By Marion Gerritsen

The world’s finest high-end foods and spices once attainable only by top chefs are now available to the public with the recent opening of Gourmet Life in Sydney’s eastern suburbs.

The store features more than 1,000 unique products ranging from Rome’s oldest coffee to Europe’s most sought-after fresh almonds and hazelnuts as well as its signature ranges black caviar, truffles and wild mushrooms.

Over the past decade owner Josh Rea became renowned through Sydney’s leading restaurants as the supplier of rare, high quality products starting with vanilla and saffron.

“The launch of vanilla coke created such a demand for vanilla beans, so I bought a huge supply and chefs were happy to pay for it,” says Rea. “This is how it started. Soon I moved into wild mushrooms, caviar and truffles selling directly to chefs at the restaurants, knocking on their back doors. I worked 24 hours a day―I was the only person doing it and it was the most beneficial thing to do… I started work when others were going home.”

But the price of this success meant Rea’s home-based business took over his life.

“We couldn’t fit all the hazelnuts in the hallway of my house anymore”, he says. “We had Mediterranean sea salt stacked to the roof. There was no restaurant we weren’t supplying.”

The only way forward was to find a willing retailer to take on his highly delicate produce, but when this proved impossible, Rea took matters into his own hands and Gourmet Life was born.

“The house was becoming too small and 18 months ago I started looking for a property… I didn’t want to be too far from my clients, the airport and CBD, and settled on this space in Edgecliff.”

Gourmet Life is far more than just a shopping or browsing experience. Each brand has a story and staff can take customers a sample tasting through the store, with the background of each explained so buyers fully appreciate products’ unique qualities. Prices are affordable too, ranging from well under $10. Black caviar prices start from $4.50 a gram.

Rea says there will also be a Panini bar, cooking school, coffee cart and a bottleshop with organic wine. “There will also be another 15 brands to come to the store in the near future.”