#REPOST from Merivales “Meritales”
#REPOST from Merivales “Meritales” blog post!
Supplier Spotlight: Julian Parisi
Posted in 23 Aug 2019
It’s just before dawn at Flemington’s Sydney Markets and we’ve already squandered the best buys according to third-generation merchant Julian Parisi. He’s taking Danielle Alvarez and her team from Fred’s, in Paddington, on a tour of Sydney’s sprawling produce market, and it’s hard to believe that we’ve already missed the action. In between piles of rainbow chard and kefir limes, an endless parade of forklifts glide perilously close to calamity, pirouetting around corners like a blood sport ballet. Merchants yell from atop hessian sacks waving big calloused hands while their colleagues loiter in the aisles exchanging cigarettes with the morning’s gossip.
The old-school scenes of the city’s veg trade are equal parts chaos and charm, but for Julian (pictured below) the fuss is second-nature. He was raised in the place and everywhere we go vendors are keen to show him what they’re peddling. “I always used to come here as a kid, so I know generations of growers. There’s a lot of history here, but there’s a lot of banter as well,” he says.
But it’s not just growers that share an inter-generational history with Parisi – the wholesaler has a decades long relationship with clients like Merivale too. “I’m the third generation to work closely with Merivale. Justin and Bettina are the second on their side,” he says. “My father and his brothers dealt with Mr. John and Merivale Hemmes years ago out of the Rose Bay store when we were just retail, so there’s a lot of history between our families.”
Things have changed a lot since the Rose Bay days for the supplier. With a reputation for fresh, quality produce having earned them the retail business of Sydney’s best restaurateurs and chefs, Julian and his father Chris saw an opportunity to grow the operation. “Parisi has changed in a big way. We were always a retail business, supplying our customers for their home kitchens,” he says. “But about 9 years ago I left my job at Goldman Sachs, and my father Chris and I started our wholesale business. Our relationship with brands like Merivale was a catalyst for that.”
Today, Parisi is one of the most recognisable names in fruit and veg. Having moved into an enormous warehouse at Sydney Markets, they now stock some of Sydney’s top restaurants. From the ever-evolving roster of weird and wonderful produce at Fred’s to the plump tomatoes and sumptuous melon antipasti at Totti’s, their goods are the cornerstone of the city’s finest menus.
“Fresh produce is essential if you want to run a reputable business,” says Totti’s executive chef Mike Eggert. “Our customers have an expectation that they’re going to get fresh produce and quality local ingredients, which are inextricably linked to a delicious meal,” he says. “It’s a two-way street. I give Julian things to look for as I know they’re coming into season, but he also has the licence to see something interesting and shoot us a message knowing someone will always say ‘sh*t, I really want those.’”
“Working with someone with his knowledge and experience is the reason I don’t have to go to the markets anymore,” says Mike. “It’s a relationship heavily reliant trust – plus everyone saves their best stuff for him!”
Julian’s produce tips for this season:
Always make sure that the skin is a nice dark green colour. A good rule is too light is underripe and too dark is overcooked. At this time of year your best bet is Hass avocadoes from WA.
With Queensland in full swing and great tasting berries coming out of WA, this is the best time of year for strawberries. As with avos, colour is really important to picking up great strawberries. The skin should shiny and bright red, and the calyx (that’s the leafy bit at the top) should be a vibrant green colour indicating a fresh, young plant. Look out for deep recessed akins (dimples) which mean the berry has developed nicely on the vine and should be full of flavour.
This is a great time for large, sweet blueberries. It’s really important to look out for berries that have a natural cloudy musk on the skin. This is called the berry bloom which is a natural protective layer and indicates freshness. Stay away from berries with a shiny dark blue appearance.
Words by Dimitri Tricolas