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MY DOWN UNDER GARDEN-NEW ZEALAND CHEFS: DAN PEARSON

Every encounter was a wonderful discovery, but the Australian and New Zealander chefs blew me away! They have a very distinct personality and a very unique cuisine that mixes technique, technology and influences from Spain, Japan or Thailand. They are all linked in the research of the best product (produce) and the freshness of the instantaneity.

I have often spoken of young chefs from Australia or New Zealand, but today I present to you a chef originally from England who adopted New Zealand and for whom, I confess, I have a “parti pris”.

Dan Pearson has brought with him to Auckland not only his culinary skills (and its British influences) but also a taste and an energy that moves things and inform people. It might be ambitious, but it is work that he does every day with its pop-up concept Egg & Spoon and Chef’s Arses Blog.

The “cuisine” of Dan Pearson is simple, accurate, completely inspired by local products. Its English roots exist but they are subtly hidden in the “aesthetics of light and colours”, the same quality that I found in Michael Meredith’s work (but differently). Perhaps it is a “New Zealand-touch”, I do not know yet …

Sometimes we meet chefs whose creativity and hard work that amazes us, sometimes they are personalities whose involvement goes beyond creativity in the kitchen … Dan Pearson is a mixture of both, definitely a chef to follow!

 

 

Q+A WITH DAN PEARSON (www.eggandspoonrestaurant.com ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

DPearson- Good quality ingredients with great flavour; not over-complicated or masked by using too many complicated techniques when they’re not needed. Simple flavour combinations with flare. Food to me is the most important art form. Being able to make a guest smile with honesty on a plate is what matters most.

2-(Scoffier) Egg & Spoon is a pop-up concept (mobile), your goal is to open a permanent restaurant?

DPearson- Most definitely. There are a number of reasons behind the pop ups. Firstly it allows me to take my time to find the right location for Egg & Spoon, as this one detail can make or break your business, and to put to the test areas of interest and trial different ideas. Secondly, it acts as a good marketing tool in the build-up to eventual opening. Finally, it allows me to work with young up and coming chefs around the country looking for new experiences within the industry. Fingers crossed we will have a location by mid-2013.

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable?

DPearson- I come from a very English background so I would have to say a good Sunday roast or braise, whether its pork, beef, lamb or chicken with all the extras. Roast potatoes, boiled potatoes, roast carrot and parsnips, boiled greens (normally overcooked in our house), gravy, bread sauce and stuffing, all on the table by midday and finished off with a good rhubarb or apple crumble with custard. Then, have an afternoon snooze in front of the Eastenders omnibus and prepare to enjoy round two with a leftovers sandwich and the family game of monopoly.

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

DPearson- Pigs head, without a doubt. There is just so much potential for a great dish. Terrine, roast, pickled tongue, crispy ears, potted meat, skin tuille, braised cheeks, pressed jowl… Pork has such a versatile flavour that you can marry it with all the seasons.

5-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

DPearson- My two biggest mentors are Toby Stuart, Head Chef of Roux at Parliament Square, and my chef when working at Foliage, Chris Staines.

Toby showed me his book Essential Cuisine by Michel Bras when we worked together in London. I saw the first page of recipes – boiled eggs – and all of a sudden everything I had been looking for was staring back at me. I’ll never forget that moment as it changed me as a chef forever. Toby is an amazing guy to work with and has a CV that any chef would dream of: Troisgros and Richard Neat to name a couple.

I don’t really know where to start with Chef Chris as he did so much for me whether was in my darkest hour or my finest moment. Right from the moment I walked into the kitchen on my stage I knew I was in the right place. This is a chef that promotes freedom of creativity and builds a team that values respect towards each other and our ingredients, and the all-important value of team work. This only touches briefly on the many kitchen ethics we, as a team, learned and practised daily.

I only ever intended to do my year at Foliage and move on, but chef constantly evolved with the times. With so much development there was no need to go anywhere else. I hear so many people speak of Foliage as the hidden gem of London. We achieved a rising two star in my time but never got the second. I’m still scarred by this as a lesser restaurant (in my view) got theirs – ouch. There isn’t anything I wouldn’t do for those two guys as they steered a rebellious little prick in the right direction.

