Kitchen Notebook: Melbourne
Annie Haddad spoke to French-Australian chef, Sebastien Boiron, about cooking up a storm at sea and why he’s left behind his life of adventure for the safe harbour of Melbourne.
Rachel Khoo brings to Melbourne that same passion for good food that she showed us when exploring Paris in A Little Paris Kitchen.
Sitting in one of Melbourne’s finest five-star boutique-hotel lobbies I’m eagerly awaiting an icon of modern-day cuisine. While I’m waiting, many people are coming and going — an actor from one of Australia’s most popular TV dramas, a reality TV star from the UK with an entourage of five. Yet despite all of these entrances, it’s the young lady in the beautiful blue dress with silver polka-dots that grabs my attention.
Rachel Khoo walks through the lobby with such grace that the room just seems to light up. The London-born TV host and author is in Melbourne to shoot her new show, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: Melbourne. This series, a joint collaboration between BBC Worldwide, Fremantle Media Australia and SBS, is the follow-up to her earlier popular series, The Little Paris Kitchen, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: London and Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook: Cosmopolitan Cook.
Rachel was born in Croydon, South London, to a Malaysian father and an Austrian mother and went to school at a convent in Germany. Consequently, as a child, her diet was highly diverse. “We would have beef rendang, stir fries, Asian chicken porridge and then there would be the odd schnitzel thrown in as well,” she says. “Then on Sundays we would always have a Sunday roast; Yorkshire pudding and all. Leftover nights on Mondays were like a United Nations of different dishes.”
It’s not surprising then that she is knowledgeable about food from all around the world, including the food scene in her new temporary home, Melbourne. “I feel so spoilt for choice here. I can literally roll from one good place to another — which I’ve been doing,” she says. “What’s impressive about Melbourne is the diversity but also the quality. Everyone in Melbourne is really passionate about what they do. They might be filling a niche in the market but they do it really well. For example, yesterday I visited a place called Bluebonnet,” she says, referring to Bluebonnet Barbecue smokehouse in Collingwood, Melbourne, that is taking the art of smoking meats and food to new levels. “What I love about them is that they are so into their smoking and really are making amazing food.”
Melbourne’s passion for good food is the reason she is filming a new show here. On this visit she has visited a range of places, including the Bellarine Peninsula, near Geelong, where she indulged in her favourite food: cheese. “I had the most delicious goat’s cheese,” she tells me, “But the best part was that I got to milk a goat that kept on kicking me. I milked enough to make half a cappuccino. At least it will be good television viewing!”
With a background in public relations in the fashion industry, Rachel studied design at Central Saint Martins College of Art and Design in London. But this just wasn’t her, she says. She had been assisting on food photo shoots casually while at university, which got her interested in food styling. “I spoke to some food stylists and they said that it helps to have some restaurant or culinary school experience for shoots.” As a result, Rachel headed to France to do a three- month basic patisserie course at Le Cordon Bleu in Paris and afterwards sought work there. “I couldn’t afford the full-year course, at something like €18,000, and I didn’t speak a word of French so I went to La Sorbonne (university) and took some French courses.”
What really accelerated her French skills, however, was working in a Parisian department store. “I was one of those perfume girls,” she recalls. “It was the worst job ever but fantastic for practicing your French. You’d gossip with your colleagues and then you’d chit-chat about who came in that day or who is dating who.” A number of other jobs followed, including a stint as an au pair, but she got what she calls her big break when she met Marc Grossman, a well-known food writer and cafe owner. She worked on a cookery book for him and this inspired her to do her own.
Rachel was still living in France at the time and writing two cookbooks in French is no mean feat, especially with a limited knowledge of the language. Her first book was Barres de Céréales: Muesli et Granola Maison (homemade muesli and granola) and her second book was Pâtes à Tartiner (homemade spreads). Both have since been translated into English.
