Jeremy Strode. He instilled in me the importance of celebrating a single ingredient. His passion was so strong – for food, for the kitchen, the craft, the ingredients, and the restaurant industry in general. He is probably the most passionate chef I’ve ever worked with to be honest. I also liked his no bullshit attitude. Also Peter Doyle. I want to be like him. After all these years, he is still the first in the kitchen doing the mise en place. He wakes up every day, goes for a surf, then goes straight into the restaurant. The passion and energy! And his knowledge is amazing.
I believe in the ingredients, in celebrating a single ingredient. Simplicity and seasonality – that is what I like. Food that is uncomplicated and approachable.
I spend a lot of time searching for produce. When I’m not in the kitchen, I like travelling around the country discovering ingredients and meeting producers. Like Tathra oysters on the south coast of NSW, or grass-fed English longhorn beef from grazier Richard Gunner in South Australia.
Personally, I love fishing. When I was growing up in Florence, I would travel 100km to the beach every weekend to fish off the sand. Now I take my daughters fishing in and around Sydney – Watsons Bay, Central Coast or south to Jervis Bay.
That’s easy. Fish. There are so many, I couldn’t pick just one. As a fisherman, I have an appreciation for fish. I can tell how fresh it is, how it’s been caught. I get excited when we get a fish delivery to the kitchen, when the fish are so fresh they are still in rigor mortis.
Favourite dish on the menu and why?
I’m in love with our Fremantle octopus, potatoes, leeks & radishes. It was the first dish we cooked in the kitchen here, April (sous chef), Terry (junior sous chef) and I together. I wanted to feature Fremantle octopus on the menu, and later discovered that April had accidentally ordered 5kg of paprika. Rather than send it back, I wanted to make the most of it, to celebrate it.
We came up with the octopus dish, with paprika-infused oil, leek and potato, slices of breakfast radish, dusted with paprika powder. We slow cook it then finish it off in the wood-fired oven. I had actually never cooked octopus in a wood-fire oven before. The result is tender and juicy octopus with smokiness from the wood-fired oven. It is one of our most popular dishes.
Why are we returning to a simpler form of cuisine?
As people become more interested in the origin of produce, appreciate the flavour and story behind an ingredient, they come to appreciate the power of simplicity. Compared to 10 years ago when I arrived in Australia, the quality of produce available here has jumped significantly. The vegetables and the nuts in particular. We have such amazing produce here.
What elements of your Italian background do you bring to the menu and why?
I grew up in one of the world’s most food-focused regions. When I was younger, I spent time in the kitchen learning from my mother how to cook traditional Tuscan recipes and regional specialties, like my mamma’s traditional testaroli (she grew up in Carrara, close to Genova in Italy, where the pesto is amazing). Testaroli is a kind of unusual pasta, like a dough, made with a mix of water, flour and salt, sliced into triangles. With a pesto sauce, it’s very tasty.
My uncle owned a vineyard and an olive grove, where I spent time harvesting grapes and picking olives. My childhood was built on simple family food made with heart, using the best seasonal produce. This is the type of food, flavours and cooking I love and bring to Mode.
Best culinary advice you’ve been given?
Let the ingredients be your guide. Pick the produce first, then work out the rest.]]>
I think that’s going to be a major trend moving forward that chefs, companies and organisations are going to have to work on, is how we can make our menu more inclusive.”
The Star works closely with each of the chefs at its signature restaurants, tapping into their individual skill sets to create menus that cater to all customers.
“[Balla head chef] Gabriele Taddeucci is a prime example, someone who is coeliac and Italian,” he says. “When he found out that was the case he actually wanted to stop being a chef, but instead he looked at it as a challenge and said if I’m going to be coeliac then I have to create the best gluten free food that I can.”
Finding gluten free-friendly restaurants can be a challenge for consumers, particularly when travelling in new places. Online restaurant guide Gluten Free Eating Directory recently relaunched with an upgraded, mobile-friendly website to make it easier for consumers to search for gluten free eateries on the go. Owner and manager Janet Brown says the directory’s point of difference is that it understands the needs of those with coeliac disease and ensures each listing properly caters to gluten free diets.
