WHERE THERE’S SMOKE
The chef whose passion is protein knows the secret of unlocking flavours is pinpoint cooking control.
It’s unexpected for a chef who owns and runs a business called LP’s Quality Meats to admit he originally “hated the idea of being a butcher”, but Luke Powell says it took a relatively recent career epiphany to set him on this path. The New Zealander, who has called Sydney home for 11 years, got his first taste of the industry at age 13, when he started washing dishes at a local restaurant for pocket money. So keen was he to make a beeline for life in kitchens that his mother had to talk him out of quitting school there and then. He stayed in education till he was old enough take up a chef ’s apprenticeship. A visit to these shores in his youth made quite an impression. “Sydney just blew me away,” says the Kiwi, who went on to serve as head chef for two years at Tetsuya’s in the city’s CBD. But he wasn’t to overcome his antipathy towards meat production until his globetrotting career took him to upstate New York, where he worked at Blue Hill at Stone Barns – a working-farm restaurant and educational centre. Blue Hill’s farm-to-table philosophy incubated Luke’s passion for involvement in the creation of food well before the cooking stage, in particular smoking and slow-cooking meat. LP’s Quality Meats is renowned for its huge Southern Pride meat smoker, which was shipped all the way from Tennessee. This behemoth helps to create menu winners such as applewood-smoked ocean trout, made-from-scratch smoked sausages, and smoked chicken with paprika and dill rub, as well as the 12-hour porchetta recipe Luke has created specially for Pride & Produce. And while the Southern Pride works hard overnight doing its part to eke out the flavours of the flesh, Luke asserts it’s still all down to the quality of the meat itself. His producer of choice is Borrowdale, a family-run farm near Goondiwindi on Queensland’s Darling Downs that raises and processes Large White/ Landrace-cross pigs to the highest RSPCA and free-range-certification standards. Clearly cruelty-free farming not only assuages the keen meat lover’s conscience but also promises discerning butchers, restaurateurs and chefs – and their customers – the highest-quality, most flavoursome of meat cuts.