Shiza Shahid on Mission-Driven Kitchenware and Cooking as Community

The co-founder of the Malala Fund has brought her thoughtful cookware line, Our Place, to Australian kitchens.

Article by Victoria Pearson

Our place_1Photograph courtesy of Our Place.

“Sharing a home-cooked meal is about more than just cooking; it’s about reconnecting to our culture, communities, traditions, and each other.”

Like many students, Shiza Shahid learned to cook out of necessity while studying at Stanford University, having relocated from her home in Pakistan. Craving her family’s food, Shahid sought out kitchenware and was suggested a 16-piece cooking set, which she found overwhelming. Surely, there was a less intimidating entry point?

Drawing on her experience with mission-driven initiatives, the 24-year-old co-founder of the Malala Fund (along with Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai) launched Our Place in 2019. A kitchenware brand caters to the modern, multiethnic, global kitchen, rooted in cultural celebration and the use of recycled materials.

Here, T Australia sat down with Shahid to discuss the brand’s launch and the creation of new traditions.

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Photograph courtesy of Our Place.

Our Place is known for its mission-driven approach to kitchenware. Can you tell us more, in your own words, about the mission of the company and the personal or commercial values that drive you and your brand?

The Our Place mission is very personal – My partner and I are both immigrants, I am Pakistani and my partner is Persian. When we came to the US, cooking food together and sharing stories over our dinner table was literally how we found our place in our new communities. We both come from strong food cultures that we had never seen represented by mainstream brands so we wanted to create a brand that honours and celebrates culture as a core tenet and where everyone could feel represented. We also saw an opportunity to tackle significant issues in the industry by innovating to create products that fill people with joy, as well as being more sustainable, and healthier alternatives to what existed.

You have a strong focus on bringing people together through home cooking. How has this belief shaped the products of Our Place?

If we want to get more people cooking and sharing meals at dinner tables – we know we need to make cooking easier by designing better cookware. We start with the pain points we see in the market, and then spend over a year engineering, prototyping, refining, innovating and testing to create true advancements in functions, materials and designs. While other cookware companies sell 18 piece sets, Our Place designed the Always Pan and Perfect Pot to replace an entire 18 piece set. We know you don’t have room for clutter, so we wanted to create products that allow you to do more with less, that are also so beautiful you’ll never put them away. They will inspire you to cook, and create more memories around the dinner table.

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Photograph courtesy of Our Place.
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Photograph courtesy of Our Place.

Can you share some insights into the unique features of your products that make cooking more accessible and enjoyable for home cooks?

There are so many! All of our cookware is designed by our wonderful team in Los Angeles, and I’m so proud of all the thoughtful details they bring to life. For example, the Always Pan has our market-leading, non-toxic coating: Thermakind® so that you know you are cooking with products that are better for you and your family. The non-stick coating inspires confidence in the kitchen for home chefs and makes cleanup a breeze! There’s also a nesting spatula which rests perfectly on the handle so you have no drips on the counter; pourspouts on both sides of the pan so it works easily for both left and right handed cooks; And our perfectly domed lid with circular grooves make it large enough to fit a whole chicken. Every single one of our products is made with so much thought and attention to detail, which really sets us apart.  

You co-founded the Malala Fund with Nobel Prize winner Malala Yousafzai and led it as the founding CEO, as well as launching NOW Ventures, an angel fund focused on mission-driven startups with a focus on female founders. How do these experiences as an investor inform the products and initiatives at Our Place?

Coming from the impact world, we built Our Place as a mission-driven brand, geared towards kinder decisions for people and the planet. That means we package our products in 100% recycled materials, without plastics.  We use recycled materials in our products – our Always Pan 2.0 is the first of its kind made from 100% post-consumer recycled aluminium. We are also committed to creating PFAS-free products, leading the industry in fighting one of the largest pollutants on the planet which is very prevalent in our category. We’ve also donated over a millions meals globally and in Australia we are supporting OzHarvest so for each purchase in Australia, we’ll donate a meal to a fellow Aussie in need. In short, we try to make better decisions in everything we do.

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Photograph courtesy of Our Place.

Can you elaborate on the concept of Traditionware and how it’s used to celebrate and honour various cultural traditions?

Traditionware collections are a celebration of the traditions we hold close and share around the dinner table. We’ve partnered with communities and artisans to create collections for Shabbat, Lunar New Year, Nowruz, Diwali, Nochebuena, and even a gorgeous Tagine hand-made by Moroccan makers. Traditionware comes from a deeply personal place – I had never seen my culture represented by mainstream brands, and wanted to create a brand where all of us could see our cultures represented loudly and proudly. 