After these two books Rachel did some pop- up restaurants in between private-chef gigs and consultancy work, but she really wanted to write a book for the English market. “So I went to my favourite publishers in London saying ‘Hi my name’s Rachel and I’ve got this idea for a book — what do you think?’.” Some of them said no and some told her that if she didn’t have a television show then a book just wouldn’t work. But it was Penguin cookery publisher Lindsey Evans that gave Rachel the break she was looking for with a book deal that would lead to The Little Paris Kitchen.
People still ask Rachel if she still lives in Paris, even though the TV show based on this very successful book was filmed over three years ago. Despite her London origins, this pint-sized beauty has become known as “the French girl from the TV”. Her French cookery books and the TV show, along with the follow-up book My Little French Kitchen, have helped to change the perceptions of French food around the world. Her parents might have thought she was mad to go off and bake cakes in Paris but Rachel has since helped revolutionise French cooking for the everyday home cook.
With so many fabulous foodie things to do in Paris, a city I lived in a couple of years ago, I ask Rachel what she loves to do there. “I always say if you only have 24 hours in Paris then go to one of the markets because that’s what the locals do,” she says. “This will enable
“It was Penguin cookery publisher Lindsey Evans that gave Rachel the break she was looking for with a book deal that would lead to The Little Paris Kitchen.” “Paris is not all about Amélie; Paris is a very multicultural city.”
you to experience Paris as if you are Parisian. Going to the markets is inexpensive and you can buy some charcuterie, cheese, maybe some fruit and vegetables, a baguette, a bottle of wine and then head off to the nearest park or canal and enjoy.”
Her favourite market in Paris is the Marché d’Aligre in the 12th arrondissement because it’s open from Tuesday to Sunday and on weekends there is an antiques market. It’s a market I remember well and, as Rachel says, there is an expensive part and a cheap part, uncovered and covered sections and a lot of character. The market attracts people from a wide variety of backgrounds. “There are a lot of North Africans there so you get a real vibe of what Paris is about today,” she adds. “Paris is not all about Amélie; Paris is a very multicultural city.”
The diversity of the markets in Paris is not unlike the diversity at the markets in Melbourne. “Prahran Market is my favourite, although I have to admit I have a problem pronouncing it properly.” (I assure her most non-Melbournians and even some locals have the same problem.) “I met this father-and-son team who have a fantastic fruit and vegetable shop at the market. The father showed me a box of figs that looked beautiful — he was so proud of them. Apparently they came from his neighbour’s yard and the neighbour had given them to him that morning. You are so spoilt here in Melbourne.” Having recently visited in Malaysia to promote her new book and show and to film a documentary for BBC2, she stresses how lucky we are here in Australia to have all the flavours of Asia too.
I mention to her that Melbourne was named the world’s most liveable city — a title Rachel agrees is apt. “It’s so multicultural. People here are so friendly and so open to sharing their stories; how they got to Melbourne, how passionate they are about the place.
“I’m like a magpie, always grasping at different things.”
People have come to Melbourne with a different idea of what they wanted to do with their lives and what they want to bring and give back to this great city. It’s just really fantastic.” While Melbourne is not as old as most European cities, this can be a plus, she says. “It’s fresh and the fact that there isn’t this ingrained history in Australia or in Melbourne makes people more open to experimenting with food, which is very refreshing for me.”
With her latest cookbook, Rachel Khoo’s Kitchen Notebook, she’s keen to show that, with a multicultural background, she’s able to cook more than just French food. “French food is still a part of who I am. I can take some of my patisserie techniques and apply them to some new recipes. This is the type of food that’s in the book and it’s going to be in the new show. There will be a French touch here and there but I’m like a magpie, always grasping at different things. This is what I find exciting and as long as it tastes good I will always mix it up a bit. You know, there are no rules to this.”
When it comes to spice rubs, I have some friends who guard their personal recipe the same way Coca-Cola guard theirs. I, however, am happy to share my special blend of spices. Making your own custom spice rub is probably the simplest way of adding your own personal touch to dishes. This recipe is really just a starting point and can be easily adapted to your taste. Once you get the hang of balancing the flavours, the possibilities are endless.
Preheat the grill to high. Blend the ingredients for the spice rub in a pestle and mortar.
