Charcuteria with Frank Camorra and David Roberts

It’s difficult to talk about Spanish food in Australia without uttering the name ‘Frank Camorra’. A Spanish food pioneer in this city, Camorra has led the way in fostering the tapas tradition in Melbourne.

Camorra’s restaurants MoVida Original, MoVida Next Door and MoVida Aqui reflect the vibrant food culture of Spain; not least of which is charcuteria and, in particular, jamon.

When I head into MoVida Original to interview Camorra, he brings out a selection of smallgoods for me to try that I’d be a fool to say no to. Tender and flavourful chorizo with a perfect fat-to-meat ratio tinged with a deep earthy red from Spanish paprika; Jamon Iberico de Bellotta with a layer of fat like butter that is so delicious and unlike any other cured pork I’ve tasted before. Based purely on this experience, it’s easy to see why Camorra is known for his charcuteria.

Born in Barcelona to Spanish parents before migrating to Australia and growing up in Geelong, Camorra has dedicated his food career to bringing traditional Spanish cuisine to Melburnians and Melbourne visitors alike; a big part of which is focusing on Spanish-style charcuteria and smallgoods, or embutidos (Spanish for “cured sausage”).

By his side in his culinary endeavours has been Dave Roberts, former head chef at MoVida Original, who after 13 years with MoVida, decided to venture into the world of smallgoods himself due to being dissatisfied with what was on offer locally. Roberts’ smallgoods company; Carne-Sal-Tiempo (Spanish for “meat-salt-time”) supplies Camorra’s restaurants with its embutidos.

Camorra and Roberts have a fairly traditional, pure approach to cured meats, and insist that when it comes to quality smallgoods, less is more.

“We do a mixed [charcuterie] board [at MoVida Aqui], but we prefer to sell it individually. The whole smallgoods board tradition isn’t particularly Spanish; I think it’s more a way to increase sales,” Camorra says. “But when you’re in Spain, you order chorizo or you order jamon. You don’t actually mix it together.”

Camorra says that instead of it being all about piling up your board with various meats, it’s all about the quality of the product. This comes down to the quality of the meat, whether it’s made by someone who knows what they’re doing, and whether the meat is well-cured and well-aged.

Roberts agrees, conceding that having one great stand-alone meat product with accompaniments to balance it out is the way to go. “On the board, you’ve got to get the textures [right],” he says. “With the meat, you [should have] pickles, or anything that will cut through the fattiness and the different sorts of textures in the salamis.”

“It’s much more pleasurable to eat one really nice piece of meat, which is just the way I was brought up,” Camorra says. “It’s one really special thing, it’s a jewel, and you don’t need eight jewels on the plate. It’s a bit too much bling. That’s how I think about food in general.”

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