“Other mainstream restaurant and food ordering websites contain eateries that tick the gluten free box when listing, but this can be hit-and-miss, because they generally only have limited choices and might not be overly careful in their food service, meaning that diners are at risk of consuming food that isn’t strictly gluten free,” she says.
“I’ve personally experienced many instances where eatery staff say their food is gluten free yet, when you unpack the ingredients or preparation, the dishes are at definite risk of containing gluten.”
She says gluten free customers are more likely to dine out if more reliable choices are provided.
“We take our friends, family and work mates with us – a win for us and for these businesses that have us in mind.”]]>
“The traditional, old-fashioned cream-based pasta sauces, such as carbonara or mushroom, tended to be on the heavy side, and while you can still find them on menus, these days your customers are often looking for something a little more adventurous and more contemporary too,” says Liam McLaughlin, corporate chef at Fonterra Foodservice, whose product range includes Perfect Italiano cheeses and Anchor culinary creams specifically designed to complement Italian style cuisine such as pasta.
McLaughlin uses the example of a concentrated cream sauce complemented with herb flavours like basil and sage to lightly coat a pasta dish featuring a high quality protein such as smoked meat.
“This approach of utilising cream in more concentrated form than previously is one we’re seeing a lot more of,” he says. “The cream still plays a vital role in the creation of the sauce, but you’re no longer creating a heavy, cream-soaked and tossed pasta dish. There are many adventurous and innovative chefs out in the marketplace taking this more contemporary approach and it’s really paying off for them.”
Cream is the ideal base for so many pasta sauces because of its neutral flavour profile. “In the case of sauces, the cream’s role is to enhance the balance of flavours and textures provided by the other ingredients,” he says.
This has traditionally been a labour-intensive process due to the difficulties in working with conventional cream at high temperatures and with highly acidic ingredients. In both situations, the composition of the cream can break down leading to splitting, curdling and separation.
But the development of products like Fonterra’s Anchor Culinary Cream and Anchor Extra Yield Light Culinary Cream, both of which have been designed to withstand high temperatures and acidic environments, solves this problem. Neither product will split or separate at high temperatures or with the addition of acidic ingredients like white wine or lemon juice. The fact that they are pre-reduced further saves on preparation time.
“Your conventional creams need to be reduced for quite some time to bring them to the right coating consistency,” he says. “You need to bring the cream up to the boil and just let it simmer, and it’s during that process that separation or over-reduction can occur – especially in today’s kitchens where chefs have lots of things to do at once and can’t devote all their attention to making a sauce.
“Using pre-reduced cooking cream, which takes much less time to reach coating consistency, allows you to prepare your sauce faster and without the need for that extended observation period.”]]>
“Without the nutrients from really good food they don’t have the energy to be committed to living rather than existing,” she says.
“This is the most instant gratification that they will get. If you have things to look forward to you’re more positive about life.”
With a desire to bring about positive change, Beer established the Maggie Beer Foundation in 2014 to challenge community attitudes, change institutional food preparation practice and raise awareness of the link between food and emotional wellbeing for older people.
Since then, Beer has hosted a series of masterclasses across Australia for aged care chefs and cooks, as well as equally important masterclasses for CEOs and managers who are committed to making a difference in aged care kitchens.
“You need two champions in an aged care home,” says Beer. “You need the cook or the chef and you need the CEO or the CFO. You need leadership that believes in this.”
The Creating an Appetite for Life workshops aim to inspire and challenge cooks and chefs to create nutritious, full-flavoured, low cost meals for residents in aged care homes. The program also addresses challenges within the sector, which Beer says often includes budget restraints, lack of training and institutionalised thinking.
Another challenge is the stigma that surrounds aged care chefs and the perception that they are the “lowest on the totem pole”.
“Cooks or chefs in the aged care sector should be revered, as these are the people that can do more to make the daily life of the residents happier and give them the energy to be involved and the pleasure that they need and deserve,” she says.
“Cooks and chefs and everyone in aged care works very hard. But they need to be celebrated for doing something really well. Because to do it well, they need to be really good and it’s far more complex than cooking meals in a café.”
She says the key to overcoming these challenges is to get everyone involved.
“It doesn’t matter how good the cooks are if the staff are so pushed for time that they’re not taking the time they need to respect the food that’s been made with love,” she says.
