If there were anyone who could make recycled urine a hot topic during this year's Melbourne Food & Wine Festival it would be Joost Bakker. The Dutch-born Melbourne artist, florist, builder, designer, gardener and man behind the eco-friendly Greenhouse restaurants (pop-ups in Melbourne and Sydney, a permanent site in Perth), is a man blessed not only with imagination and (earth-friendly) vision, but also with the nous and the enthusiasm to get people on board and to get things done. Hence the wee, captured and recycled as nitrogen-rich fertiliser at the latest Melbourne Greenhouse, part of a series of practical innovations at the temporary restaurant (alongside straw-bale construction, cooking oil recycled to provide the restaurant's electricity, wheat milled on site, furniture made from recycled pipes and scrap leather, compostable cutlery, glassware made from jars) that Bakker, through his company By Joost, wants to bring not just to restaurants but to building generally. Currently negotiating permanent Greenhouse restaurants in Brisbane, Melbourne, Sydney, London and Milan, Bakker is also working on houses (including chef Shannon Bennett's), a homewares range, furniture design and his signature steel-structured vertical gardens that brought him to attention initially. His business partner Greg Hargrave calls him "a creative visionary and a polymath". We call him one to watch.
The Art of Living According to Joe Beef (Random House, hbk, $79.95) is one of those rare cookbooks that makes the reader start thinking about planning a trip (in this case to Montreal) just to visit the restaurant. The name is no furphy, either - beyond the excellent recipes (pork fish sticks, kale for a hangover, sausage Martini), and digressions on riding Canadian trains, making absinthe and building a smoker, the book imparts the Joe Beef ethos, a mixture of warmth and wit, both considered and irreverent. It's a must.