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Donovan Cooke/©Atlantic Restaurant

Yorkshire born chef Donovan Cooke started working in kitchens at the tender age of 15 where his talents saw him singled out by renowned chefs such as Michel Roux and Marco Pierre White. Clocking hours through the kitchens of the Savoy Hotel, Waterside Inn and La Cote St Jacques in France, he ended up heading the kitchen at Harvey’s at the age of 23.

Arriving in Australia in 1996 saw Donovan Cooke open his first restaurant with his then wife, Philippa Sibley in 1997. Following the success of Est Est Est, Luxe and Ondine followed in which both was rewarded three chef hats and best new restaurant respectively.

In 2002, Donovan headed to Hong Kong reigning as Chef de Cuisine at the Derby Restaurant and Bar at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. In 2010, Donovan returned to Australian and became partner/Executive chef at the seafood inspired, The Atlantic.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH DONOVAN COOKE –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at your restaurants?

Donovan Cooke–  The philosophy of The Atlantic restaurant is ‘Ocean to Plate’. While you were sleeping this morning, The Atlantic team was hand-selecting an unrivalled selection of wild and sustainable fish, unique oyster varieties and pristine shellfish to bring to the menu which changes daily. Some might think it obsessive to hunt for the perfect ingredient. It’s a necessity that inspires everything we do!I prepare everything with one thing in mind – the seafood is the star. Everything I do should complement it, not overpower it

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurant? 

Donovan Cooke- The freshest seafood, cooked in many different styles- sous vide, char grill, steamed– you name it, we do it. The kitchen has been designed to my exact specifications, including a nine-metre long, two-and-a-half tonne bespoke Comcater stove. The model is actually called ‘The Donovan Cooke’. It is open plan, so when dining, you can feel like you are part of the kitchen action. The design of the restaurant is inspired by the famous New York meat packing district and the hustle and bustle of the fish markets of years gone by, in New York and Chicago. Subtle features are fishing nets and colours of the ocean in the decor.

3- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Modern Australian, what does Modern Australian mean to you? 

Donovan Cooke-  My style is more Modern French, using classic techniques in with different mediums and temperatures. For instance, my signature dish is the Olive Oil Confit Salmon- a dish I have been experimenting with now for over 20 years. (recipe below)

4- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Donovan Cooke- All about seasonality – what ingredient is in season. For example, at the moment, zucchinis are at their best so they are part of my dish Olive Oil confit salmon – it is served with a tempura zucchini flower Provencale. As we are a seafood restaurant, obviously seafood is the focus and makes up 80% of the menu items.

5- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers?  

Donovan Cooke- Relationships with suppliers are extension of the business. My relationship with my fish supplier is crucial.  I receive an SMS message at 5:30am each morning, letting me know what is freshest and best at the market that morning. From there, I place my order and mentally design the menu that day. When I get to the restaurant, its all action to design a new menu each day- ensuring the kitchen brigade are on top of the preparation, getting the administration staff to print the new menus and working with the front of house staff to communicate the product knowledge of each dish so they can in turn pass this information onto the customer!

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Donovan Cooke- Wine matching is an increasingly large component of the dining experience and it is important neither aspect should overpower the other. One of our most popular experiences is our degustation menus complete with wine matching. Once a menu is designed, I work hand in hand with the sommelier to find the perfect wine to accompany.

  7- How do you bring balance to each menu at your restaurants?  

Donovan Cooke- Now days, there must be something for everyone. With a 300 seater like The Atlantic, we have special occasion diners, customers looking for a quick bite to eat, corporate customers out for lunch and groups in our private dining rooms. Our menu options include fish and chips and one off signature dishes to tasting menus and degustation menus complete with wine matching.

8-  Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Donovan Cooke- Michel Roux, a French born chef working in England who put Britain on the culinary map and raised standards across the board through his ground-breaking Michelin-starred restaurants. I came across Michel in the early stage of my career at the Waterside Inn in Bray, Berkshire.

9- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Donovan Cooke- Learn how to cook and the media will follow

10- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Donovan Cooke- Work hard. It’s not a job, it’s your life.

11- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Melbourne?

Donovan Cooke – Home! I have a wife and four children. So on a rare night off, I enjoy spending it at home with the family. Even at home, I am still the chef! If out, enjoy frequenting my mate Ian Curley’s restaurant, The European in Spring Street. My son Peter is an apprentice there too.

12- What was the inspiration and philosophy behind your cookbook: Mariages: Est Est Est?

Donovan Cooke- It was what we were cooking at the time.

13- Being one of the best seafood restaurants in Melbourne, if not, Australia; what are your future plans for yourself and The Atlantic?

Donovan Cooke- In little over 9 months since opening, we were awarded a chef’s hat in The Age Good Food Guide and also in 2011 won Crown’s Retailer of the Year award. Our future plan is to continue to improve and put The Atlantic on the map as the best seafood restaurant in Australia.

14- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Donovan Cooke- Olive Oil Confit of Salmon with a Ragout of Fresh Soya Beans, Tomato Scallions Radish and Ginger Salad Blood Orange Reduction and Coriander Oil (recipe below)

Olive Oil Confit of Salmon with a Ragout of Fresh Soya Beans, Tomato Scallions Radish and Ginger Salad Blood Orange Reduction and Coriander Oil/©Atlantic Restaurant

Olive Oil Confit of Salmon with a Ragout of Fresh Soya Beans, Tomato Scallions Radish and Ginger Salad Blood Orange Reduction and Coriander Oil

 

 Serves 4

Ingredients

600gm Salmon Fillet (Trimmed)

Ragout of Soya Beans

40gm Spring Onions

100gm fresh Soya Beans

2pcs Tomato

120mls Cream

Coriander Oil

200gm Coriander

100mls Olive Oil

Blood Orange Reduction

500gm Blood Orange Juice

30gm Butter

30ml Cream

Garnish

120ml Pickle Ginger Dressing

40gm Spring Onions

20gms Red Radish

20gms Pickled Ginger

40gm Carrots

1tspn Micro Coriander Leaves

Method

For the Salmon, While trimming the salmon, it is important to remove all the blood lines under the skin (for presentation as well as the texture); after removing this, shape the salmon in a way that the thickness even which makes for even cooking. Pre-heat the oil at 65º and make sure that the oil deep (the choice of pan is important) Put the salmon in oil (presentation side must be side up). It is best to half cook the salmon and rest it in a warm place covered in a plastic kitchen wrap, then finish cooking just before serving (it takes 10-15 minutes depending on the thickness of the fish).

For the Garnish, Chop the shallots and garlic then sweat in butter and add peeled soya beans and cream then bring to a boil, reduce to coat the soya beans then add the blanched, peeled and diced tomato.

Peel and cut carrots and radish into matchsticks size, pick the coriander leaves and thinly slice the spring onions; place all the ingredients in a bowl ready to be dressed with pickled ginger vinaigrette. Blanch the remaining coriander into iced water, then into a liquidiser and blend with olive oil to make the coriander oil.

To Serve, Put the salmon back into the oil to warm (best served as medium rare).

Pour the blood orange juice in a small pan and reduce, add cream and whisk in butter then season with salt and pepper. Set the soya beans in the serving plate then drizzle a line of coriander oil on one side of the plate. Get the salmon out of the oil and sprinkle with sea salt and place it on top of the beans. Toss the salad with ginger vinaigrette and arrange the salad on top of the salmon then pour the sauce around the plate. Serve immediately.

©Donovan Cooke.2012

– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : DONOVAN COOKE

The Atlantic 

Crown Entertainment Complex

8 Whiteman Street, Southbank, Victoria

http://theatlantic.com.au/the-atlantic

reservations@theatlantic.com.au


Serge Dansereau/©Bathers' Pavilion

Serge Dansereau’s career kick started as a kitchenhand in Montreal, where gradually his persuasive willingness gave him a good future in cooking.

Being awarded Chef of the year in 1990 and being awarded “for his work in helping redefine Australian cuisine, his passion for produce and his promotion of regionalism”, Serge progressed on to co-own the renowned Bather’s Pavilion where it is now labelled as one of Sydney’s, if not Australia’s major culinary institution.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH SERGE DANSEREAU –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at your restaurants?

Serge Dansereau My food philosophy as always been based on my approach to cook food that is meticulously sourced either from small producers or from our own search at the markets. I never outsource any of the kitchen tasks; I produce my own bread, jam, ice cream, pastry, stock and even butter for my Restaurant.  We fillet our fish from whole fresh fish and we cook in a very natural style to enhance the produce we prepare. When a customer dines at Bather’ either in the Restaurant or Café they will always be assured that we craft every dish to have integrity and be as enjoyable as possible.