“Everyone has got to come on board, which is why champions are so important.”
Beer says it’s also important to think about the whole dining experience for aged care residents.
“It’s thinking about small details that you would have in your own home,” she says. “Like having an outlook as you sit and dine, some flowers on the table – and yes in a dementia unit you’d make sure the flowers are edible in case they ate them.
“Engaging all the senses with food, having the smell of real food being cooked, the smells of bread baking, butter in the biscuits, or onions being sautéed.”
She says this is a crucial element to the overall dining experience, even if the food is being made in an external kitchen.
“You can still introduce those smells of home cooking by cooking the vegetables at the last moment or pan frying the onions so that the aromas can flow through to the residents, letting them know it is dinner time,” says Beer.
“You want people to feel like this is their home, it is not a facility.”
Looking ahead, Beer says one of the issues she hopes to address is the lack of training in aged care kitchens.
“These people love what they’re doing, but often they’ve just fallen into it because someone has left and there’s a gap so they have a go,” she says.
“We don’t have nearly enough training and they’re hungry for it. They want the knowledge, they want inspiration and they want support.”
Aside from the workshops, the Maggie Beer Foundation is currently developing a partner program that will recognise best practice and innovation in aged care foodservice, as well as conducting evidence-based research into the benefits of wholesome food in aged care.
Beer says while the initiatives won’t provide immediate solutions they are an important step forward.
“None of these are immediate answers, but they are templates of finding great things and being able to work with positive things rather than negative,” she says.
“It’s a very large and complex area but I can see the industry wants to do better and therefore, they want to know how. Certainly the people I talk to want to bring about change and that’s a great thing.”]]>
Andrews has recently developed a world first brewing method, Fractional Atmospheric Brew (FAB), which replaces the traditional filter, pour over and batch brew workflow in a fraction of the time while also elevating flavour, texture and mouthfeel.
“I am always someone who likes to question the norm and push conventional boundaries,” he says. “I was originally looking at how we could produce a better version of a long black. Seeing as a long black is probably my least favourite way to enjoy coffee I thought that if I could come up with a better version that I enjoyed, then surely my customers would also enjoy it.”
Using a Sanremo Opera coffee machine, he came up with a new brew method called ‘The Hybrid’ where he dropped the pressure on the Opera to as low as possible (approximately 3 bar).
“The results were great with significantly better flavours than a traditional long black,” he says. “That was the start of an obsession to be able to get more out of the Opera and to see if I could get the machine to produce a cup of coffee with a similar flavor profile of pour over coffee.”
After a number of discussions with Sanremo (both in Australia and in Italy) he made some temporary modifications to his machine.
“The results of the first cup I produced were mind blowing and I knew that I needed a more permanent solution,” he says. This lead to an extremely unique brewing method.
“When we tested the brewing pressure we discovered that we were brewing at a fraction of atmospheric pressure, and hence Fractional Atmospheric Brew (FAB) was born.”
A typical espresso shot of coffee at most cafes is extracted at 9 bar pressure. This means that 9 times atmospheric pressure is used to force water through the coffee to extract all coffee compounds to produce an espresso shot.
With FAB he is introducing water to ground coffee at a fraction of atmospheric pressure. “This slower, more gentle, introduction of water means that water has a longer, subtler contact time with the coffee,” he says. “The controlled flow of water means that we are seeing a smoother and cleaner cup of coffee produced that develops and gets sweeter as it cools.”
Andrews may be closer to his coffee holy grail, but is the ordinary customer coming along for the ride.
“There is definitely an interest by the consumer when it comes to the complexity of coffee, given that it plays such an important role in many people’s day-to-day routines, but I’d have to say that interest is generally not there when they are after their early morning caffeine fix,” he says.
“However, we often find that we are able to engage in deeper discussions with our customers when they have time to sit for a while and chill.
We like to try and take them on a journey of discovery and often will encourage them to try a coffee that they would not normal pick.”
The café now often brews a number of FABs for a customer each with a slight variation in the recipe. This allows the customer to identify what flavour profiles are best suited to their individual palate.
