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Byron Shire
October 16, 2021

Turning tradition on its head

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Queen of fermented food: Katerina Lazareva.

Katerina Lazareva has a cult following thanks to the non-traditional fermented food range she produces under the Suria Foods label. And like her kimchi, sauerkraut and broths – which use local seasonal ingredients rather than simply cabbage – her path to artisan foodie has been anything but traditional.

Despite having a successful career in the media industry, which took her from her birthplace in Russia to the US and UK, Katerina felt unfulfilled.

‘One night I had a dream that I was cooking in a commercial kitchen in a white chef’s jacket with an Australian flag on it. Three months later I moved to Australia and enrolled in TAFE to do a commercial cookery course.’

Following an apprenticeship working in some of Sydney’s best restaurants – including Quay and Rockpool – Katerina felt burnt out. ‘I wanted to do something meaningful and I was attracted to Byron for its beauty, the food is amazing, and the community nurturing,’ she says. ‘And then it all came together.’

Katerina felt the pull of her Russian ancestors – who had been exiled to a labour camp in Kazakhstan during the Stalin regime and forced to become self-sufficient, growing and preserving their own food. ‘Most of the waste – trimmings, offcuts, cores – goes back into other products such as probiotic drinks,’ she says. ‘Then the fermented waste (what little there is) goes into the compost and feeds the soil in which I grow more produce.’

Suria Foods continues to evolve. Katerina is currently working on a unique miso range – again spinning a twist on traditional methods.

‘I’ve been experimenting with a Japanese fermentation technique called koji to make miso,’ she says. ‘Traditionally soybeans are used, but I don’t grow soybeans so I’ve been using smoked eggplant, roasted pumpkin, roasted sweet potato, mushroom, beetroot, pecans and banana. The results have been incredible. The first batch of miso should be ready by the end of October and will be available at Byron Farmers Market.

Byron Farmers Market is held Thursdays 7–11am at the Cavanbah Centre, and Saturdays 7–11am behind the Bangalow pub.

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