MY DOWN UNDER GARDEN-AUSTRALIAN CHEFS: DAN HUNTER
Let me say that if the plate (assiette) of those Chefs are as generous and of the quality of their responses, we can assume that we will have a great time. Every encounter was a wonderful discovery, but The Australian chefs blew me away! They have a very distinct personality and a very unique cuisine that mixes technique, technology and influences from Spain, Japan, Thailand as well as New-Zealand. You have Dan Hunter with his wonderful gardens at the foot of the Grampian National Park, Ben Shewry who picks his herbs every day near his home before going to his kitchen or Martin Benn that has for partner the best ‘’poissonniers’’ in Australia. They are all linkedin the research of the best product (produce) and the freshness of the instantaneity. I was told once that the Australian chefs’ motto was: ‘’Take the freshest product (produce) and prepare it the simplest way!’’
Dan Hunter was born in Melbourne (Australia) and started his career in Melbourne working at the highly acclaimed restaurants Langton’s (three chef’s hats) and Verge (two chef’s hats). In January 2005 Dan Hunter moved north to San Sebastián where he began a period of learning experiences at the Mugaritz Restaurant with the great chef and innovator Andoni Aduriz. In 2006 he was offered the role of Head Chef, which he held for one year before returning to Australia. Shortly after his return in 2007, he took on his first position as Executive Chef at the Royal Mail Hotel. For most chefs, the Royal Mail is a dream (see the videos at the end). Dan Hunter’s cuisine is intelligent and elegant; he has learned with Andoni Aduriz to magnify nature and to make it even more beautiful!
Q+A WITH DAN HUNTER (www.royalmail.com.au ):
1-(Scoffier) How do you explain the philosophy behind your cuisine and what is it main characteristics?
DHunter- The main aim in our cuisine is to search for the small intricacies within nature and highlight them. We intend to demonstrate the true essence or true nature of ingredients while maintaining their integrity. Purity of flavour and very singular flavours are typical of the dishes we present in the restaurant.
2-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular foods (or products) that you often use in your recipes?
DHunter- We have a large organic vegetable garden and so a lot of what we serve at the Royal Mail is harvested that morning by the chefs. We are interested in the diversity of nature and so seek out heirloom variety vegetables, fruit and plants. We hope to present diners a much wider example of vegetables than is usually seen at a market or in a typical restaurant
3-(Scoffier) Do you have a mentor (chefs or anybody else) that inspires you in your cuisine?
DHunter- I worked at Mugaritz for two years and so obviously Andoni has been an important person for me. Given that we are in the country and don’t really cook an urban style of cuisine, I am also inspired by other chefs who have chosen a path outside of the city. Michel Bras is an example. Aside from these two there are many modern day chefs who are an inspiration like Ferran Adria and Heston Blumenthal. Cuisines rather than people are also points of reference. The way Japanese cuisine can highlight simplistic ideas through food is always a reference for me and a reminder not to get too fussy.
4-(Scoffier) Do you have a particular flavour or taste from your childhood that is again memorable
DHunter- Not really. My childhood memories aren’t filled with complex ideas on food. Vegemite on toast, custard, roast lamb, ice cream – typical Aussie kid stuff.
5-(Scoffier) What do you eat when you are at home?
DHunter- Simple clean food
6-(Scoffier) I know that you worked at Mugaritz with the chef Luis Andoni Aduriz, what do you have learn of this great chef?
DHunter- A restless search for perfection within ingredients and that there is a lot of beauty within imperfection (nature). Mugaritz taught me a lot about aesthetics.
7-(Scoffier) Is there any elements from your cuisine that is typical from the Australia (or Dunkeld area)?
DHunter- We try and mimic natural forms in our presentations. When wild mushrooms are growing in the pine forests we attempt to mimic the experience of picking them on the plate.
We also use some native and non-native wild ingredients like native mint, wild onions, muntries (a type of dessert berry), pine mushrooms, slippery jack mushrooms, morels, sorrel, yarrow.
8-(Scoffier) I know that the chef Pascal Barbot (L’Astrance) take a lot of time (40 % and more) choosing and picking his produces at the market. Do you spend as much of time to choose and pick your produces?
DHunter- I spend a lot of time choosing what to grow in the garden and checking on how it’s going. As the reputation of the restaurant grows and more people from the local area understand what we are doing I’m finding that a lot of farmers are now interested in growing things for us. People are starting to experiment with raising rare breed animals for us.
9-(Scoffier) Do you use some elements from molecular gastronomy or from new technology in your cuisine? If yes, which?
DHunter- We do a lot of cooking sous vide or at very low temperature. We also use various gelling agents and are interested in the textural enhancement that ‘new’ products allow. I think that we think in a modern way which helps a lot more than simply utilising ingredients and techniques.
10-(Scoffier) Can you give us a detailed recipe (Signature dish) that is characterized the cuisine of Dan Hunter and Royal Mail Restaurant?
DHunter- Recipe. Mushroom dish.
11-(Scoffier) Why do you choose Dunkeld to open your restaurant? It’s the best place for you to create an environment similar at Mugaritz (near of the nature)?