“It’s not unusual to hear a customer come to our counter and ask for an Ethiopian FAB with 11.5 grams of coffee. We are now tailoring coffee to suit individual needs,” he says.]]>
“Having a juicy, delicious burger made from top quality meat and made by food professionals with passion is something a lot of consumers are willing to pay good money for. People trust these venues to make great burgers and they must trust their supply partners to deliver a quality and consistent product to ensure that their customers keep returning.” Top Cut Foods offers three different variations on the beef burger including The Classic, The Angus and The Wagyu. “A beef burger is not just a beef burger these days,” Aston says. “People are far more discerning about their beef and we have catered to that. Many burger outlets are going beyond a beef burger and we also have The Lamb Burger, which is made using only quality lamb forequarter.”
Luke Mangan has also brought his fine-dining sense of focus to his burger offering, with Chicken Confidential using only organic chicken in its menu of burgers. “I had always wanted to open a new fast food concept, so when the opportunity arose I knew that I wanted to focus on quality fast food, using organic chicken for our burgers,” he says. “We have always had a great relationship with Inglewood Chicken so it made sense to have organic chicken as the star of our menu and our main point of difference out there in the market place. We do have one beef and vegetarian burger but our chicken burgers are the best sellers by a mile.” Asked if he had looked at his peers, such as Perry, before deciding on chicken as the hero for his burgers, he says not.
“We wanted to create our own fast food concept with a focus on fresh, organic chicken – that was always our point of difference out there in the market place;” he says. “I think chefs like Chase Kojima with his sushi rice burgers has developed a really great concept and something different that customers are really embracing – there is a big enough market for quality fast food these days.” A newcomer to the burger scene is BEN’s Supernatural on Melbourne’s Chapel Street, with founder Casey George-Jolson looking to put a healthy spin on their fast food. Every item on the BEN’S menu is backed up by macro nutritional data available on their website. Customers can view the nutritional profile of not just every meal, but each individual ingredient, along with detailed information about allergens and dietary requirements. But is there such a thing as a healthy burger? “Absolutely. Any meal can be healthy,” says George-Jolson.
“The problem with fast food like burgers is that they’re generally made using low quality, heavily processed ingredients. Buns and sauces in particular are more often than not loaded with preservatives, sugar and saturated fats. At BEN’S we make everything in house including our burger buns and sauces to very strict nutritionist approved guidelines. All of our food is 100 per cent natural, unprocessed, GMO free, low in saturated fat and sodium, and refined sugar free. That’s just about as healthy as you can get, burger or not.” BEN’s currently has seven burgers on the menu and the choice of buns includes organic sourdough, gluten free or low carb.
“We really wanted to offer a low carb option of peoples favourite fast food, which is generally loaded with carbs and therefore off limits to anyone following a low carb diet,” she says. BEN’s low carb buns contain no more than 6 per cent carbohydrate, which works out at 7g of carbs per serve, less than half that of a slice of bread. “We basically wanted to offer something for everybody, meat eaters, pescatarians, vegans,” she says. “Every burger had to taste amazing whilst at the same time meet our very strict nutritional values.”]]>
Boasting many accreditations including, BRC A grade and HACCP along with current EU and US Export licenses, Marathon Foods utilises their extensive network of foodservice distributors and major retail partners to distribute their products to a world-wide audience.
Sourcing their meat from the best local producers, Marathon Foods has introduced its Marathon Chef Direct range – a shelf stable selection of centre of plate creations aimed at supporting busy commercial kitchens across the country.
The hero of the range is its Lamb Shanks, beautiful and succulent every time. Take your pick from Lamb Shanks with Red Wine and Rosemary Jus or traditional Mint Gravy. Portion controlled as single serve dishes, and ready to heat and serve within minutes.
The newest additions to the Marathon Chef Direct range is their Beef Meatballs cooked in a rich Tomato & Basil Sauce and their Chilli Beef & Beans. You can create swanky nachos dishes – go for a culture mash-up and use them in a Mexican Lasagne or as a great value add to Potato Skin Toppers or a good old fashion Sloppy Joes. Why not create your own meatball pizzas? Coming in 1.2kg pouches, the portion controlled units not only allow chefs a simple way to keep an eye on costs, but due to the use of clever technology and packaging Marathon Chef Direct creations can be stored in an ambient pantry, adding both a cost and space saving for your business.