For those who may not have many traditions from their upbringing, how can they start their own traditions, and how does Our Place support and encourage this process?

The great thing about traditions is it’s never too late to start new ones! You can simply start a chosen family dinner tradition – gather some of your closest friends, cook a meal together, and commit to making it a habit. It’s something I’m exploring myself, I grew up celebrating Eid, my partner celebrates Nowruz (Persian New Year)  and my closest friends celebrate Lunar New Year, Diwali, and Shabbat. I get to participate in so many beautiful traditions, and I cherish each one.

Three Impressive, Deceptively Easy Summer Dishes

The French chef Yann Nury elevates classic seasonal recipes with fresh flavour combinations and a few luxurious additions.

Article by Lauren Joseph

28-TMAG-EASY-SUMMER-DISHES-4Yann Nury’s alfresco summer meal of grilled flatbread, lobster rolls and peaches and cream can be eaten standing or at a picnic as easily as it can be served at the table. Photograph by David Chow.

When the chef Yann Nury, 39, was growing up in Ardèche, France, summer meant a frenzy for peak-season produce. “Melons, strawberries and peaches are my childhood,” says Nury, from the loft in New York’s SoHo neighbourhood that serves as his invitation-only dining room, La Residence. “For two weeks, that was almost all we ate — but only for two weeks.”

It’s no surprise then that Nury, who worked on Daniel Boulud’s private events team before setting out on his own almost a decade ago, is best known for delicate French fare made with ingredients at the apex of their micro-season prime. Often, he combines his fruit and vegetable obsession with formal technique: think turnip and seaweed mille-feuilles cut to sharp 90-degree angles and single-bite tartlets filled with nearly translucent petals of heirloom carrot. But he’s also hailed for his exactingly prepared versions of American comfort foods like burgers and s’mores, making him an ideal cookout host.

Nury customised this original 1952 Vespa Stabil, once used to transport produce and wine in Italy, to be a portable outdoor food prep station. Photograph by David Chow.

During the summer months, Nury brings his enormous portable grills — custom-made for him by the artisanal wood-fired grill manufacturer Grillworks — to lawns across the Hamptons, where, along with his fleet of chefs, he caters cocktail parties and elaborate barbecues for clients, many of whom work in fashion and art. At home in Westchester, he cooks solo but still prefers at least a medium-sized crowd of diners. “Eight to 12 people is the ideal number of guests,” he says. “Less and it’s not worth the effort.”

Whether in his own yard or on a job, Nury relies on reimagined summer classics that can be scaled up or down with ease — three of which he shares below. He scatters heirloom tomatoes on a bubbly, grilled sourdough pizza base; lightens the classic New England lobster roll with a sweet summer corn sauce; and nestles grilled peaches into layers of vanilla cream, mascarpone, ricotta and crumbled shortbread cookies. Each recipe features an unexpected, luxurious touch. The tomatoes are sprinkled with caviar, for instance, and the peach cream gets a drizzle of cognac. “I love a mix of high and low,” says Nury. But, he stresses, these extras are purely optional. His advice: Start at the farmers’ market. “If they don’t have it, you probably don’t need it.” Then, says the chef, “Take the extra five minutes to make it look great.”

Nury uses a variety of heirloom tomatoes, removing their skins before layering them on the flatbread. Photograph by David Chow.
For a luxurious touch, Nury sometimes dollops caviar — here, a golden variety — atop the finished flatbread. Photograph by David Chow.

Tomato Flatbread With Vanilla and Basil

Blanching and skinning the tomatoes might seem tricky, but when the fruit is perfectly ripe, “the skins almost fall off,” Nury says. The sweet, pliant flesh that remains, stripped of all its roughness and acidity, feels almost buttery when piled atop a grilled pizza crust. Leftover vanilla oil can be drizzled over avocados or clementines.

Yield: 2 flatbreads


  • Heirloom tomatoes in assorted colors (2 to 3 slices per flatbread)
  • Kosher salt and black pepper
  • 1 lemon
  • ½ cupextra-virgin olive oil (plus more to taste)
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • Espelette pepper (to taste)
  • 1 16-ounce ball store-bought pizza dough (for a homemade option, see below)
  • Finishing salt (like fleur de sel)
  • Basil (flowering if possible)

To prepare the tomatoes, cut a shallow cross shape into the bottom of each tomato and submerge in boiling, salted water for 30 seconds. Remove and plunge into a bowl of ice water until cooled. Pat tomatoes dry and remove the skin. Cut the flesh into thin slices (aim for between ¼ and ⅛ inch thick) and sprinkle with salt and pepper. Let sit in the refrigerator or at room temperature to release their water for a minimum of 2 hours. Drain and set aside. Zest the lemon into the olive oil. Cut the vanilla bean open lengthwise to expose the seeds and add to the oil along with a dash of Espelette pepper. Taste and adjust the seasoning.

