Hunter, chef and raconteur
Hunter, chef, restaurateur, gamekeeper, cheesemaker, even possum skin exporter, are all titles held at various times by Albert Taurian. Matt Fowles’ guest chef left Italy as a youth to find adventure and became a legend in his adopted state of Tasmania.
There’s not much Albert Taurian hasn’t tried when it comes to game but perhaps his crowning achievement came when he started the first private pheasant shoot in Tasmania.
One of his early clients was the regional manager for Ansett Airlines and Albert suggested hunting tours would give them an edge over rival airline TAA. “A few days later I flew into Melbourne and sat down with Reg Ansett and not only convinced him to do a deal but left with free travel and accommodation to promote the shoot around Australia,” Albert said.
Ansett even put a hunting scene on the cover of its “a million holiday ideas” brochure. “Reg was a hunter and he wanted to promote Tasmania, he also used to come down himself to the shoot,” Albert said.
The Turners Marsh trips were one of the first package holiday deals offered to Tasmania; you can just imagine the social media furore today if an airline promoted hunting holidays.
It is typical of Albert’s approach to life, which is to never miss an opportunity.
He grew up in Tauriano, a small village in an autonomous province north of Rome. He jokes the town was named Taurian but the ‘o’ was added to make it sound more Italian. “My father and my family, we all shot; I started when I was eight or nine during World War II,” he said. “We used to disarm hand grenades because they had powder in them like spaghetti; we put it through a coffee grinder and used it to load shotgun cartridges. “We used to wait for the Germans to leave the trenches and go back to barracks then my brother and I would sneak in and pinch some hand grenades; if they caught us they would have shot us but we were like rabbits. “I had a 24-gauge we would load and test until we got the mix right, then we would go hunting at night with a little spotlight for cock pheasants roosting in the trees.”
By the age of 22 Albert was in the army and looking for adventure. He heard about Australia and decided he should at least have a look.
His first destination was a farming survey camp on Flinders Island in 1957, aged 23, He quickly realised nobody in the camp had a gun, let alone an interest in hunting. “I flew back to Launceston as soon as I made a bit of money and bought a gun at Sports Hut, a beautiful Browning under and over, a cut down .303 and a Harding
fishing rod,” he said.
It came to £105 and Albert only had £45 but he quickly struck a deal to take the goods and send money each fortnight until he cleared the debt. “He didn’t know me; that’s why I fell in love with Australia, people trust you.”
The next time Albert was in Launceston, he bought a labrador and two cocker spaniels. “Because I was driving a big excavator they let me have dogs. I had a kennel behind my hut and used to go hunting quail, duck and snipe,” he said. “One day the ducks were so plentiful on a patch of water, there must have been thousands; I fired two shots as they got up and went back to camp with 25 ducks.”
As many immigrants of the time did, Albert worked on the Snowy Mountains scheme but his love for hunting, cooking and a party didn’t suit the strict work camp so he decided to return to Tasmania where he had been made to feel welcome by the gun store owner. There would be one brief stop in Melbourne on the way. “I came from a good family and my mum filled my pockets with money before I left Italy,” he said. “We stopped in Ceylon, Sri Lanka, on the way to Australia and my love of jewels led me to a little shop full of precious stones. I couldn’t understand a word but then a tall Indian man came out and started speaking in Italian — he’d learned the language serving with the British during the war. “He laid out these stones and told me I could double my money in Australia; they cost me £46, half of what I had.” Albert went to a jeweller in Lonsdale St to see what he could get for his speculative investment. “I opened the cloth and his eyes lit up, he did some adding and said, ‘You might do better down the road but I don’t think so, I can go to £2200’. “Whoopee! When I got back to Tasmania I bought myself a log truck and I had my own business, when I sold the log truck I bought the pheasant farm.” After the pheasant farm he opened his first restaurant, Quigley’s, in Launceston in 1973. “Italian food to suit Australians,” he said. When that ended, he moved into cheese making, had a business exporting possum skins to Italy and then eventually returned to the restaurant game with Novaro’s. In 2013 he was awarded the Tasmanian Hospitality Association’s Bertie Tucceri Award for his contribution to Tasmania’s food industry. “I helped change the culture of food in Launceston with venison, duck and pheasants; nobody was serving it in those days,” he said. “Game meat in Australia should be available in our restaurants.” Albert says cooking game is a matter of trial, error and practice. “If you don’t make love you can’t become a good lover,” he said.
The logging truck the jewels paid for
Albert Taurian is at home in the kitchen
Albert in his birthplace