

Then I bought a butcher shop. CHOP SHOP carnivorium became a unique and complete platform in promoting provenance and clean food. We would showcase carefully selected grass fed yearling beef and real veal from Tasmania or Victoria, Moorlands Biodynamic Lamb, Burrawang Gaian heritage breed, free range chooks and ducks, and even Free Range Geese from Thirroul. We would also barter with local hobby farmers who would bring their organically grown, seasonal vegetables into the shop in exchange for meats and cheeses.

Our shop was packed with other wonderful produce from NSW including Alto Olive Oils, table olives and vinegars from Peelwood and Doodles Creek free-range egg mayonnaise from Kangaloon. We sold honey from Tim Malfroy’s warre hives and went a little further afield for Gundowring Farmhouse Ice Cream from Albury. Further again for eggs from Kangaroo Island and a selection of farmhouse cheeses from my old haunt Australia on a Plate. We became an excellent one-stop-shop and the customers were thrilled. So much so that we were winners of the Local Business Awards for Most Outstanding Butcher for 2014 and 2015.

2022
Omivorium was born
2023
August
Royal Agricultural Society NSW – Sydney Royal Fine Food Show
Group photo

Associate judge – olives and charcuterie

2023
October
Fine Food Sensory Judge Training
Group photo

Organised by Sydney Royal Fine Food with TAFE NSW.

All my customers over the years – from chefs, to retailers, to farmer’s market and CHOP SHOP clients – love getting the story of the farm and artisan producers. I built relationships of trust in my selection of produce, of shared knowledge of breeds, ethical farming practices and clean, small batch artisanal production.

My working life has sought to celebrate local farming, artisanal butchery, cheese making, food harvesting and wonderful cookery with my collective of kindred spirits.

Today, CHOP SHOP carnivorium continues to supply high end retail with pastured, preservative free, retail ready smallgoods. My new focus is on my business COMRADE, an agency for producers where we facilitate direct relationships with retail outlets, subverting the middle man and creating, developing and encouraging arrangements between producer, farmer and retailer and restaurant.

I’ve been annoying, quizzing, researching, visiting, collaborating with, representing and chasing producers and farmers ever since that fateful day when I became a cook. The law is on hold.

Media

Melinda shares her insights for judging smallgoods for the Australian Meat Industry Council.

Featured on "The Chef's Challenge" with Simon Marnie.

A feature piece on Melinda in Mindfood magazine.

Melinda reviews "A place for sophisticated eating for devout worshippers of food and art" for whyathens.com.

A recipe from "At Home in the Whole Food Kitchen: Celebrating the Art of Eating Well" by Amy Chaplin.

Jean Marie visits Eveleigh markets and his "...favourite "charcutière", Melinda Dimitriades, owner of Chop Shop Carnivorium. Best saucisson in Oz by far!".

A foodie blog that aims to "save the world, one meal at a time" visits CHOP SHOP Carnivorium.

Featured in Artisan Modern magazine. Read the full article here: https://artisanmodern.com/farmgate/

Featured in an article about finding the best deli goods in Sydney. Read the full article here: https://www.broadsheet.com.au/sydney/food-and-drink/article/delicatessen

With Libbi Gorr in ‘This Weekend Life’. Episodes 2nd and 9th January 2021.

Nightlife Program with Suzanne Hill – 23rd December, 2020

Monthly slot with Simon Marnie ‘Weekend Mornings‘.

Testimonials

Dear Melinda, Just wanted to advise that both the cuts of the pork I purchased from you at Bowral Market last weekend proved to be excellent, so thank you, and particularly thank you for your advice re cooking, all worked wonderfully.  Great acclaim from all my various guests, and tremendous flavour Melinda.  Thanks heaps!
Leonie Furber
Former Head of Slow Food Sydney Convivia
Hi Melinda, At a dinner a couple of days ago with an old friend (a District Court Judge) and his wife (Loris). Loris was waxing lyrical about what a wonderful business you have and the number of people she has recommended your shop to. This was before I told her that I knew something about it. So good for you and keep up the good work….
Mark Turner
Consultant, W.G. McNally Jones Staff Lawyers