Visiting restaurants and experiencing someone’s vision of food is one of life’s luxuries. I’ve been privileged to have had a 40-year friendship and business relationship with Chris Parisi, of Parisi. With his son Julian, Chris has been reinventing the fresh produce supply industry – as providore to Sydney’s top restaurants and groups like Rockpooland Merivale, owner of exclusive cafes in the CBD including Sydney Fish Markets, an up-market catering service, and a supplier of takeaway fruit and vegetable boxes for the home.
Over time, we’ve talked a lot about the value of eating food that’s fresh and in season, so I invited him to take part in a Q&A for us. Enjoy!
Chris, you’re a providore for all the leading restaurants in Sydney, including the Rockpool Group, Quay, and the Merivale Group, to name a few. What advice do you give them about produce?
It’s very important to us that our customers are using what’s in season. By doing that, they’re using the best available products, full of nutrients, at the most cost effective prices. That’s a must for us. So we provide our customers with all the information about seasonality, and it reflects in their menus. For example, strawberries, blueberries, raspberries, and asparagus are all major lines at the moment so they’re the produce we promote. It makes good financial sense, and it tastes superior to produce that’s older or not in season.
This works well for households too, right? It makes sense to make our money work hard for us and it also means we’re using the best and freshest ingredients.
Yes, absolutely. And there are so many delicious meals you can make at home with ingredients in season, and it doesn’t have to hit your wallet.
What do you like about Perfection Fresh produce?
There’s a lot about Perfection that we love. Their management in the market place – customer service, the transparency of produce, the knowledge factor – these are all key elements for us because we share that information with our food service businesses. We supply 200-odd restaurants throughout Sydney and there is a huge demand for product knowledge.
Perfection’s product range is extensive. We personally go to the markets and look at all the products ourselves – I’m a very touch and feel person when it comes to produce, probably because we’re working at the top end of our industry.
Most of all Perfection provides consistency of produce, and consistency is everything. It’s important to know what we're getting and it’s the same every time. And of course, trust is everything. We’re the kind of people who will stand by that, and we need to have that at the other end. Perfection gives us this.
COVID hit your business hard but you turned it around. How?
We were running three very successful CBD cafés, our providore business to top restaurants, and a very large catering business where we were supplying gourmet salads, paninis etc to many of the Sydney city offices. When COVID hit, the CBD closed down and most of that business fell away. Same with the Sydney Fish Market – all the tourists stopped coming because the borders closed. So we flipped to online shopping business for customers and wholesale, and that took off immediately. Restaurants developed new takeaway menus and we were able to supply food for that.
We also developed fruit and vegetable take home boxes. We fill them with produce that’s seasonal, fresh, and practical – we put ourselves in our customer’s shoes and think, what would we want for the week? Often my wife gives me a list every morning of what she’d like me to bring home and we base our selections for the boxes on that. So it’s vegetables to steam or make into salad, easy-to-cook vegetables like Broccolini®, breakfast fruit, fruit for desserts, kid’s fruit like mandarins, bananas, small apples, Qukes®, and of course, berries because they’re in season. We create the boxes to allow people to think forward for the week.
What’s your favourite go-to recipe?
Oh I love everything, it’s impossible to pick one! My absolute favourite seafood is grilled scampi. And of course, my favourite vegetable is Broccolini®!
For many years, Chris and his brothers Dom and John had the famous Parisi green grocer at Rose Bay – it was an iconic store. Today, Chris, Julian, and son-in-law Joe Carradonna are taking the Parisi brand into the future. I hope you’ve enjoyed this Q&A. For me, it’s reinforced the importance of Perfection Fresh continuing to deliver the best and freshest produce we can, and finding unique varieties, to bring as much variety to your table as possible.