Smear the spice rub generously all over the outside and inside of the trout, then place on a foil-lined, lightly oiled baking tray.
Thinly slice one of the lemons. Stuff the fennel, parsley and lemon slices inside the cavity of the fish. Place the fish under the grill. Grill for 5–10 minutes on one side, then turn the fish over and cook for a further 5 minutes on the other. Meanwhile, bring a pot of salted water to the boil and add the giant couscous. Boil for 3 minutes, then add the French green beans. Cook for a further 2 minutes, or until al dente, and drain.
Zest and juice the remaining ½ a lemon. Toss the beans with the oil, lemon zest and juice and a little salt. Serve each fish whole with the couscous on the side. Garnish with the leafy fennel tops.
This spice rub works well with all sorts of other things. Try spreading it on aubergine slices and drizzling with a little oil before grilling. It’s also a great rub for chicken.
Make the spice rub a few days before and keep in a sealed jar. You can easily double the quantity and store it to season other dishes.
Preheat the oven to 160°C (fan).
Empty the contents of the yoghurt pots into a bowl, then wash and dry them ready to measure the remaining ingredients. You’ll need one for wet ingredients and one for dry ingredients.
Whizz the pistachios to a fine powder in a blender.
Put the caster sugar and oil in a large bowl or standing mixer bowl, then mix together with an electric hand whisk or the whisk attachment for 2 minutes, until the sugar has dissolved.
Gradually add the eggs and vanilla extract.
Fold in the yoghurt, then add the flour, baking powder, salt and ground pistachios and gently fold them in. Spoon the batter into the tin.
Bake for 50 minutes or until a skewer comes out clean. Leave to cool for 5 minutes before turning out on to a wire rack to cool. When the cake is cool, place the pomegranate skin side up in your hand with your fingers spread out.
Hold the pomegranate just inside a big bowl before hitting the back of the fruit with a wooden spoon. The seeds will fall through the gaps between your fingers.
Sift the icing sugar into a bowl, then add the yoghurt and mix well to get a thick pouring consistency.
Pour on top of the cooled cake, gently guiding it down the sides. Once the icing has stopped dripping, take the pomegranate juice and dot several drops along the top of the cake.
Drag a skewer or toothpick in a figure-of-eight pattern through the drips of pomegranate, swirling it all around the cake.
Stick the pomegranate seeds to the side of the cake when the icing has stopped dripping. If it’s difficult to make them stick, chill the cake for 10 minutes in the fridge first.
BILINGUAL STORY : FOLLOW THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION IN RED
We often imagine a chef to be stuck in a restaurant kitchen all week long. But Sebastien Boiron is no ordinary chef. Passionate about food since his childhood in Saint- Etienne and Valence, Sebastien entered the profession at the tender age of 14. Having completed his training, he started out as a Maître d’hôtel at the Sofitel des Champs-Elysées and worked in five star hotels all over France, from Paris to the Riviera to Monaco. But the rest of the world was calling…
After a stint at Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre and Roger Verger’s famous restaurant in Florida, Sebastien’s itchy feet took him to sea. Over the next six years, he travelled the world as head chef on various luxury yachts. When his feet did touch dry land, Sebastien would find himself anywhere from Egypt to Malaysia to Alaska.
So why did this adventurous Frenchman finally decide to settle down?
“[Working on private yachts] may seem like a dream life: it’s well paid, you get to travel the world and it requires, of course, an adventurous spirit. You also have the chance to work in magnificently
HISTOIRE BILINGUE : LA TRADUCTION FRANCAISE EN BLEU
On imagine souvent qu’être Chef, c’est travailler en cuisine, dans un restaurant, toute sa vie. Mais il semblerait que ce soit tout le contraire dans le cas de Sébastien Boiron. Passionné par la restauration dès le collège, il s’est lancé dès l’âge de quatorze ans dans la profession et a suivi le chemin de l’Ecole hôtelière de Tain L’Ermitage puis de Nice. Originaire de Saint-Etienne mais ayant grandi à Valence, il commence d’abord par être Maître d’hôtel- une de ses spécialisations -au Sofitel des Champs- Elysées. Il part ensuite travailler durant seize mois à Orlando, aux Etats-Unis, dans un restaurant tenu conjointement par Paul Bocuse, Gaston Lenôtre et Roger Verger, sur le site de Disney. Expérience enrichissante s’il en fût, durant laquelle il découvre très vite les opportunités que peut représenter l’étranger. Et puis, ce sera l’aventure sur les yachts privés.
