Perfection is in the philosophy of produce
Ben Shewry doesn’t see himself as Australia’s best chef, however for the last two years he has the accolade of running Australia’s best restaurant. Jonathan Jackson examines why Attica has become so popular among the world’s harshest food critics.
Ripponlea is a long way from Ocean Grove where Ben Shewry, the family man, lives with his wife and three children. It is even further from Waitara, the isolated corner of New Zealand’s North Island where Shewry grew up. This gritty, harsh farmland is surrounded by miles of black sand beaches which hold a mesmerising beauty all their own. It is where the land and sea come together as one and where Shewry gained an understanding of fresh produce and how to present it.
Shewry’s philosophy is simple: use the best of what is available right at your doorstep. He often uses the fresh produce from Ocean Grove, which he either grows or catches to create something spectacular on Attica’s menu. He told Good Food: “Foraged produce is more flavoursome than cultivated food which tastes softer. Plants I find and pick myself are grunty because they’ve had to struggle for survival, while cultivated food is mollycoddled.”
He presented this philosophy to a group of second year Canadian hospitality students. In a blog post for MAD feed he writes, “My mind was open to the many culinary possibilities of the great region of Ontario and its people, and I was free from the dishes we cook each day at Attica — no potato cooked in the earth it was grown, no kangaroo, and no infuriating miniature beehive desserts…
“With six or so young cooks in just their second year of professional cooking by your side, you can throw all notions of ‘seeking perfection’ out the window. As you should. The point of