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurants? 

Serge Dansereau- In the Café they will experience delicious casual food in a great setting; very Southern European in approach with seasonal salad and entrées, wood fired pizza and fresh simple fish. The Restaurant is a modern reflection of what is the best that can be offered in Australia; we search for unique produce and they are cooked with impeccable skills. Our guests will find Bathers’ to be one of the most beautiful Restaurants in the country such is it unique and beautiful setting and the level of care that goes into our service and cooking.

3- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Modern Australian, what does Modern Australian mean to you? 

Serge Dansereau- French food has a lot of meaning to me not only am I of French ancestry I was trained learning the French classic techniques and I have a huge respect for the French food philosophy.  French food can be somehow pigeonholed but the reality it is a very broad base and most chefs acknowledge that it is the base of their cuisine. The style and variations each chef brings to this cuisine is what keeps it vibrant and alive and this remains true for Bathers’ and my style of cooking.

4- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Serge Dansereau- I love fresh chestnuts, wild mushrooms, fresh abalone and any wild fish that are sustainable. I love fresh white asparagus and nettles at the moment and of course we use plenty of butter to cook with.

5- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers?  

Serge Dansereau- I am a great believer in quality and I have always supported my supplier over the years to the point that some of them have supplied me for over 25 years. Trust and respect is essential but I need to maintain the standard and ensure we always search for the best. I did decide years ago that it would be to my advantage to purchase my own truck and manage my own purchasing from Flemington Markets which have been very successful for us.

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Serge Dansereau- I am too particular in what I like to drink to be the chief of my Restaurant’s wine list; I have enormous trust in my sommelier and apart from some guidance in stocking aged Pinot, Riesling and Chardonnay I trust them to developed a comprehensive list that will be an envy of most restaurants.

7-  Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Serge Dansereau- I always admire greatly Lionnel Poilâne the famous Parisian baker from “Poilâne”. He reintroduced sourdough bread and many other traditional bakery produces to the French and the worldwide public after been displaced by the popularity of the bland white baguette after World War II. He brought back a lot of integrity to the baker profession. Lionnel was an extraordinary person and a friend and a person who I will always look up to despite his tragic death in 2002.

8- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Serge Dansereau- I only came in contact with one chef who had a goal to be a TV chef, he made it for a short period and my view is that is fine but it cannot not be a goal on its own and it will not sustain you for long and it might be best to be realistic and grounded.

9- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Serge Dansereau- Write down all the recipes that you come across, read a lot, taste and be self motivated. Understand that each day will not be perfect and that you need perseverance and commitment.

10- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Sydney?

Serge Dansereau- I am not a huge restaurant goer at the moment; I prefer eating at home with my family. I go to restaurant extensively when I travel to France or America but in Sydney, I have a tendency to go to Est, Pier and Rockpool mostly with my staff.

11- What was the inspiration and philosophy behind your cookbooks “For the love of good food”,”The bathers’ pavilion cafe cookbook”, “Bathers’ pavilion menu and recipes” and “French Kitchen”?

Serge Dansereau- I have number 5 coming this month and I am working on number 6 at the moment. Each book has it own focus and approach, my first book was a beautiful journey through France and Italy visiting the best producers and that won a major prize by Julia Child.

I went on to produce a cookbook based on the Café cuisine, then the Restaurant and a beautiful book “French Kitchen” based on my cooking at home that has also been published in England.

The new one is called ‘Summer Food” and the one I am working on will be called “Seasonal Kitchen”, due for release in time for Mother’s Day 2012.

12- You have the Bathers’ Pavilion restaurant, the cafe and 6 cookbooks – What are the future plans for Serge Dansereau and the Bathers’ Pavilion. 

Serge Dansereau- I am not sure if the model to replicate yourself in many locations works well in Australia. Considering the scale of Bathers’ and its unique position I feel it is best to be present and visible in my restaurant.  The public really appreciate my presence and there is plenty of other opportunity to teach, demonstrate or help other people in the industry.

13- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Serge Dansereau – Chicken Confit with Mushroom, Fennel and Bacon (recipe below)

Chicken Confit with Mushroom, Fennel and Bacon/©Bathers' Pavilion

Chicken Confit with Mushroom, Fennel and Bacon

 

 Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Chicken Marylands (preferably organic, free range or corn fed)

2 French Shallots, finely chopped

2 Garlic cloves, sliced

4 Bay Leaves

4 Thyme sprigs

50gms sea salt

750ml Olive Oil

4  Bacon slices, cut into strips

1 Fennel bulb, trimmed and cut into eights

200gms Swiss brown or button Mushrooms, halved

2 tbs Butter

2 tbs plain Flour

1 tablespoon flat leaf Parsley

Method

Pat the chicken dry to remove any moisture and place in a large shallow roasting tray.  Combine the shallots, garlic, bay leaves, thyme and salt and spread over the chicken.  Refrigerate for 4 – 6 hours.

Drain potatoes into a colander, cover with a fresh tea towel and place colander over the original pot in a warm place for 10 minutes to drain completely. Preheat the oven to 90˚C.

Rinse the chicken and pat dry with paper towels.  Put the chicken in a casserole dish so themarylandsfit snugly in one layer.  Pour on the olive oil and cook in the oven for 2 hours.  Remove from the oven and allow to cool in the dish for 1 hour.  Drain, reserving some of the oil, then refrigerate the chicken for at least 2 hours.

Preheat the oven to 160˚C.  Place a roasting tin in the oven to heat up, and when hot, add the bacon, fennel and a touch of oil from the confit.  Cook for 20 minutes, turning the fennel from time to time to achieve a nice even colour.  Remove from the oven and set aside in a warm place.

Heat a little of the reserved confit oil in a large frying pan over high heat.  Add the mushrooms and butter and season with salt and pepper.  Cook for 5 minutes, or until the mushrooms are cooked through, then finish with the parsley.  Add to the roasting tin with the fennel.

Tip: This chicken confit is a revelatory experience, especially if you use a biodynamic or free-range chicken.  The flavour of the dark meat of the chicken is enhanced, and the smoky bacon and fennel given this dish an appeal for a memorable meal.

©Serge.Dansereau 2012


– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : SERGE DANSEREAU

The Bathers’ Pavilion Restaurant/Cafe

4, The Esplanade

Balmoral Beach, Sydney

http://www.batherspavilion.com.au/

eat@batherspavilion.com.au

Peter Kuruvita ©Flying Fish

Spending childhood years in Sri Lanka, Peter Kuruvita watched his grandmother prepare family meals created from ancient Sri Lankan spice recipes. This inspired Peter to follow up a career associated with food.

Completing his apprenticeship and working along great chefs such as Greg Doyle, Neil Perry and Tony Bilson, Michelin starred chefs such as Michel Roux – Peter went on with the opening of his first restaurant, Avalon in 1997.

6 years in the making, it was the opening of Flying fish that showcased Peter’s passion for seafood and his Sri Lankan heritage winning him a coveted chef’s hat.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH PETER KURUVITA –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at Flying Fish.

Peter Kuruvita– Light, simple and all about the ingredients.

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurant? 

Peter Kuruvita- I would like to think that guests at Flying Fish feel comfortable and pampered, but also relaxed. It is a hard balance because all people have different expectations. This is where out staff come in, they can gauge our guests and react accordingly.

3- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Peter Kuruvita–  Curry leaves are always present in Sri Lankan food, the other would be very good garlic.

4- Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Peter KuruvitaGreg Doyle from Pier restaurant gave me my first break in fine dining in 1980, he was hard but i learnt a lot. Neil Perry, allowed me to realise that bring your own culture into food was OK. It was a real turning point for me when I worked with him at Blue Water Grill at Bondi Beach.

5- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Modern Australian with Sri Lankan influences, what does this cuisine mean to you? 

Peter Kuruvita- A combination of great flavours, and a simple but well thought meal that has a little bit of familiarity, an element of difficulty and I would love to think that there is also an element in the dish where people say I wonder how they did that.

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Peter Kuruvita- I love wine, and every menu change cannot go ahead without the food and wine being matched. It is a very nice process, and when you just say what you think, feel and taste, you will find it very easy. It is also easy because our sommelier chooses 5 or 6 wines to taste. With every wine, we then taste and discuss it.

7- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Sydney? 

Peter Kuruvita- I love Felix, relaxed french bistro. Golden Century for that late night seafood extravanganza, Otto for its relaxed vibe and Bocata cafe, 207 young street, waterloo for its classic Spanish style.

8- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Peter Kuruvita-  Learn to cook first! Be a chef for the passion of cooking, because otherwise the long hours and anti social times will come to get you before the fame.. You really need layers of experience to be a great chef, and never stop learning

9- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Peter Kuruvita- Hard work and dedication, you have to set yourself real goals, time lines and set your bar high. Success like in many jobs comes with time and dedication. Please don’t don’t waste the time of the industry professionals who have dedicated their lives to a very hard job by not being focused on what you want to achieve in the culinary arts.

Flying Fish Products ©NotQuiteNigella

10- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers? 

Peter Kuruvita- Excellent, I have known most of the suppliers for 30 odd years, and it is vital for not only the commercial cook but home cooks to develop a great repall with their suppliers. It does guarantee you the best but also gives the supplier great satisfaction that their hard work is appreciated and respected.

11- What was the inspiration and philosophy behind you cookbook ‘Serendip’? 

Peter Kuruvita- It was to ensure that the Kutuvita story and recipes were preserved. Also a homage to my Sri Lankan ancestors and a dedication to my dad and grandmother.

12- You have your own range of Flying Fish products, can you tell us more about these products.

Peter Kuruvita-  Developed over many years, it is now available for everyone to use at home, the range will soon be expanded to highlight the best of my recent travels to Indonesia, Philippines, Vanuatu and the Cook Islands.

13- You have 2 restaurants, a hat, a tv show and your fantastic cookbook, what are the future plans for yourself and Flying Fish?

Peter Kuruvita- I would love to continue both, filming TV shows are great, I love meeting new people and learning new techniques and presenting them to people. I hope to continue with the Flying Fish brand for a long time and hopefully open new outposts around the world. I would love to launch a Flying Fish Colombo one day.

12- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Peter Kuruvita-  Sri Lankan Prawn Curry.

Sri Lankan Prawn Curry/©Peter.Kuruvita

Sri Lankan Prawn Curry

 

 Serves 2

Ingredients

30 curry leaves
10 eschallots, sliced
12 cloves garlic, sliced
1 knob ginger
10 whole prawns, cut into pieces (heads removed)
1 tbsp fenugreek
5 cardamom pods
2 tbsp cumin powder
4 tbsp coriander powder
2 cinnamon sticks
½ tbsp fish curry powder
¾ tbsp chilli powder
1 tbsp turmeric
1 piece goraka
1 pandanus leaf
5 cloves
2 tbsp paprika
2 long green chillies
Salt
500ml coconut milk
Coconut oil or ghee

5 prawn heads
500ml coconut milk

Prawns (for final dish) heads removed and peeled
Juice of ½ lemon
Fresh coriander, to garnish
Pickles and steamed samba rice, to serve

Method

Curry Sauce 

Heat oil or ghee and add curry leaves, eschallots, garlic and ginger and cook until the eschallots are translucent.

Add chopped prawns and spices, stirring all the time.

Stir in 500ml coconut milk, and salt to taste. Cook gently for 8 to 10 minutes.

Meanwhile take the prawn heads and grind to a paste in a food processor, strain through a fine sieve. Mix strained prawns with 500 ml of coconut milk.

Add prawn & coconut mixture to the spice mixture and simmer without boiling. Remove from heat.

Curry Prawns 

Arrange peeled prawns in pairs in pan.

Strain curry sauce over prawns until just covered. With lid on, simmer prawns gently in curry sauce until cooked.

Squeeze over the juice of ½ lemon.

Layer prawns in stacks with coconut and kangkung sambal between the prawns, spooning some of the sauce over, and garnish with fresh coriander.

Serve with rice and pickles.

© Peter.Kuruvita 2012


– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : PETER KURUVITA

Flying Fish Restaurant & Bar

Jones Bay Wharf, 19-21 Pirrama Road

Pyrmont, Sydney, 2009

http://www.flyingfish.com.au/

https://twitter.com/#!/FlyingFishAU

http://www.youtube.com/user/FlyingFishTales

http://www.facebook.com/FlyingFishAU

info@flyingfish.com.au

Peter Gilmore ©ak.images

Peter Gilmore is the Executive chef of Quay Restaurant. Born and bred in Sydney, Peter left year 10 in 1984, to undertake an apprenticeship at The Manor House restaurant in Balmain, where he initially did work experience from school. The chef then realised that he was passionate and that was it. Three years through the apprenticeship, Peter headed to England to work in hotels.

Arriving back home in 1990, Peter clocked hours in a few small establishments in Sydney as well as in the Blue Mountains.  Peter joined the kitchen team at Quay in 2001 and from then creating his own style of cuisine. No big names here but Peter draws his inspiration from Nature, its diversity and Michel Bras.

Quay Restaurant have been awarded accolades including World’s top 26 Restaurant, Three stars by the Gourmet Traveller Magazine and Three chef hats/Restaurant of the year in 2009/10 by the Sydney Morning Herald Good Food Guide.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH PETER GILMORE –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at Quay.

Peter Gilmore– It is what I like to call Nature based cuisine, what that means is just that I am really influenced by the diversity of nature; there is so much fantastic produce out there. We do have a lot of stuff grown for us specifically which is great! I have a test garden at home so I will grow a new vegetable, a new variety or an heirloom variety, I feel as though there’s something special about it. Another big part of my cooking is all about texture and a harmony of flavours, I am very influenced by making sure that the texture of the dish is really beautiful, sensual and lovely to eat.

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurant? 

Peter Gilmore- I think they should expect an exciting dining experience, they should expect food that they are not going to see anywhere else, they should expect originality and they should expect an experience. Hopefully most people get what I do and love the food.  Apart from the food, they should expect great service, knowledgeable staff and good atmosphere. We are lucky to have a beautiful location over here so it’s a total package that we’re are really offering. I think diners want to be excited by what’s on a plate, something that they can’t have at home.

3- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Peter Gilmore-  There are so many ingredients out there, its pretty hard to narrow it down, but there are some new things I’m working on. We have just introduced a really beautiful little pickled vegetable salad, we use beautiful rhubarbs, endive, beetroots, red carrots and radishes. We also make a beautiful pomegranate molasses crumb, some sheeps milk curd from Tasmania and some native violets. It is a new entree.

4- Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Peter Gilmore- Over the years, there has been lots of chefs that I have respected. Not so much a mentor, I’ve worked with some good chefs but I haven’t worked with one or two outstanding chefs in my career. I’ve sort of really, for the last 15 years been working as a head chef myself, I’ve overtime developed my own style more so than following someone’s style. I mean the people I’ve respected over the years are people like Thomas Keller and Michel Bras. Without a doubt they’ve got a unique style, a very clean and driven focused cuisine.

5- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Modern Australian, what does Modern Australian mean to you? 

Peter Gilmore- It means being able to cook without boundaries more than anything else, we are not tied by one or any strict tradition. With a multicultural society, we are exposed to lots of different cuisines of the world which is a really unique situation to be in. We are able to go between the cuisines and learn the different techniques. I think Modern Australian cuisine is all about freedom but that freedom comes with personal restraint and a personal direction to focus that cuisine. If you are going to take influences from different places, whether that be techniques or will that be flavouring, any influences, you need to show some restraint and personal vision to make that work.

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Peter Gilmore- Yes, whenever I create a brand new dish, Our sommelier Daniel and myself will sit down and we’ll have a little a dish, he then brings out a selection of wines that he thinks might go well. We’ll taste and talk and generally agree on the selections because it is matter of personal taste but its also a matter of hitting the right note. With what we do with the food, we never want the wine to dominate and overpower the dish, we want the wine to complement with the dish. Its all part of the dining experience and diners should utilise the services of the sommeliers because they know the food and they know and list, they will point you to the right direction

7- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Sydney? 

Peter Gilmore- There’s so many great restaurants but if I had to pick two or three, I would for fine fining, say Marque. For a really fun meal I would go down to Spice Temple, Neil Perry’s place, and also his steak place (Rockpool Bar and Grill) is fantastic. I mean there’s so many great places around town, you could pop down to Longrain, Or possibly Otto but it comes down to your personal mood.

8- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Peter Gilmore-  You do get that a bit. When you’re starting out, it’s about damn hard work, long hours and lots of heat and pressure. So you know the ones that are really in it for the love cooking and passion, they are going to stay. The guys that are there because they think they are going to be the next Jamie Oliver, they basically are going to find out that this doesn’t happen really often, and the actually reality is day to day hard work, they will eventually give up.

9- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Peter Gilmore- Yes, really really think ‘is this what you want to do’. It’s a huge commitment and it’s a huge journey. You have to be passionate about the job first and foremost, and if you are, go for it. Its a great job! Opportunities to travel, opportunities to be creative along the track. Learn the basics and learn well, work for good people along the way and build your skills and have a solid foundation.

10- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers? 

Peter Gilmore- I do have have a good relationship with my suppliers, very important link to everything we do. Constant communication with your suppliers is really important and finding out what’s in, what’s out, in season, those conversation happens on a daily basis. I’ve got lots of small suppliers that only supplies me one thing, it might be a supplier from Queensland who only grows palm hearts and I buy palm hearts or it might be someone from South Australia whom i buy green almonds from, in season so i have relationships with all this small independent people all over the country and it does take time to develop these things but it’s a vital part.

Quay Cookbook/©Peter.Gilmore

11- What was the inspiration and philosophy behind you cookbook ‘Quay’? 

Peter Gilmore- Well the book, really is a representation of the food that we do here in Quay so its all recipes, all the techniques and all the philosophy behind the dishes. Its a book for very keen cooks to buy, its not a how to cook book, its a book that represents the food that we do here in Quay and the inspiration behind the dishes. Beautifully photographed and I’m really proud of it.

12- With three chef hats, a cookbook and the restaurant being listed on the world’s 50 best restaurants list, are there any future plans for Peter Gilmore, Quay and the FINK group?

Peter Gilmore-  Yeah well, we are possibly thinking about opening a sister restaurant to Quay, a more casual restaurant. But there’s nothing firm, we don’t have a site at this stage but we are looking at potentially doing something in the future so a more casual restaurant but still with cutting edge food. But really, Quay remains my main focus.

13- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Peter Gilmore – Sashimi of Hiramasa Kingfish, raw Chinese artichokes, pickled Kohlrabi, horse radish, smoked eel and egg white pearl. (recipe below)

Sashimi of Hiramisa Kingfish, raw Chinese artichokes pickled kohlrabi, horseradish, smoked eel and egg white pearl/©Peter.Gilmore

Sashimi of Hiramisa Kingfish, raw Chinese artichokes

pickled kohlrabi, horseradish, smoked eel and egg white pearl

 

 Serves 8

Ingredients

1 kg Hiramisa kingfish fillet

200 mls white soy

1 x 500 gms octopus

32 Chinese artichokes

8 sticks white celery

20 gms freshly grated horseradish

200 mls crème fraiche

200 gms piece daikon radish

2 kohlrabi

200 ml good quality apple vinegar

50 gms castor sugar

32 small nasturtium leaves

300 mls ginger and spring onion infused grapeseed oil

50 gms smoked eel

500 mls chicken stock

100 gms tapioca pearls

Fine sea salt

Smoked eel and egg white pearl

70 gms smoked eel meat

200 mls milk

70 gms white fleshed fish (cod or snapper)

60 gms mashed potato

60 gms softened unsalted butter

½ lemon juiced

40 mls extra virgin olive oil

30 gms crème fraiche

100 mls strained egg white

500 mls grapeseed oil

sea salt

Method

To make the smoked eel brandade make sure the smoked eel flesh is boneless and skinless.  Bring the milk to the boil, remove from the heat and add the smoked eel. Allow the eel to marinate in the warm milk for 10 minutes. Strain the eel and discard the milk. Steam the white fish until it flakes. Mix the eel and flaked white fish in a small pot. Using a fork, mash the fish and eel together with half the softened butter. Drizzle half the extra virgin olive oil and all the lemon juice on to the fish. Mix well with the fork as you go. Add the mashed potato and mix well. Add the remaining butter and olive oil and mix well. Season to taste with fine sea salt. Allow the mixture to cool and then fold in the crème fraiche. Place the mixture in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour. Take some of the mixture in the palm of your hand and roll until you have a ball about the size of a small marble. You will need 8 balls altogether. You may have some additional mixture left over which you can use elsewhere.

To make the egg white pearls place the grapeseed oil in a small saucepan and heat to about 70 o Celsius. Using an eye dropper drop the strained egg white into the oil drop by drop in rapid succession. After you have about 30 egg white droplets, stop and gently stir them around. They need about 1 minute in the oil to fully set. Carefully sieve out the egg white pearls using a fine strainer and place the pearls on a flat metal tray. Repeat this process several times making sure you maintain the oil temperature at about 70 o until you have a sufficient amount of egg white pearls to coat 8 marble size balls of brandade mixture.

To coat the brandade mixture you will need to line 8 demi tasse cups with 12 cm by 12cm squares of clingwrap. Place a teaspoonful of egg white pearls in the middle and spread them out. Place a ball of brandade in the middle and carefully lift the four corners of the plastic together. The aim is to coat the brandade balls in the egg white pearls with the aid of the clingfilm. When you have 8 perfectly covered balls leave them in the refrigerator until required.

Microplane the fresh horseradish and fold it through the crème fraiche and season to taste. Using a mandolin slice the daikon radish into 1mm thin slices. Cut the slices into discs using a  20 mm diameter cutter. Blanch the discs in boiling water for 2 seconds and refresh in iced water, dry the discs. Place 1 kg of rice onto a flat tray with sides. Spread the rice out to a depth of 3 cm. Take a small square of clingfilm 7 cm x 7 cm and place the square on the rice. Use your finger to create an impression in the centre of the square to a depth of 2 cm. Place 5 daikon discs in an overlapping circle on the cling film. Press the discs down in the centre. Using a piping bag add a small dot of the horseradish cream in the centre of the discs. Unwrap the eel brandade pearls and carefully place each pearl in the centre of the daikon discs. Place the tray in the refrigerator for the smoked eel flowers to set.

Slice the remaining 50 gms of smoked eel into thin slices. Add the eel to the chicken stock and bring the stock to the boil. Turn down the heat and allow it to simmer gently for 10 minutes. Strain the stock and place in a clean saucepan. Bring the stock back to the boil and add the tapioca. Stir well and cook the tapioca for 7 to 8 minutes or until the starch in the tapioca has reduced to a very small dot. Test the tapioca by tasting it, it should be soft but not mushy. Strain the tapioca and discard the stock. Place the tapioca on a tray, season with sea salt and tablespoon of the ginger spring onion infused oil. Allow the tapioca to cool. When cool form the tapioca into small bundles. You will need approximately 40 bundles.

Wash and clean the Chinese artichokes and put aside.

Cut the celery sticks into fine julienne, lightly salt the celery and allow to marinate for 1 hour. Rinse the celery in cold water. Divide the celery into 16 small bunches. Twist each bunch into a spiral and put aside.

Dissolve the sugar in the apple vinegar. Peel the kohlrabi and slice on the mandolin to a thickness of 1 mm. Cut the slices into 2 cm wide strips. Place the strips in the vinegar and allow to marinate for 1 hour.

To prepare the octopus remove the tentacles from the body. You will only need the tentacles for this recipe. With some coarse sea salt, scrub the tentacles under running water. This will help to remove any slimy coating. Once fully rinsed, remove the suckers with a sharp knife horizontally and then cut into small lengths. Reserve 1 more tablespoon of ginger grapeseed oil and heat the remaining oil in a small saucepan to 70 o Celsius. Poach the sliced octopus for approximately 1 minute. Remove the octopus and drain.

Remove the skin and most of the bloodline from the kingfish fillet. Cut the kingfish into 3 mm thick slices across the fillet. You will need 6 slices per portion. Your slices will be approximately 7 cm long.

To serve

Briefly marinate the kingfish slices in the white soy (10 seconds). Drain the slices and brush on the remaining ginger grapeseed oil. Squeeze out all the vinegar from the pickled kohlrabi. In the bottom of each serving bowl place 2 teaspoons of horseradish crème fraiche. Place a small bundle of pickled kohlrabi on top of the crème fraiche and then 3 slices of the marinated sashimi kingfish. Next place another 2 teaspoons of horseradish crème fraiche on the kingfish, another small bundle of pickled kohlrabi and then the other 3 slices of marinated kingfish. Garnish with Chinese artichokes, celery twists, smoked eel tapioca and then place a smoked eel and eggwhite flower in the centre of the dish. Finally garnish with nasturtium leaves and serve.

© Peter.Gilmore 2011


FURTHER INFORMATION

CHEF : PETER GILMORE

Quay Restaurant 

Level 3, Overseas Passenger Terminal

Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney

http://www.quay.com.au/

http://www.youtube.com/user/QuaySydney

reservations@quay.com.au

Alex Herbert/©ak.images

Alex Herbert began her cooking career in 1989, starting as an apprentice chef in the busy kitchen of Berowra Waters Inn, under the direction of Gay Bilson and Janni Kyritsis. From then, Alex has clocked hours with Maggie Beer, Christine Manfield, David Thompson and Martin Boetz.

