Quail, Span­ish style

Matt Fowles in­tro­duces us to Jesse Gerner, a chef who had his own res­tau­rant in his early 20s but traded down to be­gin a re-ed­u­ca­tion at Lon­don’s River Café where the menu changes for ev­ery sit­ting de­pend­ing on what fresh pro­duce is avail­able.

Field and Game - - BUSH TO BANQUET - with Matt Fowles | www.fowleswine.com

From quite a young age Jesse Gerner loved food.

His par­ents al­ways had chooks and geese and his grand­fa­ther was in­volved with out­back sta­tions so, reared or wild, Jesse was ex­posed to the finer things in life.

“I started cook­ing when I was about 13 to help pay for some of my sport­ing ac­tiv­i­ties, like wind­surf­ing and surf­ing, and I fell for that en­vi­ron­ment,” he said.

“I worked at pretty lame places but I ended up do­ing work ex­pe­ri­ence with a Swiss chef at a place called Ea­gle on the Hill, which used to over­look Adelaide.”

He was hired and went on to train and work in a range of qual­ity restau­rants in Adelaide and Syd­ney be­fore open­ing his first res­tau­rant, Grind, in New­cas­tle.

“Ev­ery­one was buy­ing cakes and pas­tries but I put a pas­try chef on; we just did ev­ery­thing in house and peo­ple re­ally re­sponded to it, we had lines out the door,” he said.

Af­ter three years, Jesse sold up and shot off to Europe.

“That is where my ed­u­ca­tion re­ally started again; I went from run­ning a team of nine chefs to be­ing in se­ri­ous kitchens in Lon­don and start­ing back in the larder sec­tion be­fore work­ing my way up,” he said.

“The qual­ity of in­gre­di­ents in these places, the spices and styles of cook­ing, al­most peas­ant style where in­stead of build­ing ev­ery­thing up to huge heights it is more about flavour and less gar­nish­ing.”

At River Café the menu was Ital­ian, at Moro, South­ern Span­ish, but the restau­rants had some­thing in com­mon: ev­ery­thing served was fresh or made on site.

The food had to be treated in a way that pre­served its nat­u­ral flavour; toma­toes and pep­pers would never be put in the fridge be­cause it af­fects the sug­ars and ul­ti­mately the taste.

“The sea­sonal game par­tic­u­larly was great and in Lon­don peo­ple were pre­pared to pay for it,” Jesse said.

“At River Café there was a new menu ev­ery service so if they could get some pheas­ant or grouse in, it would be added to the menu.

“As a chef, you would get a dish or a dish and a half to do but it had to be spot on ev­ery time; they wanted qual­ity and peo­ple were pay­ing for it.”

Work­ing at Moro led to reg­u­lar trips to Spain, partly to open his eyes to food styles and tra­di­tions but also as a means of smug­gling char­cu­terie into a back­pack for the re­turn trip to Eng­land.

“I was stay­ing in a hos­tel in Cadiz where it was five eu­ros for a mat­tress on the roof but it was a base for food jour­neys,” he said. On re­turn to Aus­tralia Jesse started his own Span­ish res­tau­rant, Anada in Gertrude St, which was soon voted one of the best in Mel­bourne. He’s since ex­panded and opened Bomba, a Span­ish worker’s tapas res­tau­rant and rooftop bar in Lons­dale St and Green Park in North Carl­ton. Ev­ery year part of Jesse’s rou­tine is to re­turn to Spain to in­dulge his taste buds and make new dis­cov­er­ies. Quail isn’t out of the or­di­nary but Jesse jumped at the chance to work with >>

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