Raw Materials, 138 Cowper St, Footscray. Phone: 1300 305 129
Raw Materials founder Andy Gray is adamant the story – my story – should in no way, shape or form be about him.
“It’s all about the product,” he repeats several times as he shows me about the company’s Footscray premises – warehouses, shop, studio, cooking and demonstration spaces, offices.
Words such as family and community also feature prominently in his running commentary.
He displays a profoundly uncanny knack for crab-walking out of view whenever he senses my camera may be at risk of coming to focus on him.
Nevertheless, it’s impossible not be carried along by his boundless enthusiasm as he brandishes favoured products we pass and extols their virtues with true fervour.
I’m right at home – being here is the Consider The Sauce equivalent of a tour of the Louvre with a true believer as my guide.
Started in 2002, based at Docklands, Raw Materials these days supplies more than 3500 outlets across Australia, as well as places such as Singapore and Hong Kong.
Andy works on the premise that “small fish taste sweeter”, so Raw Materials specialises in supplying “small, independent groceries nationally”.
You’ll not find Raw Materials-sourced goodies at the likes of Coles or Woolworths, despite approaches having been made from those quarters.
The small but fascinating shop area is open to the public, but the gist of the company is to be found on the shelves of small businesses all over the country.
If you loyally shop at a good local deli or providore, then you are almost certainly buying some products supplied by Raw Materials.
Raw Materials stays clear of the coffee field on the fully understandable grounds (!) that there are many fine specialists in that area doing a fine job.
That aside, the Raw Materials repertoire is as stunning in its range as it is in its dedication to quality.
The split between imported and Australian products is about 50/50.
They range from pulses, luscious candies and chocolate, oils and Spanish ham to smoked and cured Yarra Valley Charcuterie meats, and sauces, condiments and beverages of a bewildering and colourful array.
Among them are beautiful hand-crafted knives by Peter Lorimer, some made using bones from “found” dead bush animals.
These knives are so special, so individual that Raw Materials does not sell them online – a personal, hands-on familiarity is a requirement of purchase.
According to the Raw Materials website: “The handles are made from recycled pieces of native New Zealand timbers, and decorated with brass, paua or black pearl, which means each knife is unique. Peter uses Austrian D2 steel, a high-carbon steel with a low chromium content, which means that the blades can be very hard without being brittle.”
Check out the Raw Materials website here.