Divide the dough ball in 2 and shape each half into a roughly 12-inch-long-by-5-inch-wide oval, stretching with your hands rather than using a rolling pin if possible. Brush the dough with the vanilla oil, reserving some to brush onto the tomatoes. Grill the flatbread over medium to high heat until it releases easily from the grill and has some char marks. Flip and cook on the other side until golden. Layer on the tomato slices, overlapping and varying the colors, and brush lightly with the reserved vanilla oil. Finish with flaky salt and basil blossoms or leaves.

Optional: Layer a bit of caviar on top.

Nury recommends looking for an olive oil with a harvest date on the label. For best quality, an oil should be used within one year of harvest. Photograph by David Chow.
Air pockets in the dough, the result of fermentation and hand-stretching, become crispy edges on the grill. Photograph by David Chow.

Homemade Pizza Dough

Yield: 8 flatbreads


  • 1 kilogram 00 flour
  • 650 grams water
  • 30 grams olive oil
  • 15 grams fresh yeast or 8 grams dry
  • 25 grams salt

Using a stand mixer with a dough hook attachment, mix flour, water and olive oil on low for 1½ minutes. Add yeast and salt, mix another 1½ minutes on low speed, then 3 minutes on medium.

Cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 3 or 4 hours. Punch down the dough to remove all the air and shape it into a large ball. Place the ball into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let it sit in the refrigerator for at least 3 days, which will impart a fermented, almost sourdough-like flavor. When ready to make the flatbreads, shape the dough into 8 balls and let them sit, covered airtight with plastic wrap at room temperature, for 2 hours.

Nury uses popcorn as a crunchy garnish. Photograph by David Chow.
Nury doesn’t cook with many spices, but he does collect peppers. Here, he adds Espelette, a sweet and smoky variety from the French Basque region, to the lobster meat. Photograph by David Chow.
Puréed corn is used as a lighter, sweeter alternative to mayonnaise. Photograph by David Chow.

Sweet Corn Lobster Roll

Growing up in a forested region of southeastern France, “there was not a lot of seafood-driven cuisine,” says Nury. It’s understandable, then, that the chef lacks nostalgic affection for the mayonnaise-coated lobster rolls popular in New England. “To be honest, I don’t particularly love them, so I wanted to change them,” he says. His lush version tastes more like the butter-dunked variety of the sandwich but is dairy-free. Instead, sweet summer corn, blitzed into a quick sauce, coats the meat. Nury, who always likes to contrast textures, tops the rolls with popcorn for some crunch.


  • 6 whole lobsters (live if possible, or steamed from your fishmonger)
  • 12 ears corn in the husk
  • 4egg yolks
  • 4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
  • Extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1lemon, zested and juiced
  • Espelette pepper to taste
  • 12 store-bought potato or brioche rolls
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • 2 bunches chives, chopped
  • Fresh cilantro, dill, fennel fronds or popcorn, to finish

If you’re cooking the lobster yourself, boil the tail and claws separately, 3 minutes for the tail and 8 minutes for the claws. Cool to room temperature in an ice bath. Remove the meat from the shells and chop.

Remove the first few leaves from the corn husk and discard. Wash and add the corn, with the rest of its husk intact, to boiling salted water. Simmer for 15 minutes. (Cooking the husk intensifies the flavor.) Let cool slightly and remove the husk, then slice the kernels from the cob.

Reserve ⅓ of the kernels and add the rest to a blender along with the egg yolks, mustard, 2½ tablespoons olive oil, 1 tablespoon lemon zest and the juice of one lemon. Blend, then add Espelette pepper to taste. Blend again until very smooth and pass the mixture through a fine-mesh strainer to remove any remaining solids. Cool and reserve. (Sauce can be made one day ahead. Store in the refrigerator and bring back to room temperature before using.)

To serve, slice the crust of the buns and cut in half. Brush with butter and toast each side until golden brown. Mix the lobster meat with the sauce, adding the chopped chives and reserved corn kernels. Fill each bun very generously. Finish with more lemon zest, fresh herbs (cilantro, fennel fronds or dill) or a sprinkling of popcorn.

Optional: Top each sandwich with a few slices of soft bottarga.

The finished pots of peaches and cream, topped with nasturtium flowers. Photograph by David Chow.

Grilled Peaches and Cream

“Grill flavor is not something that should be overpowering,” says Nury. To get just a hit of char and caramelization on your peaches, “it’s always safer to go for a lower temperature for longer.” A maple syrup balances the tang of ricotta and mascarpone, while shortbread cookies provide crunchy texture. You could easily assemble these in advance or layer the ingredients in a large bowl for a trifle.