Where else do I find inspiration (apart from the obvious Michel Bras)? Peter Gilmore of Quay in Sydney: I did a stage there in 2010 and it blew me away. I’m such a geek that I stole one of his plating-up spoons (if he reads this then I can send it back in the post…). Daniel Humm of Eleven Madison Park: great book. Juan Mari (The Wizard) Arzak, Pierre Gagnaire everyone in the top fifty, everyone in every Michelin guide… the list is endless as my favourite hobby is searching for food porn.

6-(Scoffier) Michael Meredith (Meredith’s) told me that the New Zealand scene was very young and vibrant. Since your arrival (2009), do you perceive a New Zealand signature in the world of the gastronomy?

DPearson- The New Zealand food scene is indeed very young and vibrant. This has its pros and cons.

Pros: New Zealand is untouched soil in terms of recognition for its gastronomy. When people think of New Zealand they think of three things: rugby, Lord of the Rings and sheep. This is great for chefs like me and my friends as that means there is not that much fierce competition or rivalry in order to be recognised. All of the up and coming chefs here whether from NZ or abroad all get along very well and work with each other on a regular basis to further our own skills, share ideas, produce contacts, training for younger chefs and more than anything have fun working together.

Cons: Cheffing is on the skills shortage list, some areas of the catering education system is not as fine-tuned as it could be, you can count on one hand how many restaurants could really compete with the big boys overseas, we don’t have a trusted guide system or an internationally recognised guide that would help bring in a higher quality of staff, which in turn would give the chefs of New Zealand’s future a better education (and prevent them from going overseas for training and in turn risk them not coming back because of all of the above). It’s a vicious circle and a problem that isn’t going to be solved overnight.
It would be great to see a New Zealand restaurant amongst the crowd of top dogs, but in terms of New Zealand finding a signature within the world of gastronomy I think we’re going to have to wait a few years.

7-(Scoffier) How do you develop your recipes? What are your source(s) of inspiration ?

DPearson- Some recipes are developed over time, some made up on the spot and some are untouched from when they were passed onto me through the kitchens I have worked in. I carry a sketch book with me everywhere I go as inspiration is all around us on a day to day basis. My brain never unplugs from thinking about food so when I get an idea I need to document it straight away through fear of forgetting or getting lost amongst the thousand other things I’m thinking about.

I have sketch books dating back to almost a decade ago now and it’s a great way to record self-development. There are some dishes that I still go back to and develop on paper, with maybe ten different versions of one dish spaced over a decade, and it’s still not what I’m after.

Books are a great source of inspiration; I’ve stopped counting how many I have. Not just the pretty, new ones either. The earliest cookbook I own so far dates back to nineteen sixteen. I am a firm believer that we wouldn’t have the new without the old and I find it very interesting just how far recipes have developed within a century.

Going out to dinner, doing stages, online food porn, talking with other chefs, planting veges in the garden, going to the markets…

And the biggest inspiration of all has to be as simple as being in the kitchen. It’s the one place where I’m never fidgety as there is always something to do.

8-(Scoffier) You are a very important (assiduous) contributor to the blog Chef’s Arse, what is the purpose of the blog? And, currently, what are you interested (books, chefs, trends, countries etc.) in gastronomy?

DPearson- The main purpose of my blog is to feed the brains of the young chefs of New Zealand. I have taught and spoke to so many talented individuals here that have no idea about what is going on in world of food. No idea about Michelin, top fifty, Ferran Adria, Escoffier, modern techniques such as sous-vide, and much, much more.

Industry-related media here is more aimed at the foodie or the advanced home cook rather than people like myself that want to look at food porn, want to know who’s the best, who’s up and coming, read about controversial topics of debate and new techniques, but more than anything just to be inspired.

I enjoy the foodie magazines that we have here but I am a thirty-one year old food geek and I know how to appreciate them. Is the young spotty kid working in a burger van in the dog-arse end of nowhere buying these magazines to be inspired? And if they are just what standard is it showing and setting them?

I started off in a burger van and I didn’t have anyone showing me material like we have on the blog. If I did I think the path I would have taken to get to where I am now would have been a lot less complicated. But the simple truth of it is that I just didn’t know such things existed. There are a lot of young kids over here in that same situation and if my blog manages to help or inspire just one of them then I know I’m on the right track and giving back to the industry.

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Dan Pearson?

DPearson- Recipe: Apricot, lamb fat, wild radish

10-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as chef? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?