Sealed in pouches, the centre of plate range can be heated by microwave, or in boiling water. For bulk heating remove them from the pouch and place them in oven dishes, they’ll be ready in less than 15 minutes, whilst still delivering the depth of flavour and tenderness that slow cooking brings.
Leave the slow cooking to Marathon Foods with their new range of ‘centre of plate’ creations, and give yourself more time to focus on creating that perfect steak or piece of seafood.]]>
Q: What inspired you to start a culinary career at just 16 years old?
A: At the age of 16 I had already started working at a small family-owned Italian restaurant, Pascalles. It was wonderful. We were cooking simple, honest Italian food.
After three years I moved to the Hunter Valley and found a job at a fine-dining French restaurant run by chef Robert Molines. It was an exciting and challenging time. The menu at Robert’s Restaurant was filled with beautiful unique produce I’d never even seen before. Whole carcass butchery, amazing seafood, complete pastry work, local seasonal fruits and vegetables. A brigade of professional chefs driving a busy restaurant, it was a fun and addictive environment to be a part of.
Q: Tell us about winning the 2005 Brett Graham Scholarship and your experience at The Ledbury?
A: Winning the scholarship in 2005 was a wonderful experience. Like all competitions, it was uncomfortable
and stressful, but ultimately rewarding, regardless of whether you won or not.
When I staged at The Ledbury it was still quite a young restaurant. It was a one-star venue, pushing two with a hungry team of chefs, the majority of which were Australian expats. The kitchen environment was next level for me regarding intensity and focus. I was lucky enough to work a few services on both cold larder and pastries. I sponged as much as possible during my work experience and left truly inspired.
Q: How did that experience kick-start your career?
A: Winning the scholarship and the opportunity to travel and stage at The Ledbury was instrumental to the success in my career. Although I saw Robert as a mentor, Brett’s focus, dedication and achievements, relative to his age at the time (being in his mid-20s), made my dream more tangible, which put me on a three to five year goal of opening a restaurant.
Q: Why are opportunities like the Brett Graham Scholarship so important for young chefs?
A: The fundamental requirements of the scholarship submission, acceptance and preparation for the cook-offs are definitely the most beneficial part of the scholarship for these young chefs. During the scholarship, they need to start thinking as individual chefs, figure out who they are and what their style is, they’ll evoke creativity, plan menus and write down long and short-term industry goals.
The scholarship itself has continued to grow and gain further industry respect and support. It’s gaining broader media exposure, giving these young apprentices a great platform for continued success, and attracting commitment by local sponsors who understand the importance of investing in these guys.]]>
Entries have opened for the 2018 Fonterra Proud to be a Chef, which helps create tomorrow’s culinary leaders through the recognition, professional development and ongoing support of today’s apprentices.
“While there are many culinary competitions out there, Fonterra Proud To Be a Chef is not about testing or judging young chefs but is a mentoring and development program without peer,” says Fonterra Foodservice channel marketing manager Alastair McCausland.
“Our focus is on identifying and developing the raw talent of those incredibly passionate young chefs who want to excel in the foodservice industry. We aim to provide them with the best mentoring experience possible, not just for the duration of the program but over the longer term to ensure they stay engaged and inspired about a career in the kitchen.”
Each February the Proud to be a Chef judges choose 32 finalists who are flown to Melbourne to take part in the all-expenses paid four day mentoring program including field tours, skills workshops, dining at prominent restaurants and educational classes with industry leaders. At the end of the program the standout apprentice is awarded the title of Proud to be a Chef winner and receives an international culinary scholarship tailored to their personal interests and goals as a professional chef.
Mentors for the 2018 program will be Frank Camorra, chef/owner of MoVida Bar de Tapas; Tony Twitchett, executive chef of Taxi Kitchen Melbourne; and Peter Wright, Fonterra Foodservice executive chef.
“These leading foodservice professionals have made their mark in the industry and are now focused on giving back to the next generation of apprentice chefs – it’s terrific to have them on board,” McCausland says. “The program gives our apprentices the chance to work up close and personal with these mentors through masterclasses and in their own restaurants.”
It took two attempts for this year’s Proud to be a Chef winner Giles Gabutina to get through to the finals.