  • 24 ripe peaches (local if possible)
  • 8 -10 ounces maple syrup
  • 8 tablespoons (1 stick) salted butter
  • Fresh thyme, leaves stripped from the stems
  • Sea salt
  • 32 ounces mascarpone
  • 16 ounces ricotta
  • 1 vanilla bean
  • 1 lemon, zested
  • Black pepper
  • Store-bought shortbread cookies

Slice the peaches in half and remove the pits. Melt the butter and combine with the maple syrup, thyme leaves and sea salt to taste. Brush the peaches with maple butter and grill them face down over medium heat until clear grill marks appear on the bottom. Let cool slightly and slice into chunks. Set aside.

Split the vanilla bean lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Add vanilla seeds to the ricotta, mascarpone and lemon zest. Add maple syrup and sea salt to taste and whisk until combined. Crumble the shortbread, then, in individual jars or a large bowl, layer the sauce, peaches and crumbled shortbread. Repeat until filled. For added sweetness, finish with a drizzle of maple butter.

Optional: Add a splash of XO Cognac to the ricotta and mascarpone mixture.

This Isn’t Your Grandfather’s Scotch

In a climate of pragmatism and collaboration, whisky producers are challenging the old assumption that drinking well means sipping single malts.

Article by Fred Siggins

Fuji-Blended Whisky_1Tasting blended whisky at Fuji distillery. Photograph courtesy of Fuji.

Among “serious” whisky drinkers, there’s a fair amount of shade thrown at blended whisky. Single malt, the thinking goes, is the good stuff. But like so much we’ve been fed by marketers and self-styled connoisseurs, it’s far from the truth. Regardless of how you feel about Johnnie Walker and his old-world counterparts, modern blended whiskies have much more to offer than simply being cheap mixers. New-school blenders are working their magic to create drams of outstanding distinction without the “single malt” moniker. 

I recently sat down with Jota Tanaka, the master distiller and blender at Japan’s Fuji brand, whose Single Blended Japanese Whisky won the Best Japanese Blended category at this year’s World Whiskies Awards. “Most whisky produced in Japan is designed to be affordable, approachable and with good flavour,” he told me. “We made blended whisky to please the Japanese palate from the beginning.” Tanaka says Japanese whiskies have always been good, but it’s only lately that the world has taken notice. “We follow authentic Scotch but we’ve been really exacting because that’s the Japanese character,” he says. “Japanese blends are very mellow, smooth, but really complex. We’ve been making it that way for a long time — meticulously paying attention to details.”

Jumping the Rattler, a blend by three regional Australian distilleries. Courtesy of the brand.
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Fuji’s World Whiskies Awards winner. Courtesy of the brand.
A 49-year-old blended Scotch by North Star Spirits. Courtesy of the brand.

On the other end of the spectrum from the large-scale Japanese producers is the world of independent bottlers. This is the pointy end of whisky where esoteric brands track down, bottle and share the most interesting casks they can find. One such bottler is Scotland’s North Star Spirits, which is known for its remarkable single casks, such as a recent 31-year-old Glendronach. But there’s a problem. “Single casks of Scotch whisky are becoming harder and harder to find,” says Iain Croucher, the proprietor of North Star. “And what’s out there is getting prohibitively expensive.” As such, he says, “Serious whisky drinkers need to get around blends if they want reliably good whisky at an affordable price.” 

North Star has released some incredible blends of late, such as a 49-year-old Scotch with as much rich, dense sherry-cask character as any single malt. Sadly, it’s sold out, but the company’s Blended Scotch 1993 — an impressive 29 years old — is available and a steal at £150 (about $285); a comparable single malt would go for a sum well into four figures. Also worth considering is North Star’s Tarot series. It’s younger and more affordable (about $95) but packs no less of a punch, with a recent release, The Fool, weighing in at 57.3 per cent ABV.

Jota Tanaka, Fuji’s master distiller and blender. Photograph courtesy of Fuji.

Local whisky producers are getting in on the blending game, too. Starward’s Two-Fold is among the best-selling Australian whiskies on the market, in part because of its affordability, and Lark’s Symphony No.1 blend comes with a slightly less eye-watering price tag than the company’s standard offerings. Even small-scale craft producers are having a crack, and with some brilliant results. Jumping the Rattler is a blend of whiskies from Fleurieu Distillery, Timboon and Backwoods, all tiny, regional single-malt distilleries. A previous blend put together by Fleurieu with Black Gate distillery in New South Wales’ Central West has won a bevy of well-deserved trophies.

