Posts Tagged ‘Neil Perry’

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.


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


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


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



Quay Restaurant 

Level 3, Overseas Passenger Terminal

Circular Quay West, The Rocks, Sydney





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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.


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


300 gms prawns

60 gms unsalted butter

6 tsp salted baby Capers, rinsed and drained

1/4 cup flat- leaf Parsley, finely chopped


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


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



Bistro Bird Cow Fish

500 Crown Street

Surry Hills, Sydney




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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.


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


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


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



Rockpool Restaurant – Sydney

Rockpool Bar and Grill – Sydney, Melbourne, Perth

Spice Temple – Sydney, Melbourne

Waiting Room – Melbourne 





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