Durant toutes ces années, il visitera les Etats-Unis et fera deux fois le tour du monde en commençant par Hawaï, Tahiti, Fidji, Vanuatu, l’Australie, l’Indonésie, la Malaisie la Thaïlande, Brunei, l’Egypte, la Tunisie, la Grèce, tous les pays d’Europe, la Russie, l’Alaska, les Caraïbes et toutes les îles. Ecoutez la suite….
BILINGUAL STORY : FOLLOW THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION IN RED
equipped kitchens and paradisiacal landscapes…but the confinement and lack of time spent with family are difficult to deal with,” Sebastien says. “I only endured it for six years.”
But what an extraordinary six years they were. Sebastien has worked for some incredibly wealthy people, including the owner of Pepsi Cola; the 19th richest man in Australia, Solomon Lew; the daughter of the founder of Johnson&Johnson (who bought him a €7,000 Cartier watch as a thank you present); and the owner of the Chelsea Football Club – Russian businessman Roman Abrahimovitch.
“…[Abrahimovitch’s] children ate caviar for breakfast and lunch,” Sebastien says. “One day, when we were in Sicily, he asked us to find a crate of strawberries, which weren’t in season at the time. We went looking for them in Antibes, which meant a $10,000 to $20,000 helicopter ride…There were 50 employees for 16 clients on the boat…He had no limits...”
Working on yachts “required a great amount of effort and a good rapport among the team members, as we lived together in a confined space,” Sebastien says. “The greatest advantage was that there were [often] no budgetary restrictions, which allowed us to work with magnificent produce…
“Afterwards, I went to Melbourne, and in June 2004, I opened a restaurant under the name of an old boat: Le Grand Bleu. It worked well but, after 20 years in hospitality, I wanted a break. I created L’Atelier, a small catering company, and…I also teach cooking classes.”
Sebastien has recently branched into publishing, too. He launched his first recipe book, Little Taste
Sensations, late last year, introducing a new concept in
Australia – “les verrines”. aa
HISTOIRE BILINGUE : LA TRADUCTION FRANCAISE EN BLEU
Un hôtel de luxe flottant….
Travailler sur un bateau est toute une organisation. D’abord, il faut s’inscrire dans une agence spécialisée sur la Côte d’Azur ou à Monaco et laisser son CV. Ensuite, c’est l’agence qui vous recommande auprès de ses clients qui sont pour la plupart des hommes d’affaires richissimes, de toutes nationalités, habitués à un service impeccable 24h sur 24. Il faut savoir qu’un bateau de 50 à 60 m de long se loue entre 300. 000 $ et 500.000 $ la semaine, sans les pourboires du personnel, le fuel et les à-côtés.
Sébastien a par exemple travaillé pour le propriétaire de Pepsi Cola, sur un yacht de 54 m,
le Maridome.’ Nous étions 14 membres du personnel pour 10 clients. En fait, je suis allé rejoindre le bateau à Hawaï pour le préparer avant l’arrivée du propriétaire : la nourriture, les papiers, la décoration, les renseignements concernant les pays traversés etc. Cela demande beaucoup de rigueur et une bonne entente entre les membres de l’équipage car nous vivons dans un espace confiné. C’est un poste qui convient davantage à un célibataire, voire à un couple .Il faut s’occuper de tout de Aà Z et dès que le propriétaire arrive, on est sur le pont 24h/24, 7 jours sur sept. J’établis les préférences alimentaires, je demande si le propriétaire a des allergies. J’essaye de composer des menus avec des produits locaux de saison. Le grand avantage, c’est qu’il n’y a aucune restriction budgétaire, ce qui permet de travailler avec des produits magnifiques’.