It’s a testament to the mateship in Australia’s craft whisky scene that these family distilleries will share precious casks for an experiment of this kind, and the result is wonderful, offering a complexity no single distillery could achieve on its own. 

For Its 100th Anniversary, The House of Suntory is Throwing Not One, But Five, Birthday Parties Down Under

The exclusive ‘Suntory Time’ dining experiences will be hosted at a selection distinguished restaurants across Sydney and Melbourne.

Article by T Australia

Suntory Time_1From left: Nya Gatbel and Ulbossyn Tassanova celebrate The House of Suntory 100 Year Anniversary Global Event and “Suntory Time” Tribute Premiere with Keanu Reeves and Sofia Coppola on May 23, 2023 in New York City. Photograph by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for House of Suntory.

For the next few months, the House of Suntory is taking its birthday celebrations interstate, with a series of ‘Suntory Time’ dining experiences, hosted at distinguished restaurants in Sydney and Melbourne.

Enthusiasts and novices alike are invited to partake in the soirées, where they will have the rare opportunity to not only savour the whiskies of the House of Suntory, but also to immerse themselves in the lineage and heritage that have shaped this iconic establishment over a century.

With each sip, attendees will be transported to the heart of Osaka, the very home of House of Suntory, where the fusion of Japanese spirit, craftsmanship, and unwavering dedication has led to an unparalleled legacy. This epicurean journey is a seamless blend of the brand’s ageless traditions and its ever-evolving ingenuity, achieved through a masterful interplay between the most exquisite whiskies and the inventive culinary artistry of the partnering restaurants.

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A view of the Tokyo Record Bar at The House of Suntory 100 Year Anniversary Global Event and “Suntory Time” Tribute Premiere with Keanu Reeves and Sofia Coppola on May 23, 2023 in New York City. Photograph by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for House of Suntory.
A view of the 100-seat bar at The House of Suntory 100 Year Anniversary Global Event and “Suntory Time” Tribute Premiere with Keanu Reeves and Sofia Coppola on May 23, 2023 in New York City. Photograph by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for House of Suntory.

A selection of venues across Sydney and Melbourne are set to host these extraordinary celebrations, including reigning Japanese Restaurant of the Year according to RCA Awards 2022, Kisume (Melbourne), subterranean dining haven Yugen (Melbourne, October 5), iconic Sydney outpost Toko (August 30), the nautical inspired Lobby Lounge at Hyatt Regency, (Sydney, September 21) and The Rocks’ Saké Restaurant & Bar (Sydney, September 12).

Highlighted amongst the tastings are the prestigious 18-year-old Yamazaki, 18-year-old Hakushu, 18-year-old Yamazaki Mizunara 100th Anniversary, and 18-year-old Hakushu Peated Malt 100th Anniversary. The gastronomic pairings and accompanying libations will be tailored to each venue, rendering each event a distinctive culinary adventure.

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A view of Hibiki 21 Year Old and Hibiki Japanese Harmony at The House of Suntory 100 Year Anniversary Global Event and “Suntory Time” Tribute Premiere with Keanu Reeves and Sofia Coppola on May 23, 2023 in New York City. Photograph by Jamie McCarthy/Getty Images for House of Suntory.

Mushrooms Have Taken Over Fashion and Wellness. Up Next: Chocolate

A new wave of confections are harnessing the ancient pairing of fungi and cacao (without the hallucinogenic effects).

Article by Megan Bradley

12-TMAG-WELLNESS-CONFECTIONSAn array of mushroom-infused chocolate products, from top: Vehicle Chocolates Myco Pollen bar, $12,, Casa Bosques Mycelium Edition Power bar, $25,, Compartés Vegan Raspberry Matcha bar, $10,, Fine & Raw 70% Cordyceps Chaga bar, $13,, Fungirl Mushpit bar, $40 (for a pack of 5),, Alice Nightcap bar, $29 (for a pack of 2),, Golde Shroom Shield powder, $29, Photograph by Hugo Yu. Styled by Beth Pakradoon.

In H. G. Wells’s 1896 short story “The Purple Pileus,” the protagonist attempts to end his life by ingesting fungi; instead of death, he is met with psychedelic visions that help him improve his life. Mushrooms, in the literary imagination and in our physical world, have long been seen as a tool for change — at a point when a person can go no further, these powerful organisms can illuminate an alternate path. And their strength isn’t limited to the psychedelic: Functional mushrooms — species that have been shown to have cognitive, immune system and longevity benefits — have been used for centuries in Chinese medicine to treat a variety of ailments. The second-century text “Shen Nong Ben Cao Jing,” attributed to the mythological Chinese ruler Shen Nong, suggests that reishi mushrooms “may make the body light, prevent senility and prolong life so as to make one an immortal.”