DPearson- World domination!! Only joking. My main goals are to just carry on playing with food. Egg & Spoon for me has always been an ever growing idea, an evolving creative process without any restrictions and I want it to continue in that vein and be able to look back over the years (like I do with my sketch books) and see its evolution.

I would love for Michelin to bring out an Australasia guide as that would really raise the bar over here. I’m super competitive and what better way to harness that energy by setting yourself goals of a high standard. I have three empty stars tattooed on my arm and I want at least two coloured in before I hang my whites up.

I would love to do a cookbook. All my friends are in one except for me, so I think having my own is the only way it’s going to happen…

The one thing that makes me push on more than anything and the one goal I want to achieve the most is that when my daughter Alice sees all the things I do, that she is proud to call me her Dad.

RECIPE: Apricot, lamb fat, wild radish

INGREDIENT & PROGRESSION RECIPE

1. Smoked lamb fat – take fridge temperature lamb fat (roasted/clarified) and put in a cold smoker. For smoking chips Manuka wood is a favourite but you can also manipulate the flavour and scent by the addition of other dry ingredients, i.e. lavender, rosemary, tea leaves, spices etc. Once the fat has been lightly infused, melt and keep at a warm temperature.

2. Apricots – the fruit should be served at room temperature, not just for this dish but as a general rule. When you put fridge temp food in your mouth the first thing your brain will register is that it’s cold and only second to this will be the flavour, if it’s in your mouth long enough. Also we don’t want the lamb fat to solidify around the apricot upon soaking them, we want the apricot to soak it up like a sponge so when we put it in our mouths there’s a gentle explosion of flavours and aromas.

3. Chilli salt - put your safely sourced seawater into a double boiler and reduce over a long period of time. Once your salt crystals have formed and chilled, mix with freshly ground red chillies to a 4-1 ratio.

4. Other ingredients – wild radish flowers and beans, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, grain mustard and wheatgrass.

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

EGG & SPOON/Chef-owner Dan Pearson

Auckland, New Zealand

-info@eggandspoonrestaurant.com

-Chef’s Arse blog

-Facebook Egg & Spoon

1. Fine dining at the White Lady, May 2012, Auckland Now

2. Eat Here Now, April 2012

 

 

(THANKS AT TYSON SUTTON FOR THE PHOTOS. © TYSON SUTTON.)

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2012.

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MichaelMeredith/© Merediths

THE ÉLECTRONS LIBRES-NEW ZEALAND CHEF: MICHAEL MEREDITH

The Électrons Libres, is a group of chefs that are as individual or a leaders of a group have taken a unique route that goes beyond the learning process. Their philosophy transforms the cuisine of the present time as well as the cuisine of the future in a specific area (place) or country. Sometimes they are the leaders of a culinary movement but often, they are alone in their search.

I strongly believe in the cuisine (and chefs) is done in Australia (and in the region) actually and I can now add a very talented New Zealander chef, Michael Meredith. As some of his fellow Australians, Meredith has a mix of influences and a special talent to highlight a unique terroir.

Chef Michael Meredith was born in the South Pacific island-nation of Samoa. He grew up watching his mother cook for her pancake stall in the market of the capital city Apia. At the age of 19, he enrolled at Auckland University of Technology and a few time after at The Culinary Institute
of America
. At New York, he completed his internships at Montrachet, Grammercy Tavern and others. Back in New Zealand, he worked for the best of Auckland: Antoine’s, Vinnies and The Grove before to open his own restaurant, Merediths, in 2007.

The chef Meredith creates a cuisine simple, fresh, pure, where an ingredient or a detail may be very important in the final result. So, not far south of the chef Ben Shewry and the Australia, there is Michael Meredith and his very personal cuisine. Certainly soon, will be seen in some important European culinary events!

 

 

Q+A WITH MICHAEL MEREDITH (www.merediths.co.nz ):

1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?

MMeredith- My philosophy is “Energy is Everything” and also creating and re-creating food memories as a whole experience. We are fortunate to have a young dining scene in New Zealand which allows me to be open with cultural influences in my cooking. I am very open minded about trying new ideas, techniques and flavours pairings, but more importantly has a clear focus on seasonality, flavours and its origin.

 

2-(Scoffier) I had the chance to interview the chef Ben Shewry (born in New Zealand) and he uses a traditional method (Hangi) to realize its famous Slow cooked potato. Is there a part of Samoa Islands in your cuisine (cookery method, products, flavours, others)?