In 1996, Alex Herbert opened Bird Cow Fish in partnership with her partner Howard Gardner, scoring sound reviews from Terry Durrack whom described the bistro as “being a dream”.

Nowadays, Alex Herbert can be found in her busy “one hatted” bistro in Surry Hills with regular appearance at the Accoutrement cooking school as well as showcasing her products at the Eveleigh Markets every Saturday morning.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH ALEX HERBERT –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at your restaurant?

Alex Herbert I don’t really see it as restaurant food even though its food cooked in a restaurant. It’s very real, it’s the sort of food that probably people – when take the time and effort would cook for themselves. Classic sort of dishes that are craft-based but without being too fancy pants, it still involves a lot of skills and a lot of techniques but it’s probably a bit more old school in the craft side of things rather than molecular and all that.

Bird Cow Fish exterior/©Molnar Freeman

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurant? 

Alex Herbert- Hopefully just really good food and really good service.

3- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Modern Australian, what does Modern Australian mean to you? 

Alex Herbert- I suppose it means food that’s cooked with Australian produce. We’re such a young country and we’re so influenced and particularly with the way the internet is, it gets harder and harder to define individual cuisine. My food isn’t Indigenous Australia, which would be a whole other game but its Australia because I’m Australian cooking with Australian produce in Australia.

4- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Alex Herbert- I suppose one thing that we use a lot of, probably more than a lot of other chefs would be Verjuice. We use that in both sweet and savoury dishes so if you were to take Verjuice off my kitchen, I would be lost.

5- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers?  

Alex Herbert- I think so, I don’t know if they think so. I think it’s really important to have an open chain of communication. I try to get to Flemington every week and of course, we’re down at Eveleigh’s every Saturday.

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Alex Herbert- Probably more so now than ever. We’re really looking very closely at the wine list at the moment and “rejigging” the whole emphasis of it and yeah, we’re working through the menu and making sure that we’ve always for pairings so that from a staff point of view that it’s really easy to guide the customers that perhaps want a bit more direction with their choices.

 7-  How do you bring balance to each menu at your restaurants?  

Alex Herbert- Its produce driven and obviously seasonal. What I mean by produce driven is its more I sort of think “do I want to put lamb on the menu and take it from there” or “do I feel like cooking scallops”. It starts with the ingredient and I look around to see what’s available in the markets and take it from there.

8-  Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Alex Herbert- Heaps and heaps. I mean I worked with Janni Kyritsis, David Thompson, Martin Boetz and then there’s all the food writers that I’ve been influenced by like Alice waters and Elizabeth David.

10- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Alex Herbert- I think it’s a mixed bag so i think some people wanna cook and some people wanna be famous and somewhere along the lines, those two things have bundled togehter but you know it will sort itself out. You very rarely stay famous if you haven’t got the goods to back it up.

11- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Alex Herbert- Yeah, lots. There’s lots of jobs out there in this day and age that can earn you lots of money and I think it’s just about really deciding what it is that you want and being prepared to really pursue that and be happy with it and not winge about it afterwords. There’s plenty of people that go into cooking and then who don’t wanna work the hours or who don’t like the pay. It’s like, well, it is what it is so do your research before you decide to engage in it, otherwise find something else and keep cooking at home.

Bird Cow Fish interior/©Molnar Freeman

12- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Sydney?

Alex Herbert- There’s so many. Well, I always really liked going to Longrain, it’s been a long favourite of mine and particularly cause the foods very different to what I cook so it’s just a really refreshing change to me and you know, I think Sean’s Panaromas’ fantastic. I really love Rockpool Bar and Grill cause I just feel completely transported and I think that’s the resturant that gives me a really exciting dining experience and makes me feel really special and as if I’ve been transported to somewhere else and it still meets my satisfaction in terms of just leaving feeling really well fed, so I think that’s probably my favourite at the moment.

13- Can you tell us more about your very own range of Bird Cow Fish products?

Alex Herbert- It’s a kind of off shoot of the food that we make for our restaurants. So we make jams because we’re open for brunch and we use our jams for that and we make panforte and we sell granola, bircher because they’re products we actually sell through the bistro as food on the plate and so i suppose it’s just a nice little extension to package it up so people can bring a little bit of Bird Cow Fish home.

14- You have been constantly awarded a chef’s hat for your bistro – what are the future plans of Alex Herbert and Bird Cow Fish? 

Alex Herbert- We’re going to be changing our Espresso bar so we’re gonna be turning it into a separate little entity of it’s own, that will be sort of a wine bar at night so we will be redoing the whole are and we’re going to put a few beer on taps and have a lot more wins by the glass. That’s my big plan right now and it’s sort of an extension to some of the stuff that we do down at Eveleigh that wil be available more during the day. But it’s also just about consolidating the bistro entity separate to the espresso bar.

13- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Alex Herbert – Potato Gnocchi with Sauteed Prawns in a Burnt Butter Verjus sauce (recipe below)

Potato Gnocchi with Sauteed Prawns in a Burnt Butter Verjus sauce/©Haruka Kanamaru

Potato Gnocchi with Sauteed Prawns in a Burnt Butter Verjus sauce

 

 Serves 6

Ingredients

300 gms prawns

60 gms unsalted butter

6 tsp salted baby Capers, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup flat- leaf Parsley, finely chopped

Verjus

Potato Gnocchi

1.5 kg Desiree potatoes

1 egg

2 tbs Grana parmesan

125 gms plain flour

2 tsp sea salt

Sage Butter

200 gms unsalted butter

1 bunch sage, picked

Method

Place unpeeled potatoes in a large saucepan of cold water; bring to the boil. Reduce heat and simmer for 30 minutes or until tender. The potatoes must be neither under nor over cooked, test with a skewer – when it is easily inserted, they are cooked (avoid testing too frequently otherwise they may become water logged).

Drain potatoes into a colander, cover with a fresh tea towel and place colander over the original pot in a warm place for 10 minutes to drain completely.

Peel potatoes and pass through a mouli, in batches, into the original dry saucepan. Gently mix in the egg, salt and parmesan. Sieve in the flour and combine with a few swift folds. Tip potato mixture onto a lightly floured bench and gently work it into a smooth uniform mound.

Using a pastry scrape, scrape down the bench, wash and dry your hands and lightly flour the surface again. Cut off ¼ of the potato mix at a time and roll out into a sausage shape to a thickness of about 1½ cm. Cut each sausage into 2cm pieces. Makes approx 60 pieces. Place these on a tray lined with grease proof paper, ready for cooking in salted boiling water.

For the sage butter, heat the butter in a shallow frying pan. When starting to bubble, add the sage leaves and cook until crisp and almost translucent. Pour through a sieve placed over a bowl. Spread the leaves on paper towel to drain. Keep warm. Reserve butter.

When ready to cook the gnocchi, heat 20g of unsalted butter in a wide frying pan. It should reach beurre noisette (nut brown stage) before adding 100g of prawn meat. Sauté for one minute, deglaze with a dash of verjuice and add 2 tsp of capers.

Cook gnocchi in a large pan of boiling salted water in small batches of 20 pieces at a time. Shortly after the gnocchi has risen to the surface (test to see if it is cooked) remove with a strainer, drain and add to the pan. Toss the pan to coat the gnocchi in the butter. Season with salt and pepper and add 1 tbs of chopped parsley. Spoon among 2 serving plates and top with fried sage leaves.

Deglaze the pan with a little of the sage butter previously saved and pour over the finished gnocchi. Repeat twice more to complete 6 serves. Season to taste.

Season to taste.

© Alex.Herbert 2011


– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : ALEX HERBERT

Bistro Bird Cow Fish

500 Crown Street

Surry Hills, Sydney

http://www.birdcowfish.com.au

http://twitter.com/#!/birdcowfish

info@birdcowfish.com.au

Neil Perry ©ak.images

Neil’s career in hospitality began at the Sails restaurant at McMahons Point and in Rose Bay before heading the kitchen team as the head chef of the Sydney iconic Barrenjoey house. Following the position, Neil took control of Perry’s in Paddington and the Blue Water Grill in Bondi in which he took the site from a 20-year failure to an overnight success.

In 1989, Neil and business partner, Trish Richards developed the Rockpool empire which now consists of 7 restaurants including Rockpool George Street, Rockpool Bar & Grill, Spice Temple and the new additional Waiting Room. Neil’s success is driven by his passion and dedication for fantastic cuisine and service and is no doubt recognised and noted as one of Australia’s most finest and respected chefs.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH NEIL PERRY –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at your restaurants?

