Never too ‘Young’ to Try Underutilised Species

Local species such as the humble sardine, herring and mullet, once deemed as bait only, are being transformed into the main star on high quality dishes by passionate chefs. One such chef is Melissa Palinkas from Young George in Fremantle, who guarantees a menu focused on fresh, local and seasonal ingredients.

2015 was the year when Melissa became part owner and executive chef at the trendy, upbeat restaurant gracing George Street – a strip in Fremantle with a whole lot to offer.

Melissa Palinkas from Young George in Fremantle.

And Young George gives patrons a foodie experience they won’t forget.

There are experimentations, bold and expressive flavour combinations and a focus on seasonal, Western Australian produce. Part of the experience is the menu – which is constantly changing and evolving to suit the heart and soul of Young George – staying fresh.

Entering the premise, you are hit with more than your average neighbourhood bar. It is as though you have known the vicinity your whole life. Maybe it’s the wood fire oven, the setting’s charming personality and character or quite simply the ‘team factor’. You are met with a team that like their job. You can tell by their warm, gracious welcoming, passion for providing local produce and their thorough understanding of the ever-altering menu.

The vicinity feels like one that you have known your whole life.

WA Seafood Ambassador Don Hancey and I had the pleasure of being able to taste test a variation of Melissa’s most recent dish featuring the underutilised species, sardines. The star of the show from Albany was cured and decorated with lemon zest, parsley and chilli. It sat glistening on top of charred in-house made Koji bread.

Albany sardines were the star of the show on this dish!

It was oily, Mediterranean, evoked all senses and could be considered a piece of artwork – an exciting spectacle of one of WA’s modest favourites.

Melissa said that Young George was a participating venue in Buy West Eat Best’s most recent promotion,“Plating up WA“. The campaign was a call for foodies to dine out and support WA’s vibrant hospitality scene in Western Australia through June – noticeably the quietest month for the hospitality industry.

Some participating venues created a special food and beverage pairing for the month.

Young George offered customers cured local Sardines as part of Buy West Eat Best’s Plating up Campaign.

And the Young George team did just that, offering patrons (similar to the taste test) Albany sardines cured in salt and in-season lemon zest and served with a burnt lemon crema paired with a glass of WA riesling.

Melissa assured that the meal proved a popular choice with patrons – and with first-hand experience we knew exactly why.

As more chefs across Western Australia are choosing to use local underutilised seafood species, chef Don Hancey, summed up the reasoning.

“For chefs who cook and eat WA seafood, there is nothing more we love than being able to support our very own sustainable Western Australian seafood industry.”

Melissa from Young George with WA Seafood Ambassador Don Hancey featuring WA sardines.

Don said that many chefs are also environmentalists and want to ensure that there is fish for the future generations.

“Chefs want to showcase to your average home cook how easy it is to marry flavours with some of these lesser known seafood species. This is to increase popularity of these species for consumption and alleviate some of the pressure off some of the more frequently used species.”

And with a plethora of lesser known species of fish–including sardines, mullet, Australian salmon, garfish, herring, taylor, some snapper species and cuttlefish – the opportunities for experimentation are endless.

“Take the humble sardine – they are fished commercially from Fremantle to Albany and share a wealth of attributes including being affordable, sustainable and tick the health box being loaded with healthy omegas, not to mention they taste mighty good!”

“AND there are countless ways sardines can be prepared and cooked – trust me, I know from experience!” he said.

Watch this space as every month we will be featuring top chefs tips  and ideas on where to buy and how to cook some of our tasty and unique lesser known WA species 

For more information about Young George head to