While immortality is not yet on the table, confectionary and wellness brands are tapping into our collective fascination with mushrooms. And many are making these functional ingredients more palatable — and perhaps more potent — by combining them with chocolate to create unusual sweets designed to soothe and heal or, in some cases, provide a barely perceptible buzz.

The pairing of cacao and mushrooms can be traced back thousands of years: Ceremonies in which fungi were mixed with cacao in an attempt to commune with the divine were an integral part of many Mesoamerican cultures. And the combination has been found to have some health benefits, says Isabella Zar, the founder of the California-based wellness brand Fungirl, whose Mane Bar is named after lion’s mane, a mushroom species shown to promote nerve growth in the brain. “The relationship between cacao and mushrooms is symbiotic,” says Zar. “The cacao is a vasodilator,” an agent that widens blood vessels, she continues, “and acts as a carrier for the mushrooms” across the blood-brain barrier, allowing the fungi to take effect. In a crisis-ridden world, revisiting these ancient rituals, and the fungal kingdom as a whole, can yield valuable lessons, suggests Merlin Sheldrake, the author of the book “Entangled Life: How Fungi Make Our Worlds, Change Our Minds and Shape Our Futures” (2020). “As an interconnected, living network,” he says, “fungi are poster organisms for ecological and circular thinking.”

For Sheldrake, and many fungi enthusiasts, partnering with these organisms offers a real way to reduce our impact on the Earth. “They form an important part of a climate crisis solution,” he says. As fast-growing and relatively low-maintenance crops — many can be grown indoors, with little space, water or labor — fungi present an opportunity to rethink our food system and begin making small shifts toward localised production. This relationship between cultivator and consumer is central to the Mexico City-based fine chocolate atelier Casa Bosques, founded by the architectural designer Rafael Prieto. The brand recently collaborated with Mycelia Lab, a Cuernavaca-based mushroom farm and sustainable development outreach project, to create Mycelium Edition, a collection of four chocolate bars each with distinctive blends of functional mushrooms: Power, for example, features cordyceps, while Mycology mixes pink oyster mushrooms with shiitake.

The Brooklyn-based chocolate company Fine & Raw is similarly committed to working with environmentally conscious growers and has made bars infused with cordyceps, said to have anti-aging properties, and chaga, which reduces inflammation in the body. Reishi, a species known to boost the immune system and guard against fatigue, stars in the Los Angeles-based chocolate brand Compartés’s vegan Healing bar, which also contains freeze-dried raspberries topped with matcha powder. The Portland, Ore.-based Vehicle Chocolates, co-founded by Matt Milletto, Alissa Friedman and Dave Gurley, created its Myco Pollen bar, featuring locally sourced bee pollen and mushrooms like red reishi and chaga, as a tribute to the food journalist Michael Pollan, an advocate of creating a more sustainable food system and the healing power of psilocybin.

Wellness brands are also exploring the mushroom-chocolate pairing: The New York-based Golde, founded by Trinity Mouzon Wofford, offers a latte blend called Shroom Shield that features reishi, cacao powder and turkey tail mushrooms, which are thought to prevent oxidative stress. “We formulated it with a Swiss Miss packet in mind,” says Mouzon Wofford. For a slightly mellower experience, there’s Nightcap, from the New York- and California-based wellness brand Alice, named for another touchstone in mushroom lore: Lewis Carroll’s 1865 book “Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.” Packaged in a travel-friendly tin, the bars contain reishi and chamomile and are intended as a soothing bedtime treat.

The line also offers Brainstorm, a blend featuring lion’s mane, for daytime consumption. The company’s founders, Charlotte Cruze and Lindsay Goodstein, have recently seen an increase in their customers enjoying these chocolates socially at gatherings like dinner parties, where they’re passed around as an alternative to stronger substances like alcohol. “In a time where we’ve collectively felt pretty bad,” says Cruze, “people are looking for ways to feel good.”

For Penfolds, a Japanese Streetwear Designer Becomes an Unlikely Ally

In a bid to reach a younger generation of wine aficionados, Penfolds teams up with Nigo — the streetwear designer known for his camo prints and hip-hop collaborations.

Article by Luke Benedictus

Penfolds Nigo_1The rapper Pusha T wears a jacket from a collaboration between Penfolds and Nigo’s Human Made label. Photograph courtesy of Penfolds.

It’s 5:10am at The Upper House hotel in Hong Kong. Having woken too early due to jet lag, I’m in the gym on the 48th floor, pounding away on the running machine and watching the skyscrapers come alive in the faint dawn light. Someone else enters the gym: a stocky guy in a white Adidas T-shirt wearing a bandana over his cornrows. He gives me a nod as he heads into the adjacent weights room. Isn’t that the rapper Pusha T? Presently, I hear him counting his reps and recognise the timbre of his grunts from his music. It is indeed Pusha T and I have a suspicion he’s in town for tonight’s event: Penfolds’ global launch of its new range of wines.