Neil Perry– Well at Rockpool, on George street I call modern Australian, or just Australian cooking because I’m Australian and I’ve been cooking that food and now I’m cooking it with Phil Wood who’s a new Zealand boy but we’re essentially cooking in Sydney, we’re cooking with produce that is in the vast majority fairly locally sourced, the highest quality and source from fishermen and farmers that we know. And then it uses inspirations particularly that’s always have been Rockpool , from China Thailand, Vietnam , really places that I think that relate more to Australia than Europe in a sense.

And then my other restaurants, Rockpool bar and grill, we set out for it to be one of the greatest steakhouses in the world. Now in Australia that we produce some of the best beef, we really feel that we can do that and define that target, so we went out and made sure we didn’t open a steakhouse first, we got a supply chain first and then we opened the steakhouse. So we worked with our growers, our 36 month beef from Cape Grim which we sort of made famous really, no one knew about it, it was all exported and no one wanted to know about old mature meat. So we’ve change that perception in the 6 years since we’ve been using it at Rockpool bar and grill, the brand building we’ve done with David Blackmore, full blood Wagyu and also with Rangers Valley which is an amazing grain fed product. So you know its defined by the quality of the beef, the fact that we dry age, we take it out further than anybody else, we take a great responsibility for it because we have dry age everything at our premises.

And then I guess Modern Chinese is what we call Spice Temple so really inspired by just how exciting and diverse the regional cuisines of china are and having grown up in Sydney and seeing the influences of Cantonese food.

Rockpool Dining Room/©Earl Carter

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurant? 

Neil Perry- Well in all of the places, I’ll like to think that what they would get is a wonderful experience so what we try to focus on strongly is the fact that food and wine are part of the experience but service and ambience and that really in a restaurant that is exciting to be in and really enjoyable. There’s always an X factor involved and the crowd themselves bring part of that to the mix.

So I’ll like to think people would get is a really fantastic caring experience that is full of great hospitality from the guys from the floor and generosity from the guys in the kitchen. And always eating beautiful plates of food. Whether that’s driven by craft and labour like it is at Rockpool, where 17 or 18 chefs will turn out a 100 plates to diners at nights right up to here, where the selection process of the beef, and the cooking over wood and placing it on a plate with a lemon is just as difficult so the people would recognise that at every level that there is a great craft and also a great integrity behind the sourcing of the product. Even at Spice temple, we know that we are using organic chicken, free range pork and grass fed beef and that is different straight away to the normal Chinese restaurant.

So I would hope that what people get is the great level of integrity.

3- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Modern Australian, what does Modern Australian mean to you? 

Neil Perry- What I think it probably means something that taste fresh and very produce driven. I think the food that we eat here really does have a unique-ness to it, it’s very hard to put your finger on it and its not defining peking duck, beef bourguignon or meat pie. You can’t actually say it as simply as that because all of those things grew up in a regional world and we’ve pretty much in the new world and it’s difficult to grow an established cuisine with so many influences. But there’s an incredible of freshness, there is a lot of technique and there is a lot of Asian influence clearly in Australia and I think from all of the Asian influenced dishes I’ve eaten around the world, in three star restaurants in Europe and America and great restaurants around the world that people in Australia do it or a few people in Australia do it better than anybody else so I think it’s actually a vital part of what we do in Australia that makes it different.

And then when you go to the markets, it a multi cultural market which is really exciting, you don’t have to seek out Asian ingredients, in Australia you go to supermarkets and buy them and not just on the shelf but also in the greengrocer department.

And I hope it doesn’t get lost because I see so many young chefs focused and driven by what’s happening in Europe, and it’s great to be influenced and everyone’s influenced by someone. But mimicking something or copying and being so obsessed that you’re cooking Spanish food in Sydney, doesn’t make it great and it doesn’t make it Australian. I think you need to be influenced from that and you can absorb any technique but you have to relate to what’s going on in your world because we don’t need someone copying what Ferran is doing or Rene for instance.

So I hope we don’t lose our identity, I hope that all the young chefs don’t go down this path and most importantly, I hope food writers don’t push them that way and I think that there is a culture in Australian food writing at the moment that doesn’t understand what the basic quality is of doing something over and over again at a certain standard that the whole world’s cuisine is built on that and that rushing off and experimenting for experiment sake and being new for the sake of being new doesn’t mean that it’s good.

Rockpool Bar & Grill/©Earl Carter

4- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Neil Perry- Now, we do 13, 14,000 people a week through the restaurants.  And of course, here it’s probably beef and that’s my main focus yet we have the wonderful char grilled ovens here that we only have direct relationships with all our fishermen and we get the most beautiful fresh fish. To eat, at the moment off the south coast, the silver dory, that is running for about 12 weeks. Just fat from that beautiful cold water and it goes into the chargrill oven and it’s like eating a piece of fish in Spain where it’s just got the most incredible taste and texture. I’m mad about fish at the moment because the season so perfect for fish and there in such great condition.

For me it’s difficult, I like a lot of Asian ingredients, clearly i love chilli. I love fermented red bean curd and five spice powder together, at the moment its one of my favourite combinations down in spice temple. And I guess with Phil, one of the things we like working with is taking very intense Chinese flavours and working them into a dish which has a relationship with wine.

5- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers?  

Neil Perry- Yeah I mean my Suppliers are the most important people in our restaurant, they allow us to start off on the right foot. We have a group of people that we have been working with for so many years and they are the unsung heroes and in all of my books, I talk about the suppliers a lot and in Bar and Grill, there’s a lot of pages dedicated to the guys who make the restaurants what it is.

We hide behind nothing, there’s nothing covering anything, we either source the best ingredient and look after it and cook it well or we’re done for. We just cannot send a steak and a piece of fish out on a plate with a wedge of lemon and expect people to think we’re one of the best restaurant in the world to think were the best unless there’s something magical happening with this ingredient

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Neil Perry- Yeah absolutely, we do tastings when we create dishes at Rockpool and we work with Emma, and we look at dishes here and we have 3500 wines on the list here so we work really hard on making sure that there’s a good recommendation on a range of wines to go with particular dishes. The great thing about being a steakhouse is that it’s very wine friendly food but we make sure down at George Street that we work out whether it’s on the tasting menu or the four course work really well.

From my perspective, eating and drinking, wine and food is inseparable, I can’t imagine a meal without it and so for me, it’s a really important part of it and that’s why I like my food to be very wine friendly.

7-  How do you bring balance to each menu at your restaurants?  

Neil Perry- I think in any case, whether you’re doing set menus like we do at Rockpool or whether it’s A la carte like we do at Bar and Grill and Spice temple – you really got to bring balance through having a start to finish and that sounds pretty obvious I suppose because you’re having starters, mains and desserts. But in each of those, you have to have dishes that create lightness and I think that when looking at a menu, it’s really important also to have juxtaposition rather than similarities, so you gotta try to make sure that the person selecting something on the menu that there are clear choices rather than having a menu that reflects a similar style, whether you have the dory or the steak or the lamb, you in essence feel that you’re almost eating the same dishes because there are restaurants like that. And it definitely leads to seasonal as well.

8-  Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Neil Perry-  Guys that have enormous influence on me are people like Stephanie Alexander, I mean Stephanie, I just thought was fantastic, I think if anything I got from her, the nurturing side, the caring about everything to do with the dining room to caring about everything to do with the way your staff worked together.

From Damien Pignolet, great direction in what to read and who to read and what to get involved in. And then you know great mentors in sense like people I haven’t met like Michel Guerard and these guys from the early 80s, I was just absorbing their books and cooking from their cooks and living their philosophy. And I think that they were really influential on my life because at that stage, when I first just started cooking, I was just a sponge absorbing everything I could possibly read.

Auguste Escoffier and Elizabeth David, all these people who through the words they wrote down, gave me huge inspirations.

9- Molecular Gastronomy have been going for a while now, what do you think of the techniques and do you follow the them yourself? 

Neil Perry- Well, I mean we use obviously some of the techniques, we use Pacojets for certain things and sous vide for a limited amount of things, where it’s appropriate, where it works well for long cooking and we tend to use either fire or pan or roasting to bring life to the proteins.

We don’t really use many chemicals; we might use a little bit of xantham gum to thicken our dressings occasionally but pretty much our food is based around great Chinese, Thai, Australian, French cooking model. I like what some of the guys do and i don’t like some of the guys do, I mean some of them create food that has no culinary or flavour integrity behind it whatsoever. Intellectually, it might be a brand new technique but if it doesn’t create something delicious, there’s no point in that technique.