MMeredith- I have a lot of childhood memories from Samoa and tend to use some ingredients from the Pacific Islands. I have tried a few methods but the flavours are relatively influenced by modern approach. As a child we used to have Umu on Sunday. It is a traditional method of cooking on the ground with rocks that were heated until hot then covered with banana and breadfruit leaves for two hours. I have tried to open roasting coco beans before grounding them, then reset before using it, gives more a roasted, smoky flavour that you don’t get from chocolate.

 

3-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?

MMeredith- I use a lot of coconut milk and the flesh, taro leaves and mostly tropical fruits. At the moment we are using limu (sea grapes) in our Tio Point Oyster dish. We used to harvested these and eat them from the reefs as a boy on the beach growing up in Samoa.

 

4-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?

MMeredith- I admire the work of Ben Shewry (Attica) and I am inspired by the philosophy of the New Nordic Cuisine but there are a lot of great minds (Chefs) out there which provides a great source of inspirations.

 

5-(Scoffier) How would you describe the Restaurant (or gastronomy) scene in New Zealand actually?

MMeredith- The restaurant scene here in New Zealand is very young and vibrant, but has evolved and grown considerably over the last 7 years. There are a lot of great producers and growers who are committed  to  supplying  the local market which has bought a level of pride for chefs to use New Zealand produce , also a lot of chefs who are coming back to NZ bringing with them great experience and skills who in turns, gives our young chefs good training. But also a lot of is about education and trust for both ourselves and the dining public.

 

6-(Scoffier) How do you develop (your inspiration) your recipes and construct your menu at Meredith’s?

MMeredith- I am inspired by what is in season which gives me the foundation to create the menu. From there I develop ideas and create a dish relating to the nature of the ingredient, but sometimes things I read and memories from my travels and just being open to the universe.

 

7-(Scoffier) Do you have your own garden and foraging also? Or you have developed good relationships with local producers?

MMeredith- A small amount is foraged, such as edible flowers and herbs but I have a good relationship with suppliers for most of the ingredients.

 

8-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or new technology in your cooking techniques? If yes,
which?

MMeredith- We use equipment like Pacojet and Thermo mixer and sous-vide cooking techniques.

 

9-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish or other) that is characterized the cuisine of Michael Meredith? (Actually the wines from New Zealand are really popular in North America, can you suggest one or two wines for us?)

MMeredith- Recipe: Tio Point Oysters with Sea Foam

 

10-(Scoffier) What are your goals (ambitions) as chef or for your restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others restaurants?

MMeredith- At the moment still want to focus on solidifying Merediths, and would like to move more at Tasting menu concept completely no À La Carte offered. I would also like to start a book soon and maybe another smaller restaurant with a different dinning concept.

RECIPE: Tio Point Oysters with Sea Foam

TioPointOysters/©AaronMcLean,CuisineMagazine

This simple dish is inspired by the Tio Point oysters that are harvested from the Marlborough Sounds in the South Island. I have re-created the environment of the beach to enhance the memories of eating fresh oysters on the beach.

INGREDIENTS & PROGRESSION RECIPE

-2 Tio Point Oysters

-Pickled cucumber (Compress with purified seawater)

-Fennel pollen

-Graperfruit segments (broken into small pods)

-Sea grapes (limu)

-Sea foam (See the method)

-Bronze fennel fronds

1. Shuck the oysters, clean out any sand but reserve its natural juice, season with cucumber, fennel pollen, grapefruit pods, limu and one spoon of sea foam on top then garnish with bronze fennel fronds.

 

Method for Sea Foam

-400ml of purified seawater

-200ml of water

-1 teaspoon of fennel pollen

-8 grams soy lecithin

-Infuse water, sea water and pollen overnight, add soy lecithin and use hand blender to create foam.

 

2. Presentation

I collect sand, seaweed, twigs and shrubs I find on the beach to create the environment.

Wine pairing:  I suggest Cloudy Bay Pelorus, Methode nv

 

FURTHER INFORMATION

-Merediths/Chef Michael Meredith

365 Dominion Road

Mt. Eden, Auckland

New Zealand

www.merediths.co.nz

PRESS/REVIEW

1. Metro Restaurant of the year (Video)

2. Video(3 parts) on Merediths & Michael Meredith, June 2011

3. Michael Meredith Recipe(s)

Tous Droits Réservés. Copyright Scoffier ©2008-2011

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