If my hunch is correct, it’s a somewhat unlikely pairing. Penfolds, after all, is the venerable winemaker that has arguably done more than any other brand to establish Australia’s international reputation. Pusha T, on the other hand, is a Virginia-based rapper whose work relentlessly excavates his former life as a street-level cocaine dealer. Still, the more I think about it, the more confident I am he’s here in some capacity for Penfolds, because today the brand is also announcing its first-ever “creative partner”: Nigo, the Japanese designer and music producer.  

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The Nigo x One by Penfolds launch in Hong Kong, an event designed to boost brand appeal among “the new luxurians”. Photograph courtesy of Penfolds.

Heralded as the founding father of streetwear, Nigo rose to prominence in the 1990s with his cult label A Bathing Ape (aka BAPE), which featured simian iconography and multi-hued camouflage prints that became wildly popular. This success led to a multitude of collaborations, including the brands Nigo launched with Pharrell Williams: Billionaire Boys Club and Icecream. Today, Nigo continues to run his own independent clothing brand, Human Made, while also serving as the artistic director of Kenzo. He’s also known to be close to Pusha T, who attended his first runway
show for Kenzo last year and made a guest appearance on his 2022 album, “I Know Nigo!” 

Now, Penfolds is looking to tap into Nigo’s cultural cachet. Media personnel from around the Asia-Pacific region have gathered in Hong Kong to see what this sommelier of style will bring to the table. The reason for this partnership, explains Kristy Keyte, Penfolds’ chief marketing officer, is an effort to broaden the brand’s appeal to a younger audience. “We are really trying hard to recruit the next generation of wine drinkers,” she says. “Penfolds has been around for 180 years. We want to be around for evermore. So we are constantly recruiting and re-recruiting the next generation of wine drinkers. This collaboration is a critical component of that.”

Penfolds’ demographic has traditionally been split into two main categories. Keyte describes the first as “the connoisseurs”: highly engaged wine drinkers who are likely to have hefty collections and be intimate with different regions and terroirs. “They’re wine geeks to a large degree,” she says. “Then we have another segment, which is ‘the new luxurians’. These consumers still love wine, but they have a different relationship with it and view it more as another part of their luxury lifestyle. This consumer tends to be younger, and these new luxurians are a space that we are going after as a brand.”

This strategy to woo a younger market makes sense, as the wine industry is belatedly coming to terms with a changing demographic. Last year, a “State of the US Wine Industry” report warned that future business was threatened by falling interest among younger consumers, coupled with the fact that baby boomers — currently the prime market for wine — are nearing retirement age, a time when consumption typically declines. “Millennials and gen Z are going to make up something like 60 per cent of luxury goods [consumers] by 2026,” says Keyte. “They’re significant.”

To understand why Nigo is such a valuable ally in reaching this market, it’s worth considering the opinion of Virgil Abloh. Before his death in 2021, the artistic director of Louis Vuitton menswear famously hailed Nigo’s taste-making vision and described BAPE as his generation’s version of Chanel. “There is no-one like Nigo,” Abloh said in a video to launch the LV x Nigo collaboration. “He helped us understand how luxury can relate to a new generation.”  

Penfolds clearly hopes Nigo will deliver the same game-changing impact for its new range of wines that are based on the theme of “oneness”, a slightly paradoxical concept that involves embracing “what makes us all different and unique, but also the things that bring us together”. But how does a designer renowned for his logo-heavy apparel deliver the goods for a wine brand?

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Nigo beside his bold designs for Penfolds, created to help the Australian company tap into a new, younger market. Photograph courtesy of Penfolds.

A few hours later, at the media lunch in the Upper House’s Sky Lounge, the answer to that question is revealed. Dressed in double denim and white Kenzo sneakers, Nigo himself appears, wearing sunglasses (indoors) along with his trademark cap. At one end of the room, the initial fruits of the collaboration are unveiled. For starters, Nigo has designed the branding for the new One by Penfolds range. Modestly priced at $30 a bottle, the 10 wines are sourced from Australia, France, China and the US. To represent these regions, Nigo has designed four animal motifs for the respective nations’ wine labels in the form of a crocodile, rooster, panda and bear. Depicted with cartoonish intensity, the images feel far bolder and street-tough than your standard wine label. “I do think that some people find wine intimidating,” Nigo later explains over email. “But I hope that my designs change that image for some people.”