DHunter- Seemed like a good place. It’s far enough away from the city that people need to make an effort to come here. They stay overnight and fully relax and let us do our thing. The local environment is very interesting also we have mountains at our door step and the coast is only 45 minutes away. There is a good climate for primary production, good rainfall and warm summers. I think it’s an interesting place.
12-(Scoffier) What is your goal (ambitions) as a chef or for the restaurant? Do you think about write a book, a television show, others?
DHunter- To develop as a chef and refine the ideas that we currently have on food. I hope the restaurant can be a place where people enjoy themselves and that we are a reference for dining in Australia.
RECIPE: Wild Mushrooms, Pine Nut, Bone Marrow, Chlorophyll
INGREDIENTS (4 peoples)
-200g wild mushrooms
-i.e slippery jacks and pine mushrooms
-extra virgin olive oil
-4 pieces of veal bone marrow soaked overnight in cold water
-20kg veal knuckle bones
-16kg stewing beef
-7.4kg brown onions
-3.2kg large carrots
-1.3 kg large, ripe tomatoes
-10 litres red wine reduced to 1 litre
-2 pork trotters
-1 calves foot, split
-50 litres water
-(results in 10 litres)
-200g baby spinach
-50g pine nut purée
Silver beet and chard
-20 pieces 5cm in length of rainbow chard and silver beet stem
Leaves and pine nuts
-2 baby beet leaves
-2 celeriac shoots
-3 wild sorrel leaves
-3 wild yarrow leaves
2 baby spinach
2 aztec spinach
2 virofly spinach
5 pine nuts
For the mushrooms
1. Using a damp cloth remove all traces of dirt, grit and pine needles from the mushrooms.
2. Slice the larger mushrooms into even 2cm wide pieces. Leave the smaller mushrooms whole.
3. Warm a little olive oil in a pan and add the mushrooms. Seal the mushrooms quickly on a high heat and season with salt. To ensure that the pine mushrooms are cooked place them onto a stainless steel tray, cover them with foil and cook for 5 minutes in a hot oven. The slippery jacks will not need further cooking. When cool portion the mushrooms into even 40g portions. Reserve until service
For the bone marrow
1. To clean the marrow and free it of any blood it is necessary to soak it overnight in cold water. If still in the bone pop the marrow out and continue the ‘bleeding’ process by placing it again over night in iced water.
2. Once clean select appropriate sized marrow for the dish and cut those pieces that are larger in half. Reserve the marrow in iced water until needed.
For the veal stock
1. (All ingredients are to be roasted à 200 degrees)
2. Rub the bones with oil and roast them to a deep golden, turning them when needed and draining off excessive amounts of fat.
3. Cut the beef into large pieces, coat it with oil and roast to a deep brown.
4. Peel carrots and onions. Roast carrots whole. Halve the onions and roast until dark.
5. Halve the tomatoes and roast until dark in colour.
6. Place all roasted ingredients into a large stock pot with remaining ingredients and bring to a gentle simmer. Skim any fat and impurities from the surface and simmer for 12 hours. Ensure that the stock never boils hard and skim it regularly over the entire cooking time.
7. Once the stock has cooked for the prescribed time, pass it, first through a coarse strainer and then a fine one and return it to the stove to reduce. Continue to skim any impurities from the surface and reduce the liquid to 10 litres. Pass again through a fine strainer and cool rapidly. Reserve until needed.
For the chlorophyll
1. Wash the spinach and process it in a juicer. Place the spinach juice in a pot and bring it to the boil. Pass the boiled juice through a fine strainer, discarding the liquid and keeping the solid ‘chlorophyll’ left in the strainer. Combine the finished weight of chlorophyll with half the weight of pine nut paste, i.e 100g chlorophyll/ 50g pine nut, add a little fenugreek oil to the chlorophyll making a smooth paste. Reserve in an airtight container.
For the chard and silver beet stem
1. Remove the silver beet and chard leaves. With a ruler measure the stem into 5cm pieces and cut across the stem. Peel the outside fibre off the stem and the cut each piece into thin lengths. Place the stem into ice water so that they curl up. Once curled dress the pieces with olive oil and salt.
For the leaves
1. Wash all leaves in iced water, dry them on paper towel and portion them with the pine nuts into sealed containers. Reserve refrigerated until needed.
1. Place the portioned mushrooms to warm in an oven or under a salamander. Spread the chlorophyll across the centre of a plate. On top of the chlorophyll scatter the mushrooms. Warm the bone marrow in hot water and then cover it with reduced veal stock. Place the marrow under a salamander until it begins to caramelize. Season the marrow with mineral or sea salt and place it on the plate amongst the mushrooms. Scatter the leaves and pine nuts over the mushrooms. Serve.
-Royal Mail Hotel Restaurant/Chef Dan Hunter
98 Parker Sreet
PO Box 50, Dunkeld
Victoria 3294, Australia
-The Age Food Guide 2011, Restaurant of the Year, http://www.theage.com.au/entertainment/restaurants-and-bars/vittoria-coffee-restaurant-of-the-year–royal-mail-hotel-20100830-1407f.html
-A Day with Dan Hunter, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gyx4RdJdxd8
-Dan Hunter talk about his Restaurant, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vH1K5RlbiB0
-No Reservations, Anthony Bourdain visit Dan Hunter, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DPxKNGCxyok
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