Chefs that are cooking brilliant food like Heston Blumenthal, Alain Passard in Paris and Thomas Keller in New York, the French Laundry where they are using a lot of modern techniques but they are making sure that the food is really delicious and textually perfect.

10- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Neil Perry- I think they better get on Masterchef because it takes a lot of hard work. But to me, the great thing about Masterchef is people in Australia are sitting watching fresh food prepared in a kitchen and it inspires them, once a week, once a month, once a year to go and buy something fresh and cook it rather than processed or fast food, then that’s awesome.

What’s sad about that is that they’re getting a group of people, I don’t really believe wanna be in the industry, they want to be in the food industry involved with the media based part of it, they want to write or they wanna have their own television show.

11- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Neil Perry- I think the most important advice is that you have to really that you have be very dedicated, I think you got to read everything you possibly can, you have to take every opportunity to hone a skill so you have to focus and get your head down and don’t expect to be moving every month but expect to really understand how to make great pasta or how to make great bread or how to run butchery or cut fish or whatever it might be or cook or grill or roast or make sauce, whatever it might be so by the time you are finished, you are really walking away with a great deal of skills.

But the most important thing is detail, you really have to look at detail and that’s what makes a successful chef and a restauranteur so if you look after every small details and make sure that everythings working, well everything will work well, it’s important because all the small details make the whole experience, it’s made up of hundreds of little tiny experiences that people have, the moment they are greeted and the moment they leave the restaurant and cookings part of that.

And I would say that the other important thing if you have any desire to really excel and rise to the top of the industry, you’ve also got to be a really fantastic motivator. You know, part of my skill and where I’ve got to, I’ve got 520 staff that all know me, that work for me and lots of them have given blood for me so it’s really important to make sure that you can lead and be a leader of people because that’s what gets these restaurants to the level that they are. That’s for every young chef, they’ve got to be aspirational, if you don’t want to lead, if you don’t want to be the person out there leading by example – you are not going to be out there.

12- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Sydney?

Neil Perry – I love my own restaurant, sadly, I’m sure everyone says that and I’m lucky because I can go and have amazingly exciting food that Phil and I produced at Rockpool and I think that it’s one of the best restaurant in Sydney and I can come to Bar and Grill when I feel like a steak, fish or a piece of lobster and on a Saturday night at Spice temple because that’s one of my favourite restaurants.

But look, I really love what Guillaume Brahimi is doing at Bennelong and what Peter Gilmore is doing and Martin Benn down at Sepia.

I tend to do things like Madang Korean down in Chinatown because the kids love them or Pasteur for a bowl of soup and Noodle King down on Sussex Street which to me, some really good basic simple Chinese flavours.

But I mean there’s lots of great restaurants in Sydney, I mean obviously the boys at Porteno are doing a nice job with lamb and their roasting and taking my friends over to Iceberg’s because the view is just amazing and to Tetsuya’s for a really special night.

Spice Temple/©Earl Carter

13- What was the inspiration and philosophy behind your cookbooks “Rockpool”, “Simply Asian” , “The Food I love”,”Good Food”,”Balance and Harmony” and your latest book “Rockpool Bar & Grill”? 

Neil Perry- My books are really about time and place, so “Rockpool” was really about Rockpool the restaurant in 1994 when I wrote that and 1996 when it was released.  That was really capturing the restaurant at that time and place, but I would like to do another Rockpool cookbook in about a year because that would capture where the restaurant is after 20 years on and that’s a goal for me to send it out at that time frame.

And then, “Simply Asian” was really a reaction to what we were doing at Rockpool and capturing the dishes that we were doing at that time.

And I guess the next one I did was “The food I love” and that was really and all these books, I try to talk to the reader and talking about the depth of knowledge that that technique should give them and where they should be able to go with that. So this isn’t just how to slow roast a peice beef or it isn’t how to make that pasta dish or that sandwich but a few thoughts on how to make that into 15 recipes or experiences.

And “Good Food” came off the back of that because I had so many recipes that we ended taking half the book out.

And then “Balance and Harmony” was my east and western side so it was really about all the things I loved to cook and I wanted it to be very much like a teaching book similarly to the food I love so that people could attack techniques and then move that into more ambitious recipes.

And now we have another time and place which is the experience of opening the three Rockpool Bar and Grills and it’s really a day in the life really, or an experience so there’s a lot of stories about the restaurants came about, how I brought the brand, the wine philosophy, the producer’s philosophy, the life about fire that sort of thing.

Rockpool Bar & Grill Cookbook ©Earl Carter

14- You have the Rockpool empire going, 6 cookbooks and you are Australia’s very own Iron chef – what are the future plans for yourself and your restaurants? 

Neil Perry- Very much focused on consolidation of what we have here.  And then, I’ve got a few things I’ll love to do – Rockpool, the lease is up soon so I want to either have it completely renovated or move, another year its up I think. Also, keeping the consistency of service and food quality throughout the restaurants and concentrating on the details.

15- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Neil Perry- Korean tuna tartare (recipe below)

Korean tuna tartare/©Earl Carter

Korean Tuna Tartare

 

 Serves 4

Ingredients

2 medium carrots

4 spring onions

1 x 400gm piece yellowfin tuna

1 small Chinese cabbage heart, finely shredded

Leaves from 1 bunch coriander

3 tablespoons roasted pine nuts

4 egg yolks

2 tablespoons sesame seeds, toasted

Freshly ground white pepper

2 quantities sesame dressing (recipe follows)

Sesame dressing

60mls Chinese sesame-seed paste (tahini paste)

80mls light soy sauce

60mls rice wine vinegar

4 tablespoons ginger, finely diced

8 garlic cloves, crushed

60gms caster sugar

240mls sesame oil

Method

Cut the carrot and spring onions into a fine julienne and soak in iced water for half an hour.

Place the tuna on a chopping board, and remove the skin. Cut in into rounds of 1/2cm thickness, then cut it lengthwise into strips of about 1/2cm square.

Place the tuna, carrots, spring onions, cabbage, coriander, pine nuts and dressing in a bowl. Toss to dress and divide between 4 plates.

Make a little well in the centre of each and place an egg yolk on top.

Sprinkle with sesame seeds and grind over some white pepper, serve immediately.

© Neil Perry 2011


– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : NEIL PERRY  

Rockpool Restaurant – Sydney

Rockpool Bar and Grill – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth

Spice Temple – Sydney, Melbourne

Waiting Room – Melbourne 

http://www.rockpool.com/

http://www.facebook.com/pages/Rockpool-Group/211178038902097

https://twitter.com/#!/rockpoolgroup

reservations@rockpool.com


Stefano Manfredi/©a.k images

Stefano Manfredi is recognised as one of Australia’s leading chef specialising in modern Italian cuisine. He has influenced the way Australians eat with the opening of his first restaurant, Restaurant Manfredi in 1983 which was awarded a coveted Three Chef Hats in 1995.

Since then, Manfredi has published 4 cookbooks along with running his two restaurants, Manfredi at Bells and the new additional of Balla in the new furbished THE STAR CASINO in September this year. Stefano is a chef, restauranteur and a writer in which he contributes a weekly food column for the Sydney Morning Herald.

– QUESTIONS & ANSWERS WITH STEFANO MANFREDI –

1– How do you define your style of cooking and the philosophy at your restaurants?

Stefano Manfredi– I guess they are both very closely related, I like to the food I like to eat. I don’t do art food; I don’t do food that you know is essentially changed from what the ingredients are. I don’t like making things into balls; I don’t like doing things that absolutely confound people. What I do is feed people; I do that from an Italian point of view. I like to do it with the freshest ingredients that I can possibly get and both places have and it’s very hard, the food of my childhood which is the food of my native region of Lombardy so I do delve into other regions of Italy, other places.

Bell's at Killcare/©Marco Del Grande

2- What will/should your diners expect when dining in your restaurant? 

Stefano Manfredi- Well I think our guests can expect as much of an Italian experience possible being in Sydney or being on the central coast. It’s not exactly the same as being in a restaurant in Italy because we’re in Sydney or at the central coast.

Even Manfredi at bells and Balla are two completely different restaurants and they have a different feel to them.  But what I try to do is give people the best service possible which I would define as being attentive but not intrusive, being thoughtful , trying to pre-empt what people want,  making people feel comfortable and to give them a really lovely simple Italian menu and a great wine list.

3- The cuisine you cook can be defined as Regional Italian, what does Regional Italian mean to you? 

