THE GANTRY’S JOEL BICK­FORD

Meet the man up­dat­ing Pier One Ho­tel’s menu.

GQ (Australia) - - INSIDE -

WE MEET THE NEW CHEF MAKING WAVES AT THE GANTRY, IN­SIDE SYDNEY’S UP­DATED, HAR­BOUR­SIDE PIER ONE HO­TEL.

Af­ter two years con­nect­ing with the fresh pro­duce of the Southern High­lands as head chef of ac­claimed gastronomical den, Biota Din­ing in Bowral NSW, Bick­ford has hit the big smoke and is on a mis­sion to change the way peo­ple think about ho­tel restau­rants. GQ: Is it tricky to con­nect with the pro­duce you use, now you’re based in the city? Joel Bick­ford: There’s definitely still a con­nec­tion. Ge­o­graph­i­cally it’s more chal­leng­ing not be­ing able to go and pick wild berries and mush­rooms, but now my days off are filled with trips to the beach with my kids to pick sam­phire, beach spinach, seablite and salt­bush. Con­nec­tion doesn’t have to be tan­gi­ble, more just an ap­pre­ci­a­tion of what you’re do­ing. GQ: Ho­tel restau­rants have never had the best rep­u­ta­tion. What sets The Gantry apart? JB: ‘Ho­tel’ and ‘restau­rant’ are two words that have never sat well next to each other in Aus­tralia. The trap some fall into is to be ev­ery­thing to ev­ery­one – they cre­ate large menus that are con­fused and lack pur­pose. It’s up to the chef to cre­ate a prod­uct that is equal or sur­passes stand­alone venues. And that should be the goal of any chef, re­gard­less of lo­ca­tion. GQ: So you have free rein?

JB: I was given the brief of ‘blank can­vas’. I knew straight away ex­actly what I wanted to do, and we’ve made some sig­nif­i­cant changes. We still have plenty to do but I’m treat­ing it like a new restau­rant and we’re start­ing from the ground up. Any good restau­rant needs to be fex­i­ble and open to change. GQ: What’s your vi­sion at The Gantry? JB: We want to be Sydney’s best din­ing ex­pe­ri­ence – and we’re tak­ing a sim­ple ap­proach to make that hap­pen. If I can cook for peo­ple and make them happy then that’s my job done. Cre­at­ing food peo­ple want to eat, and giv­ing them a place they like and want to re­turn to, is my aim. GQ: What’s your cook­ing style and ethos?

JB: Any­one that works with food should have the same ethos – to re­spect, understand, ap­pre­ci­ate in­gre­di­ents and to cook with in­tegrity. I like to mix it up, so peo­ple can ex­pect to see light con­tem­po­rary dishes such as legumes, crab and kohlrabi, or more clas­si­cal dishes like sweet­breads with hazel­nut and salted grapes.

GQ: Is there a stan­dard diner at The Gantry? JB: We have peo­ple from all walks of life. By day, mainly tourists and busi­ness lunches but the evening sees a mix of pre-the­atre, ho­tel pa­trons and peo­ple who enjoy qual­ity food. We no longer at­tract peo­ple by age, de­mo­graphic or lo­ca­tion – we’re at­tract­ing an at­ti­tude. And we want peo­ple that like good food here to enjoy them­selves. GQ: Is our na­tional food scene track­ing well?

JB: It’s in good shape, with in­ter­na­tion­ally recog­nis­able chefs such as Martin Benn and Ben Shewry lead­ing the way. Restau­rant din­ing is no longer just about eat­ing – the hunger for knowl­edge and the need to feel a con­nec­tion with what’s on the plate is ever-present. As chefs, we’re go­ing back to ba­sics and fo­cus­ing on qual­ity food and sim­ple tech­niques. It’s not just our job to present good food, but to keep evolv­ing and test­ing the bound­aries, so we can con­tinue ed­u­cat­ing guests. the­gantry.com.au

“IT’S NOT JUST OUR JOB TO PRESENT GOOD FOOD, BUT TO KEEP EVOLV­ING AND TEST­ING THE BOUND­ARIES.”

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