Des souvenirs fabuleux…
Sébastien a également officié pour l’homme d’affaires russe Roman Abrahimovitch qui est propriétaire du Club de football de Chelsea. Ce dernier a fait fortune dans la phase de privatisation du pétrole de l’ex-URSS, en revendant la compagnie Sibneft au géant Gazprom pour 13 milliards de dollars.
BILINGUAL STORY : FOLLOW THE ENGLISH TRANSLATION IN RED
In between ventures, Sebastien also found the time to marry Julie, a customer from his old restaurant, who is of Italian origin. His in-laws have opened their home and hearts to him, while opening his taste buds to Italian cuisine. So who knows? Perhaps Sebastien’s next taste sensation will draw on his wife’s Italian heritage?
For more information about Sebastien Boiron’s catering company, L’Atelier, and to find out where to purchase a copy of Little Taste Sensations, visit: www.lateliersb.weebly.com.
HISTOIRE BILINGUE : LA TRADUCTION FRANCAISE EN BLEU
« Je me souviens que ses enfants mangeaient du caviar le matin au petit déjeuner. Un jour, alors que nous étions en Sicile, il nous a demandés de chercher une cagette de fraises alors que ce n’était pas la saison. On a été la chercher à Antibes, ce qui a représenté de 10,000 à 20,000 $ en hélicoptère. Ses quatre gardes du corps vivaient avec nous en permanence sur le bateau. Il mangeait beaucoup de poisson et de salade. Nous étions alors 50 employés pour 16 clients sur le bateau. Il y avait aussi un chef australien et un chef asiatique à mes côtés. En fait, il n’y avait pas de limites... »
Solomon Lew a fait aussi partie de ses anciens clients pour une courte période. Homme d’affaires australien, il est considéré comme la 19e personne la plus riche de ce pays et selon Forbes, sa fortune est estimée à 1, 54 billion de dollars australiens .La plupart de son talent vient du fait qu’il a su miser plus tôt que les autres sur la croissance de la Chine. Des anecdotes, Sébastien en aurait beaucoup à raconter. Comme celle avec une des filles du fondateur de la compagnie Johnson&Johnson qui était une de ses clientes : ‘un jour, elle m’a demandé de l’accompagner pour choisir un cadeau pour son mari. Nous étions à St Barth et nous sommes entrés dans la bijouterie Cartier. Pendant que la propriétaire choisissait une montre, la vendeuse m’a demandé si j’en voulais une pour moi aussi. J’en ai essayé deux, très belles, mais qui n’étaient pas dans mon budget (7000 euros). Madame Johnson m’a demandé si elles me plaisaient. J’ai bien sur répondu oui et à la fin de son séjour, avant de partir, elle m’a donné une enveloppe et m’a dit que c’était pour la montre, montre que je me suis empressé d’aller acheter’.
L’aventure australienne :’ Ici, tout est possible…’
‘Ça peut paraître une vie de rêve : c’est très bien payé, on visite tous les pays du monde et il faut bien sûr avoir l’esprit d’aventure. On a aussi la chance d’avoir des cuisines magnifiquement équipées (d’ailleurs on y faisait le pain) mais le confinement et le peu de temps passé avec la famille sont difficiles à vivre. Je l’ai fait six ans seulement.
Puis, je suis allé à Melbourne et, en juin 2004, j’ai ouvert un restaurant du nom d’un ancien bateau :’Le Grand Bleu’.J’ai travaillé sur ce projet durant 2 ans et demi. Il marchait bien, on servait de la cuisine française avec des plats australiens aussi mais après vingt ans de restauration, j’ai voulu faire un break. J’ai créé ‘L’Atelier’, une petite compagnie de traiteur (catering) et je prépare des repas pour 20,30 voire 40 personnes au domicile des clients. Je donne aussi des cours de cuisine à la maison avec 8 personnes maximum autour de deux plats...
De plus, j’ai un ami qui a une fabrique de céramique à Saint- Cyr sur Mer, spécialisée dans la vente de produits provençaux. Je les lui achète pour