“Being a chef is not just about the food, it’s about making connections and getting as much knowledge as possible, and I’m so grateful for the opportunity,” says Gabutina, who works at Tetsuya’s in Sydney. “The chefs took so much of their time to mentor and nurture you and show you what goes on behind the scenes.”]]>
How did you start out?
I was a late apprentice, because everyone that I knew said ‘don’t be a chef’. So I stayed and did my VCE in case I didn’t want to be a chef. I was on my way becoming a builder but during smoko I was always reading recipes and chefs’ books while the other guys were talking about footy and I thought to myself ‘what am I doing? Just become a chef for God’s sake!’ I’ve also been really lucky along the way as all of my bosses have been really good. I have worked with some really supportive bosses who have guided me and taken the time to help get to where I am today. It’s been an easy career to progress in.
When did you start competing?
I was exposed to cooking competitions when I was 20 through AUSTAFE. I won a Gold medal straight away and that’s how I became addicted [to competing]. So any opportunity that I could dive into I just did, any competition I’d just sign up for.
When did you decide to enter Bocuse d’Or?
At 25 I went to France and saw Bocuse d’Or and thought ‘wouldn’t that be amazing to do?’ When I came back I heard the selection was on and entered without any idea what I was getting into. I failed miserably, though I got to the nationals. I had only practised it twice, I didn’t know my commis chef which makes it difficult. I was unprepared through lack of understanding. I thought I would build up the courage to do it again, but figured it would take at least 10 years to get over the trauma [of losing]. I wasn’t really looking at it but saw the selections this year and it wouldn’t go out of my mind. I couldn’t come up with a reason or excuse why not to do it. Even if I didn’t win it would guide me to when I’m 35 or 40. And then I ended up winning, which was amazing.
What do you gain from competing?
Competing gives me confidence in my professional life. I understood at a young age that if you put yourself out of your comfort zone you will grow. When you compete you have to be aware of your surroundings and how you operate. We talk about mise en place in the kitchen. It’s all about structure. Everything has to be in place, the floor has to be clean, the benches have to be clean. It’s about workflow structure, it’s almost like military discipline. I noticed at a young age that every single top restaurant in the world, the one thing they had in common was that they were clean. And that structure is what it takes to win a gold medal.
How important is having the right commis chef?
It’s such a key part being in synch with your commis. It’s like a dance. We need to move around one another gracefully and that takes shave that time down. We got it down to 45 minutes faster than we needed to be, which I thought would be perfect as on the day you have judges asking questions, and nerves and if something happens we have that time to recover. On the actual day we were so focused we ended up an hour and a half ahead!
Where do you get your inspiration?
My cooking style is very relaxed. The food should be executed with a lot of discipline, restraint and thought, but I like to present it in a very relaxed manner. I am lucky as I have a farm [where I work] for me to use. So anything I want they can grow. I also live in one of the most beautiful places. There are rock pools where I spear fish. I live 10 minutes from the bay where the scallops come from. There are mushrooms galore, wild asparagus, it’s just insane the produce, and that’s where my inspiration comes from.
Tell us about your winning platter?
It was inspired by the forest floor. We used recycled timber inlaid with magnets that could float 300g objects. Beetroots have a lot of iron in, so I thought how cool would it be to float beetroot? I went foraging and got tea tree bark, and lichens, moss and sea shells and made tiles to hide the magnets. Inside the beetroot was braised beef terrine. The beetroots were glazed in a blackberry juice, covered in Elysium flowers and oxalis. It was all about what was around us. I wanted to be bold and bring it out on wood instead of the usual mirror or glass. I only got the finished board a week before the event so it was stressful not knowing if it would work as I didn’t have a back-up plan. I was also freaking out that the beetroots would go flying around the room. But everything worked just the way it was meant to.
How are you feeling post win?
I’m pretty lucky to have come in at this point because all these great chefs like Scott Picket, George Calombaris, Tom Milligan and all these other guys have started to create a buzz in Australia. This year was the first time they did the Bocuse d’Or in front of a live audience at Foodservice Australia and there was a lot of hype and exposure so I am confident we will get a lot more support. The US has $1.7 million for their budget and Australia has about $250k. We are only going to see better results as we get more exposure, and more people support and back it and create that hype the European countries and US have. Bocuse d’Or is huge but here no-one really knows what it is.]]>