Stefano Manfredi- Well if you really delve right down deep, there is no such thing as Italian cuisine. There Calabrian, there’s Piedmontese cuisine and even in those regions, you go down to provinces and from provinces, you dig even deeper and you go down to towns and villages and even deeper from families to families and even deeper individual in those towns.

For example, I cook the same dishes as my mother but I cook it differently, I have my own thing that I have added to a particular dish. So if you then extract that out from family to town, to province, to region, to national cuisine.

 Italy is a nation of individuals and they’ll cook and be very passionate about one particular dish and that’s what makes it evolve and makes Italian cuisine so interesting and of course, it’s got to do with the products of the local area, the south has got things the north doesn’t have and vice versa.

Balla Dining Room/©Anson Smart

4- Have you got a particular ingredient/product that you tend to use in your dishes.

Stefano Manfredi- Yes, I can’t do without really good olive oil and I can’t do without really good Grana cheeses. Probably those two ingredients recur in things throughout what I do.

Being from the north of Italy, we also use quite a bit of butter. Australia has fantastic good butter, we use butter from a local producer called Pepe Saya, he is from Sydney and makes his own butter and supplies to some of the best restaurants in Sydney.  I mean the other thing is we grow a lot of our own produce, in the central coast and we will here as well. There is an existing roof garden here with herbs but we are going to add to it by growing a lot of Italian things.

5- Establishing a great relationship with your suppliers ensures great produce delivered to your door, how are the relationships with you and your suppliers?  

Stefano Manfredi- Well, you have to treat them like your best friends. You have to include them in the menu not so much putting them on the menu but you have to. I was talking to one of our producers, Matt Brown who’s one of my fruit and vegetable suppliers and we were talking to him about what was happening with the seasons. We were talking to him about what was happening with particular things that are in season now.

Like the asparagus, it should be a lot warmer than this at the moment so that’s meant a number of things, it’s meant that the artichoke season has extended so they haven’t flowered because it’s been too cold. So we have fantastic artichoke and it’s a long season for artichokes, but it’s also meant that good tomatoes are going to be a little bit later. So we have to plan our menu according to the all those factors of this particular season so a very good relationship with our suppliers who will then get in touch with the farmers is important.

6- Wine matching is an essential part of dining; do you work closely with your sommelier to ensure the perfect marriages?

Stefano Manfredi- Well, you know the perfect match, I don’t know if it exists for everybody. But you know what we do is we have an all Italian list so there are a lot of wines that people don’t know so they have to really trust us to recommend things to them. And in that way it’s even more imperative that our sommeliers work very closely with chefs in talking about what to avoid, what to try, what to try to recommend people and that tends to happen in briefings and we have a wine workshop that we do with staff. And they usually have food matching and wine matching as well.

 7-  How do you bring balance to each menu at your restaurants?  

Stefano Manfredi- Well, we’re really lucky because the Italian menu have been worked out already. We have antipasti, we have soups, we have pastas, we have Primi, we have secondi which are your main courses and then, we have Contornii which are all of your sides, so we fit things into wherever they can. People will generally order antipasti to share then they might go straight to a main course or a Secondi if they want or theyll have a pasta before that.   So it’s already a balanced way to eat, then they would go onto desserts or cheese if they’ve still got room for it.

But I think it’s more difficult for a Modern Australian restaurant to do a balanced menu than it is for an Italian or even a Chinese menu because the food cultures have already out what balance is.  

8-  Have you got a mentor or figure that you particularly admire/respect throughout your career as a chef? 

Stefano Manfredi- My big hero, growing up as a chef has always been Gualtiero Marchesi. He’s a chef from Lombardy like myself and he really brought Italian food into the modern restaurant setting.

He really changed and lightened up a lot of the very heavy cuisine that he presented in his restaurant over the past 30-40 years. He’s still going; he’s still got restaurants and still highly thought of. I liked him because he is always a very influential figure for me because he would present food without the use of garnishes, without trying to tricking up. For me, it has always about the ingredients so it’s kind of fitted into my philosophy and I’ve built my philosophy onto that.

Secondly, I’ve learnt a lot of cooking from my mother so that’s another huge influential figure for me

10- With Masterchef and media attention on chefs, young people are coming into the industry wanting to be on tv (celebrity chef), what are your thoughts about this? 

Stefano Manfredi- If you are good looking and you can talk and cook in front of the camera and the camera likes you then you probably will have a career on television. 

I think one of the big reasons that chefs are on television is that it’s very competitive to have a restaurants and if you are on television, the public are more likely to go into your restaurant. Why? I don’t know and I have no idea why would you wanna go to a place that is run by a chef that is on television over a place that is run by a chef that is not on television but that seems to be the case, you seem to have this fame quality or something. But it doesn’t mean you are likely to have better food and worse food.

11- Have you got any tips or advice for anyone who wants to be a chef? 

Stefano Manfredi- Read as much as you can. Work in as many good restaurants as you can before developing the style of food you want to pursue. Then choose the chef or restaurant that you most admire and work with them. And remember that working only as a television chef is no chef at all!

12- Where would your favourite eating hot spots be in Sydney?

Stefano Manfredi – At the moment, my favourite eating spot in Sydney is Eat Street. Eat street is the staff canteen here at the Star. It’s great, they serve like 20,000 meals a week to all the staff here and its great. Its open 24 hours and we all eat there. Good place.

Cookbooks by Stefano Manfredi/©Anson Smart

13- What was the inspiration and philosophy behind your cookbooks “Fresh from Italy”, “Bel Mondo” , “Seasonal” and “Seasonal Italian Favourites”?

Stefano Manfredi- Well, Fresh from Italy was a record of ten years at my first restaurant which was called The Restaurant or Restaurant Manfredi as it was called, so it was a record of the first ten years there.

Bel Mondo was probably my most ambitious book and it was a look behind the scenes at running a restaurant, it wasn’t really a recipe book even though it’s got recipes in it, I put recipes in it because I needed to get it published and they wouldn’t publish it without the recipes in it so there’s recipes in it and glossy photos. But I think the best part of the book is the parts about running a restaurant.

The third book Seasonal and also the fourth book Seasonal Italian Favourites was published by Fairfax books and they are a collection of my columns from the Sydney Morning Herald and my Seasonal cook columns from spectrum in the Saturday Sydney Morning Herald so those books are a collection of recipes from the columns.

14- You have a the new addition of Balla to your restaurants list and have 4 cookbooks – what are the future plans for yourself and your restaurants? 

Stefano Manfredi- We have a ceramics business, we have a coffee business, we have a restaurant consultancy business and I write a column each week for the herald which I’ve done so since 1989 so I have a parallel career where I’m writing about food. I’m not a food critic, I don’t critique restaurants, I write about food and I’ve had various columns for Fairfax since 1989. So I have a very rich and diversified professional life, I don’t need to do anything else, I don’t need to get three hats, I don’t need to get two hats or even one hat.  As long as people come to my restaurants and they enjoy it, that’s the best thing for, that’s rewarding enough.

15- Can you give us a recipe for one of your dishes? 

Stefano Manfredi- Burrata with Tomato fillets and Artichokes (recipe below)


Burrata with Tomato fillets and Artichokes/©Anson Smart

Burrata with Tomato fillets and Artichokes

 

 Serves 4

Ingredients

4 Burratta mozzarella

2 artichokes

2 ripe tomatoes

1 tbsp parsley, chopped

4 tbsp extra virgin olive oil

salt and pepper

Method

Squeeze half the lemon juice into a large bowl two-thirds full of cold water. Cut the top third off artichoke heads and peel off the tougher, darker leaves.

Cut stalk, leaving 5-6cm attached to head. Slice off any leaves attached to stem, then cut artichokes in half top to bottom. Thinly slice head and stem. Place in lemon water for at least 10 minutes then remove and pat dry.

Bring a large pot of salted water to a rolling boil and plunge in artichokes for 90 seconds. Drain and cool. Bring a small pot of water to the boil and blanch tomatoes for 20 seconds then plunge into iced water.

Peel, cut in half and remove all seed cavity. Cut tomato halves in two, then each piece into four fillets. Dress artichokes with remaining lemon juice, oil and parsley.

Season and serve with burrata (or other cheese) and tomato fillets scattered around. Any dressing should be added on top.

© Stefano.Manfredi 2011


– FURTHER INFORMATION –

CHEF : STEFANO MANFREDI

Manfredi at Bells

107, The Scenic Road

Killcare Heights, Sydney

http://www.bellsatkillcare.com.au/stefano-manfredi.html

info@bellsatkillcare.com.au

Balla at The Star

The Star, 80 Pyrmont Street

Pyrmont, Sydney

http://www.star.com.au/dine/signature-dining/balla.html