Making wine more accessible is important to Nigo. Although the 52-year-old describes himself as a passionate wine collector today, his interest came from an unlikely source. “There is a Japanese manga series about wine called ‘Drops of God’,” he explains. “This manga had a great influence on me in terms of wine.”

In addition to the wine labels, Nigo has also designed a range of Penfolds x Human Made apparel. This includes high-quality baseball jackets and T-shirts that feature the various motifs from his newly designed menagerie. They’re significantly less accessible than the wines: the jackets cost up to $HK13,845 ($AU2,600). Those price tags are academic, however: Nigo’s hype power is such that by the time we sit down for the lunch at the hotel, the global supply of these garments has sold out in a matter of hours.  

At the time of the launch, Nigo’s involvement as creative partner is limited to designing labels, apparel and packaging. But the partnership with Penfolds is a multi-year commitment with more outputs set to follow. “This is just the prologue,” Nigo says. “The story will continue from here.”

The wines themselves constitute a diverse range. While the One by Penfolds Red Blend China can only be bought in that country, there are nine other varieties available. Six are Australian: a shiraz; a syrah, grenache, mourvedre blend; a cabernet sauvignon; a pinot noir; a chardonnay; and a rosé. Beyond that, there’s a vin rouge, and a grenache, syrah, mourvedre blend from France, plus a red blend from California. Penfolds winemaker Matt Woo explains that the wines were specifically designed to be “approachable” for consumers. When sampled over lunch, it’s clear that what that translates to are wines that have softer tannins and are fairly straightforward in their overall structure. Yet Woo points out that each wine still bears the hallmarks of Penfolds identity. The whites, he explains, remain defined by their freshness and acid backbone, while the reds still muster that generous mid-palate Penfolds is known for. Woo describes them as “rich, with lots of fruit intensity, before the tannins, acid and alcohol kick in, to help drive the depth of flavour”. The initial consensus among the lunch guests is that the new One range not only looks stylish, but the wines pass the sniff test, too. 

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Pusha T performing at the Nigo x One by Penfolds party at PMQ. Photograph courtesy of Penfolds.

That night, it’s time for the big launch event. The articulation of the party’s dress code is perhaps the one moment that suggests Penfolds is still coming to grips with its new customer base. Guests are requested to wear “elevated streetwear (culturally inspired, trendy street fashion that celebrates diversity, individuality and the spirit of collaboration)”. On paper, it’s a baffling remit.

Thankfully, the party is less self-conscious. A multi-level art gallery has been transformed into a full club experience. Guests enter through a neon hallway of flashing screens depicting Nigo’s various animal logos, before being greeted by a DJ priming the crowd with hip-hop bangers. The main space is divided into four corners, each related to the different regions of the wines. From the faux crocodile-skin walls of the Australian section to the fluffy “panda” armchairs in China, every detail feels calculated to be as Instagrammable as possible. The crowd largely young, fashionable and full of influencer types — gleefully complies. Nigo himself lurks in the VIP area, sunglasses still on (of course), nodding his head to the music. Then, Pusha T takes to the stage (confirming my earlier hunch) and delivers a greatest hits package, tactfully only mouthing his songs’ many obscenities. The crowd rocks in delighted approval, smartphones recording every move as the revellers try not to spill their glasses of pinot noir.    

The next morning, I experience the other side of Penfolds. In the Grand Ballroom of the Conrad Hotel, I find myself amid a markedly older crowd of oenophiles clad in blazers and ironed slacks. Classical music tinkles soothingly in the background as we’re individually seated at tables covered with starched white tablecloths. On each table are 27 wine glasses that waiters gradually fill for the media preview of the Penfolds Collection 2023. “You’ll see on your table there are some bigger wines and some lesser bodied wines,” explains Penfolds’ chief winemaker, Peter Gago. “But a constant is not bigness or boldness. It’s the other B-word: ‘balance’. That is a major part of these wines, as is a propensity to age and an ability to cellar.”

Hailing from Australia, France and California, the wines span multiple varieties, vineyards and vintages. They include some extraordinary standouts. The Bin 704 from 2020 redefines Napa Valley cabernet with a silk-like textural definition, while the Yattarna Chardonnay 2021 delivers a fine citrus acidity balanced with floral notes and a long finish. Over a couple of hours, the tasting culminates with the brand’s legendary Grange in the form of four vintages from 1989, 1999, 2009 and 2019. It’s an emphatic reminder that, hip collaborations aside, few Australian winemakers can muster this level of expertise and sheer range. Then again, as Gago himself points out, Penfolds remains committed to the eternal quest for balance. 

This is an extract from an article that appears in print in our eighth edition, Page 39 of T Australia with the headline: “The Thing”