Talking food with Australian culinary heavyweight Dan Hunter
Dan Hunter, ranked #2 chef in Australia and chef-patron owner of Brae, is an award-winning pioneer of modern Australian cooking.
The culinary superstar, named 2016 Chef of the Year in both The Age Good Food Guide and Australian Gourmet Traveller Magazine, has implemented a locavore philosophy at Brae’s only using ingredients found in and around Birregurra.
He has achieved the perfect fusion of hyper-local and international influence – using ingredients like wallaby, finger lime and hãpuku, Dan has created a harmonious blend of gourmet food with a truly Australian focus.
Dan’s vision for Brae centres on a connection with the surrounding environment and the conviction that local produce if treated with respect, can inspire stunningly creative gastronomy. The idea of a family business situated on a small property, serving the food it produces with warmth and imagination is fundamental to the essence of Brae.
Dan’s debut book, also named Brae, launches in May 2017. This is a stunning collection of signature recipes and an exclusive insight into the philosophy, kitchen and signature dishes of one of Australia’s best chefs while also d a glimpse of a naturally bountiful part of Australia.
We sat down with this Australian culinary heavyweight and discussed everything from his style of cooking to the launch of his highly anticipated new book.
How would you describe your style of cooking?
Avante garden! Meaning it’s haeavily focussed on product, especially from our own farm but with an interest in exploring new themes, flavours, techniques and presentation
What or who inspired you to be become a chef?
I fell into cooking whilst washing dishes in my early twenties. The kitchen itself drew me in.
What would be your food heaven and hell?
Food heaven would be Japan. Hell – most airports the world over.
Tell us about your favourite ingredient that you like to work with?
Any vegetable really in its moment, just picked and not refrigerated. There’s something to be said about the way the depth of flavour and perfect texture of ripened food can make all distractions fade away.
What’s your favourite restaurant in the world?
Not sure, there’s lots of good ones that appeal for many different reasons. I like the focus, product and attention of many Japanese restaurants.
What would you say is your signature dish?
I wouldn’t say it but many others say it’s our iced oyster and parsnip and apple.
What is the single most important thing you have learnt about food?
It’s to be eaten so it needs to taste good.
What have you got coming up at Brae?
I just finished a book that is published by Phaidon – it’s a book of recipes and stories from the restaurant. Aside from cooking, what do you like to do in your spare time? Eat! Swim, hang out with my wife and daughter and try to maintain some work/rest balance.
Your hyperlocal philosophy is key to Brae and it’s menu, how important is it for you to cook with Australian ingredients?
They’re important to us as they help to define an Australian cuisine. Ther’s many. Many ingredients endemic to Australia that are not found anywhere else in the word. I think if Australian cooks and restaurants want to develop an international identity we need to use the ingredients of our place. Plus there are many that are truly amazing and its pure logic that we use them.
How do you find the best local suppliers?
By trying many things and never thinking you’ve seen everything. Its good to maintain an open mind.
How did you find working on the land, orchards and farm during the day and running the dinner service in the evening?
Its habit and something I’ve done for a long time. It’s much more organised than people assume, it has to be. I’m happy we’ve got someone to mow the lawns now though!